Over the past few months I’ve attended the funerals of three former members of Winebrenner’s Board of Trustees. Each was a well-respected man in their particular sphere of influence and recognized for serving the Seminary with some level of distinction. The time spent traveling to the funerals and back home provided an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to serve on a Board “with distinction.”
This post continues our series on governance by exploring facets of a quality Board member. The following list is not intended to be exhaustive but simply to begin creating a basic understanding for the characteristics that these men shared in common, which, in turn, creates a profile for a positive Board member.
- Mission & Strategy are priorities: I know from first-hand experience that each didn’t always agree with the decisions of each other or the final outcome, but when making decisions as part of the Board each prioritized Winebrenner Seminary’s mission above all else when a member of the Board.
- Active participation: Another characteristic is that each was actively engaged in the life in Winebrenner Seminary in terms of Board attendance, prayer support, and financial support. It’s an unfortunate memory, but during my first few years after becoming Winebrenner’s President it was not uncommon to need to call some specific Board members to confirm if they would be attending the meeting after not hearing any details about their plans to participate (this took place the week of the scheduled meeting). It was one of the most demoralizing activities – to have to call Board members who voluntarily joined a governance Board and then failed to actively participate. Fortunately, these are memories from years past and are no longer the state of affairs. Active engagement is key in order for a Board to be a positive force in the life of an organization.
- Ability to navigate multiple relationships: Winebrenner’s Board is not a representative Board in terms of democratic representation for denominational regions but each quality Board member must navigate multiple relationships while still prioritizing Winebrenner’s mission and strategy. I’ve worked with enough Boards and Board members to recognize that this is not a skill held by all Board members; many struggle with how to manage multiple organizational relationships. Yes, this is why we have a “conflict of interest” form, but there is still a need to prioritize Winebrenner’s unique mission and strategy over other commitments.
- Led by the Spirit: Finally, I genuinely believe a characteristic held by all three men was the ability to be led by the Holy Spirit. One of most powerful stories that comes to mind are the experiences of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Each man is independently led by the Spirit. Then, in a moment that demonstrates true unity of the Spirit, their stories come together in a unique and amazing way.
Each of these reflections is written from the perspective of an organizational President. In addition to serving as President, I am also completing my term as Chair of a Board for a school near Cap Haitien, Haiti. Next week I’ll be completing this series by providing some insights about governance from the perspective of a Board Chair.