Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, by Dan Hotchkiss (Alban Institute, 2009, 249 pp., $17).
Dan Hotchkiss' book Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership is a book for the board members of congregations, but many of its insights apply to the academic realm too. The author provides a perspective that allows readers to think systemically yet implement pragmatically.
Hotchkiss' experience at the Alban Institute — as a consultant on strategic planning, governance, and leadership — validates his message, since he cites not only scholarly sources, but also case studies and feedback from congregations across all denominations. The book includes materials used in consulting sessions and actual examples of documents created by client congregations. His discussion on the effects of change highlights what he has gleaned from his work. And the book's final chapter, "Bumps Along the Road," testifies to his understanding of potential problems and provides a balanced perspective.
Board members of theological institutions will appreciate the broad base of denominations and structural organizations Hotchkiss works with, his mission-centered focus, and his explanation of leadership and governance changes. He carefully minds the difference between managing with a corporate attitude and governing with a mission-centered responsibility. And, using "concept mapping," he notes the distinction between managing and governing, Hotchkiss confronts the urge to micromanage, especially in boards that struggle with the distinction between managing and governing, and provides suggestions for clarifying roles and responsibilities. Seminary board members can easily understand the nuances in these discussions.
Contextual material preps the reader with discussion of organized religion, secular considerations, attention to the effects of change and the idea that good governance "is not a science but an art." Such material informs seminary board members in ways that might bring a clearer understanding of the big picture of structural change. Executive team members and development committees will appreciate strategies and processes the author suggests and find good use for the forms and charts throughout the book. Especially helpful is Appendix B, "Board Policy Outline," which lays out the functions of the board and pertinent questions to be answered for each function. For boards that feel satisfied with their handbooks or policies, the chart may be helpful in comparing or updating the work. On the other hand, the section on evaluation and accountability may be news to congregational leaders, but most theological schools are already keenly aware of the practice.
Although written with a broad systemic perspective, the book is geared for leadership personnel in "pastoral-sized" congregations (rather than larger "program-sized" churches). At first glance, some readers may doubt that the book applies to theological school boards, yet many board members of graduate-level institutions also have a role in congregational governance. This context makes the messages in the book relevant in two ways: readers can use ideas to inform their work in both arenas. And they can also begin to define more clearly the differences in roles in each arena. Hotchkiss points to an "overlapping of constituencies" in congregational governance, dealing with the fluidity of roles congregation members must play, especially in smaller churches. Such a condition is not as likely to exist at the seminary board level, but an awareness of roles often helps board members understand the unique character of the seminary board member role.
Governance and Ministry can be a text that functions well at the pragmatic level with its strategies, processes, and resources, and it can provide the broader perspective necessary for a balcony view of governance. While not written for the seminary board audience, it contains valuable ideas that can enhance theological school board governance.