Portrait by Dan Williams

After more than 15 years with the In Trust Center, I continue to be inspired by those who fulfill their vocational call by serving on governing and advisory boards. It is a high calling, and one that is critical to the institutions served.

It is also a unique calling. Board members typically have little day-to-day proximity to the school, and yet they possess stewardship roles of considerable power. Tasked as fiduciaries and/or stewards of the mission, they engage at higher levels as advisors and policy/decision-makers.

Readers of this magazine know that the roles and responsibilities of boards have changed dramatically in the past decade. Strategic priorities shift more quickly. Executive leadership transitions have accelerated as demands for creative mission fulfillment have grown. Significant change in student demographics – and greater need for student financial and formational support – requires discernment and flexibility.

And so we must ask: Are those called to board service prepared to respond in their roles as policy/decision-makers? Are current governance models conducive to this work?

In answering those questions, the In Trust Center has typically rejected the notion of best practices, a uniform standard for solutions applicable to all schools at all times and in all places. Instead, we have chosen to advocate for wise practices, which takes into consideration variations in mission, time, and place that allow contextualization.

Lately we’ve been wondering if wise practices are enough. In the Winter 2024 issue of In Trust, we announced the receipt of a $3.28 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., generous funding to support a broad-based initiative focusing on governance. The In Trust Center is partnering with the Association of Theological Schools on a research project inviting executive leaders and governing and advisory board members at all ATS-accredited schools to participate in a survey to help us better understand current governance models and modes at theological schools, as well as board composition, structure, and practices. We seek to gather data to begin to answer the question: What governance works?

I urge you to participate in the survey when you receive it. Your voice matters. Your school’s input matters. For more information on the initiative or the research project, please visit intrust.org/GI. Thank you in advance for your participation.


Top Topics
Roles & Responsibilities
Board Essentials

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