How do you go about finding new board members? It’s not as easy as asking friends if they want to serve. First, you have to identify the right people. For example, most seminary boards try to reflect the demographics of either (1) the church with which the school is affiliated or (2) the school's student body. A board comprised of all white Presbyterian men, no matter how wonderful they are, is going to miss the mark if the student body includes men and women from diverse races and cultures who are affiliated with a variety of denominational and nondenominational churches.

There are also skill sets to be considered: Who knows investments? Who can think strategically about communications? Who has good ties with the community? This latter question is especially relevant in schools with a large number of commuter students or that otherwise serve a regional constituency.

And beneath all of that, potential board members should also have a heart for the school, its mission, and for the job itself. Serving on the board of a theological school is “both a type of stewardship and a serious commitment,” wrote the late Tracy Schier in her article titled “The delicate dance of recruitment” (In Trust, Spring 2012). As someone who worked as a consultant in developing and evaluating boards, Schier had some advice borne of experience. She offered six steps for identifying and recruiting the right leaders for a theological school:

  1. Refresh the pool.
  2. Look beyond professional skills.
  3. Think about the person’s “fit.”
  4. Conduct onsite interviews.
  5. Set expectations.
  6. Pursue diversity, but avoid tokenism.

All of this, of course, takes time. That’s why many schools have a membership committee. It’s important to have a few potential candidates on deck, and boards should be purposeful about the task.

I’ve just presented a sliver of the tree, so to speak. If developing your board is on your mind, Schier's article is worth your time.

Another resource: "A Blueprint for a Better-Than-Ever Board" by Robert S. Landrebe