What does governance have to do with the financial and operational success of a Christian School? Does it have an impact on the delivery of a Discipleship Infused Education? Does it affect fundraising? These are important questions. The short answer is, governance impacts everything and proper and strong governance is the first step toward the health and prosperity of every organization, including Christian schools.
“Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will mess it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.”
The health, success and delivery of Discipleship Infused Education in a Christian school rises and falls on the Board. If you have a great Board, you will likely have a great school. If you have a mediocre Board, the opposite is almost always true. But, the question is, what does it mean to have a “great Board?” What does that look like?
The answer may surprise you. A “great Board” does not mean one that is comprised of likable people that get along with each other and are free of conflict. Humility, compassion, gentleness and self-control are all necessary characteristics of the members, but a Board that is comprised of people willing to wrestle with each other, challenge one another and press for excellence is not only desirable, but Biblical.
17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
To sharpen iron requires, friction, resistance, struggle and pressure. The existence of these factors does not constitute sin. Sin results when we respond incorrectly to these factors or we apply them inappropriately.
31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.
A great Board is comprised of people that collectively possess a “holy discontent” and are driven to see God’s will done in their school. They are willing to sharpen each other as required and provide “life-giving correction” when needed.
So, what qualifies someone to be a Christian school Board member? Once again, the answer may surprise you. Being qualified, qualifies someone. What? Being a Board member of a Christian school requires meeting a qualification criterion. What is that criterion? Not what you would expect.
For hundreds of years businesses have been developing the best approach and practices for Board member selection. All truth is God’s truth and therefore, there is much to be learned from the business world on this topic.
First, the business world has determined that countering the potential for conflict of interest on the Board is highly desirable. A conflict of interest exists in situations where a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity as a Board member.
Most Christian schools require that a majority of Board members be parents of the school. The thinking is, “they have a vested interest in the school and therefore will be the most dedicated.” In reality, when the majority of members are parents of the school there is a guaranteed conflict of interest.
By example, these people have authority over the tuition charged to others and themselves. They set the pricing they will pay to send their children to the school they control – a major conflict of interest. This would be like Walmart’s Board being comprised of a majority of customers that could influence or even set pricing? How successful would Walmart be if this were the case?
“Yes, but we are not a business.”
IGC agrees that the purpose of a Christian school is not to generate a profit, but neither is that the purpose of Walmart or any other good organization. The purpose of, or the “why” of any organization is never to generate a profit. Profit, or a surplus in a Christian school context, is a necessary outcome of pursuing and realizing the purpose. So, one criterion is that the majority of Christian school Board members be independent.
What does it mean to be independent? An independent director is a director of a board who does not have a material or pecuniary relationship with a school. In other words, they are free of a conflict of interest.
Christian school Boards are the guardians of vision and mission.
18 Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
To be successful and become financially self-sustaining requires thinking differently. Accepting a different approach to governance based on hundreds of years of proven best practices is just one area where we need to challenge our thinking in Christian schools.