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A Critical Piece – PD for Governing Boards

Many principals or school leaders assume that when boards are put together, they automatically know how to function both individually and collectively. Not true. Experience shows the opposite. Principals new to a school most likely look at the documents that are in place for direction. They can include the personnel manual, the constitution and bylaws, various handbooks, and the school board binder. Critical documents can “make or break” a given school year—or beyond.

“Making it” means that the principal and the board have a good working knowledge of Lutheran education and an effective system of governance in place. Communication flows. Vision is cast. Policy directs action. A sense of excitement exists about the good work that is happening. The school’s leadership is marked by its spiritual focus. “Breaking it” shows evidence that best practices are ignored. The process used to select members does not allow for cooperative teamwork. Board members do not understand the role of the individual or of the team. There is awkwardness. Faith conversations are not front and center.

This entire discussion is really a philosophical thought process that leads to either action or inaction. Many principals or school leaders assume that when boards are put together, they automatically know how to function both individually and collectively. Not true. Experience shows the opposite.

How should proper training occur? The answer is surely to craft it in confidence, affecting positive results. The trainer should be an individual who understands the mission and vision of our Lutheran school system. The confident principal is often that right person. She is a significant presence in praying, gently but effectively guiding and nudging, and making best practices the norm. There will always be bumps in the road, but in our sinful lives, that is a daily occurrence. Seeking out the power of confession, forgiveness, and grace moves us to look at outcomes where the children served are equipped to share Jesus and to defend the faith—segueing through the governance of ministry. This pursuit, worth every minute and effort, is one that takes a team, the power of the Word, and continual kneeling at the foot of the cross.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6 ESV).

Consider these pieces that can bring together a cohesive plan for understanding and implementing solid board practices. It can be as simple as defining what serving on a board really means, or it can be interviewing potential members to help ensure the fit is proper.

A meaningful job description

A statement at the beginning of the position description should read, “The goal of this document is to help the Board of Christian Education grow in its skills, attitudes, responsibilities, and blessings to our school. Our hope is that it will become a model of effectiveness and best practices—all as it operates in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Choosing the members who will serve

Most schools need to follow the governing documents of their organization. If these allow anyone who desires to serve—that is a red flag. A better way is to be able to seek out, interview, and determine those who might be the best fit for board service. Doing so usually pays big dividends in putting together very effective boards.

This is the Lord’s work! Treat it as a sacred duty and have dialogue within the body of Christ.Vision statement and process

Boards should annually review respective vision statements to create consensus on outcomes for the parochial ministry. Just as the mission statement shares why an organization exists, so the vision statement is a declaration of the objectives intended to guide internal decision-making.

Commitment/Covenant

Board members need to sign a commitment to serve faithfully and to be faithful to the mission and vision of the board.

Have REAL discussions

What does this mean? Dive deeper; don’t just skim the surface. This is the Lord’s work! Treat it as a sacred duty and have dialogue within the body of Christ in order to overcome challenges and to communicate a caring heart, soul, and mind.

Certain topics should come to the forefront:

Just as all God’s people need reminders about so many things in life, so do groups of people who are placed by Him for good work.Annual orientation

Just as all God’s people need reminders about so many things in life, so do groups of people who are placed by Him for good work. Annual orientation is crucial and should possess high priority.

The power of attending to detail

Military training instills and continually reinforces the importance of attention to detail. This practice can guide both individuals and organizations to excellence. It is the little things we take notice of and just “do right.” People take notice. They appreciate the high bar that we set. They desire to be part of such an organization and to participate in a powerful, meaningful way.

In-Service

Looking for teachable moments lends itself to learning together and to espousing the philosophy of being lifelong learners.

The psychology of cooperation and buy-in

Build relationships. Become a powerful team. Gain respect. Practice humility. Get spiritual. Appreciate the power of the assessment. Each of these lead to deeper conversations. No skimming of the surface here, as it relates to serving together and the desire to move the organization forward. Consider these components in having wise conversations that develop interest, vigorous debate, and a sense of camaraderie. Watch what happens.

The opportunity

As we love our Lutheran schools fervently, we really do have to work hard at delivering. Today’s families demand better than good. As we strive to become lifelong learners together, be prayerful and deliberate. Teach and learn. Communicate. And have as your end goal those outcomes you desire, but especially to be a thriving Lutheran school. God will bless.

Thomas Wrege is principal of Zion Lutheran School in Georgetown, Texas. He has served our schools for 35 years and consults on many topics in leadership and practical matters. He creates resources and loves to share in service to our Lord. Contact him for resources connected with the governance topic.

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