The relationships between Boards in their “governance” role and staff in their “administrative” role can make or break an organization, whether that organization is a local church, a ministry non-profit, or a Seminary.

I’ve been in settings where spiritual principles and business “best practices” have been framed in a polarized manner, as if they were antithetical to one another rather than powerful when yoked together.  I’m grateful the Church I served for 30 years recognized that business done well, with the right motives and goals, creates opportunity for a greater focus on ministry.  Business matters handled poorly cause ceaseless distractions that drain needed energy from transformational mission endeavors.

The Board of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University just completed its third meeting board in our less than two years of existence.  In addition to Board members who gathered from across North America, we were joined by Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Presiding General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church.  She is a visionary leader, so her feedback after the meeting that it “was stimulating and a fresh wind of forward thinking” was particularly meaningful.  She also commented on the organization of the meeting in a format approved by Board Chair Stan Hoover, with an agenda designed so Board members would…

LEARN…something new about the Seminary and opportunities it is pursuing.

SHAPE…the future direction and priorities of the Seminary

DECIDE…what needed to be approved and what needed to be discarded.

I’ve found those three components, or movements, make for meaningful Board meetings in other contexts as well.

As the LEARN update was designed for the Board, it began to unfold in a pattern that reflected Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The ripples:

  • Jerusalem – was geographically proximate and culturally similar
  • Judea, Samaria – still geographically proximate but cultural different
  • Ends of the earth – geographically distant and culturally different

This not only describes the spread of the Gospel, but provides an outline for the book of Acts – Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), Judea & Samaria (8-9) and the ends of the earth (10-28).  While God’s Spirit provided the power for this world-wide impact, it took persecution (its been said that it took Acts 8:1 to make Acts 1:8 a reality) to prevent them from becoming a holy huddle with limited influence.

So we shared what is happening right here in our “Jerusalem” – new faculty hired, development of our Seminary facility design, innovative adaptations to our degree programs and creation of an audit opportunity for our courses.  Then we moved on to our “Judea & Samaria” – partnerships with other educational institutions, cooperative relationships with ethnic denominations, and connecting with organizations such as the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).  Then to the “ends of the earth” – the worldwide response to our Spanish-language M.Div. which is primarily online, and serving the Church’s educational needs as far away as the Pacific Arena (my good friend Richard Waugh, National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church of New Zealand, says their country is in the Bible – the literal “ends of the earth” mentioned in Acts 1:8!).

The Board went on to SHAPE our services to the Church by affirming what we were already doing (Spanish-language educational opportunities and forming partnerships with “Teaching Churches & Districts” – starting with our elective at 12Stone Church June 1-7), then prioritizing from a list of “top ten possibilities” what we might pursue first in the future.  Three items rose to the top of that list – the developing of leaders for the church planting movement, exploring ways of measuring and creating church health, and scholarships for international leaders to receive Seminary education in their own context.

The Board went on to formally DECIDE what had been discussed, including making the most of our first opportunity to add Association of Theological Schools accreditation to the accreditation we already have through the Higher Learning Commission.

We left energized by both the fellowship and our vision for the future…now that’s a Board conducting “business as eternal”!