In most theological schools, the foundation of the school’s mission is strengthening and serving the church. And how is this done? By preparing students for lay and ordained ministry in all kinds of settings. 

But the mission can be served in another way as well. The boards of theological schools are composed of committed individuals, many of whom also serve in leadership in other church settings. 

If a theological school’s board is strong, then its members develop new capacity for board service — capacity they bring back home to their roles in local and national church leadership. 

Familiar context and goals

I’ve served on church boards for many years, and, when I was president of Northwest Baptist Seminary, I also worked with both a seminary board and a consortium board. So I know that the mission, mandate, and structure, of theological schools are different from those of congregations. The role of the chief executive is different, too — and seminaries must report to accrediting bodies, government agencies, and sometimes universities or consortia that congregations don’t answer to. Theological schools also employ shared governance, with the president and board sharing authority with faculty, senior administrators, and various standing committees.

Yet in some ways, the boards of theological schools and congregations are not so different. In both contexts, board members are expected to give generously of their time, talent, and treasure. Both kinds of board members serve institutions with missions focused on spiritual formation and education. Both are concerned with vision formation, assessment, and risk management. They oversee the chief executive and set policies for personnel matters. And they monitor compliance with government regulations while collaborating with (and addressing the concerns of) denominational officials. 

Governance skills for the sake of the church

When a seminary equips its board members, it also equips people to serve their local congregations and other church bodies in similar capacities. And that’s one reason why the educational mission of the seminary is not confined to the classroom but must also reach into the boardroom. When a president and a theological school board enhance the capacity of the school’s board members, they open new doors of leadership for them within the church. And board education becomes an investment that continues to pay dividends long after service on the school’s board ends. 

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