As a six-year-old, I thought the Lord's Prayer was long. Now, if I briefly lose myself in a memory during church, I'm likely to miss the prayer entirely.

It takes a few decades of living to realize time's full value. Board members sense its scarcity in their boards' infrequent meetings, heavy agendas, member rotation, and the fiscal year, not to mention their own hectic schedules.

Time's scarcity easily undermines wise governance, especially when good timing is crucial. Boards cannot afford to miss their cues. And that's what makes Jesus' parable about the ten virgins awaiting the bride-groom's procession uniquely pertinent — it makes us wonder if we're prepared for what we're called to do.

Matthew chapter 25 portrays half the women as foolish, lacking enough oil for their lamps when the bridegroom's arrival is delayed. But the other half — those with extra oil — are wise because they anticipate any possibility.

Details from The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow
Photo by Cate Copenhaver

The parable's vivid portrayal of the wise and foolish commands our attention. Since board service for theological schools is a Christian calling, good timing becomes a matter of discipleship, not simply good practice.

Yet boards miss their cues all the time. Too drowsy to replenish the oil in their lamps, they neglect to monitor shortages and fail to act when they should. If they don't recognize and address the dangers inherent in downward enrollments, declining income streams, unfocused presidencies, weakened degree programs, or rising student debt, how can they act wisely?

This issue of In Trust aims to provide some cues for good timing in governance, even while this academic and fiscal year hurtles to its close.

Note first the significance of timing in Barbara Wheeler's article, "Board Leadership That Works," which is based on research conducted by Auburn Seminary's Center for the Study of Theological Education. Pressed like good wine from a thorough study of presidencies, Wheeler summarizes four habits for boards matched to the four stages in a presidency.

Here's one gem of a cue: She calls the first year of a presidency "a template for what is to come" and emphasizes how much new presidents need from their boards to succeed. Her advice is warranted, since the study found that only half of new presidents were given guidance by their boards about what they should accomplish in their first year.

Helen Blier's summary of the Auburn Center's report on doctoral programs that prepare future faculty members for theological schools also calls for the board's attention in a time of delayed retirements, frozen searches, and budget cutbacks. Are there "disconnects" at your institution among admissions practices, training, and graduate program expectations? Ignoring them now can harm both the institution and the graduate students themselves.

Editor Jay Blossom's next article in our series on governance and transformation at Oral Roberts University provides a unique case study of governance in the first years of a new presidency — one following a much-contested failed presidency. ORU's story is hardly over, but In Trust is grateful for the opportunity to share the reflections of the university's new leaders during a time that is pregnant with both opportunity and peril.

See, too, the excerpt from In Trust's new statement on the roles and responsibilities of boards, called "Wise Stewards." When boards work to foster a culture of collaborative goal setting, continuous planning, and hard-nosed evaluation, they ensure timely action.

We hope these cues encourage you to keep oil in your lamps and remain alert to take action in time and to pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Top Topics
Roles & Responsibilities
Board Essentials

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