One of the topics I often cover in board development workshops is the concept and practice of establishing a model for board member succession. Whether the transition of board members happens based on the expiration of the defined term, in crisis due to disciplinary reasons, or in the event of the resignation or death of a board member, your board policy should clearly lay out the exit and replacement procedures.
It struck me the other morning while reading Acts 1 that God’s Word provides us with a great example of board succession in a crisis situation—the sudden death of a board member. (If he had not died, he would have been removed for disciplinary reasons, I might add!)
The situation unfolds in Acts 1:12, when Peter addresses the gathered disciples and explains that Judas has essentially failed as a “board member” and is now dead, ending the explanation by quoting from Psalm 109:8, “May another take his place of leadership.”
Peter then lays it out very clearly: “It’s necessary to choose a replacement.” He goes on to list the required qualifications of the replacement, and once that is done, solicits names from the remaining disciples. The qualifications state that the new apostle be someone who had been a disciple from the very beginning, from his baptism by John until the Ascension of Christ. The reason for this is simple; the new apostle must have been a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. He must have followed Jesus, stayed with him when he made enemies, and believed in him when he spoke of the cross and taught teachings that had made others leave.
In the same manner, your policy should clearly state the requirements for being considered for the role of board member, which would include a depth of faith in Christ that is bearing fruit, a relationship with and desire to serve the school, membership in a church, and children that are attending or have attended the school, to name a few.
In the Book of Acts, two names are brought forth, Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias. What happens next is a critical, yet often neglected, step in the process. Acts 1:24 says, “Then they prayed.” If there is one area that often falls to the wayside during board meetings, it is prayer. We should be bathing every aspect of our role as board members, our school, our administrators, and our kids in prayer. I’ll sound a little radical here and even propose that more might be accomplished in our schools if ALL we did was pray during our meetings!
It is important to note that they prayed specifically: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry.” Matthias was chosen and, interestingly, we never hear another word about either of them in scripture.
The key to all of this is process. Do you have a process in place that covers this eventuality in a way that is orderly and repeatable? Can it survive scrutiny from outside agencies as well as from within the association? In Colossians 2:5, Paul writes to a church that has never met him, and he tells them two things he appreciates about them. “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” I pray that your school is characterized by those same two descriptors: orderly, and firm in your faith in Christ!
– Joel Westa