This special issue on governance has offered me an opportunity to reflect on the history of the In Trust Center. In particular, I have been thinking about a tagline we used for more than a decade: “Where faith and governance meet.” That’s a good phrase for the work of all theological education, but it’s an especially apt description of what a theological school boardroom is or could be. Isn’t the seminary boardroom truly a place where faith and governance meet?
This issue is dedicated entirely to articles that touch on governance. It includes perspectives from board members, board chairs, presidents, administrators, and faculty — yet this issue is not for board members only. In fact, it is for every person who seeks to be a good steward and ambassador for a theological school.
Whatever your own role in governance — and if you are reading this, chances are you have one — we hope this special issue will connect you to resources, ideas, and the experiences of others as you consider your own challenges and opportunities.
Some highlights in this issue:
During the inaugural years of the In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Initiative, we’ve had the opportunity to learn and share with the boards of 10 theological schools during the just-past academic year and another 11 boards during this current academic year. On page 3, learn about the experiences of these boards while they dedicate a full year to their education and to their plans for growth and development as a board. Discover the top issues these boards are grappling with as they oversee their institutions.
Leading and serving organizations in times of change is challenging for all involved. In "Leading in unpredictable times," Tod Bolsinger, a Fuller Seminary vice president who is author of the book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, explores the challenges that leaders — both in the church and in theological schools — are now facing. Bolsinger asserts that old methods will not work in this new and uncharted landscape and suggests steps to prepare for an unknown future, asking leaders to reflect on how their community is reflected in their leadership.
The In Trust Center is regularly asked by leaders and staff of our member schools for resources on wise practices for boards, board education, and board orientation and leadership. In "A menu of wise practices for boards," Kathryn Glover, the chair of our own board governance committee, offers an inside look at how the In Trust Center board focuses on the board building cycle — not as a loop with a start and end point, but a continuous, overlapping, never-ending process. Think atom, not circle.
Finally, we heard you when you asked for more information on how other schools are navigating changes, particularly as they make major transformational decisions. In "How to make big transformational changes," learn how the leadership team and board members at six schools have contemplated and executed major changes. Woven throughout these stories is the importance of focusing on mission and establishing a solid, trusting relationship among members of the board and the leadership team.
Governance relationships require accountability, communication, trust, and transparency. We regularly ask the participants of our Wise Stewards Initiative which of these is most important. The answer to this question may be debatable, but I think you will agree that the articles in this issue illustrate that all of them are important.
May the new year ahead be full of blessings.