Jack Peterson, Managing for Mission
August 15, 2015



Most schools are governed by some sort of board charged with centering it on its mission of service to the community.  It’s a big responsibility, all the more challenging because trustees are busy people who meet at most once a month for an hour or two to make important decisions.  The decisions they make must above all preserve the school’s unique spiritual character.  Despite their professional backgrounds and wisdom, most trustees work from a lay perspective of their school’s religious tradition.

They serve because they see the school as an outpouring of God’s love for his people. They want to use their intelligence and experience to guide it.  They feel pressure to make effective and efficient decisions.  But, at a deeper level, trustees want to make decisions that respond to God’s desires for the school and the students it serves.  How can we as trustees do that?

We call this deeper, spirit-centered deliberation of the issues before us discernment.  The ability to discern is what we expect of our students through the education we provide, and as trustees we also expect it of ourselves.

Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in the 16th Century, has given us great insight into how to discern God’s will for us in his classic, The Spiritual Exercises.  In it he gives us a model for making decisions that uncovers our own deepest desires, which reveal God’s desires for us as well as.  The model can also be adapted to decisions made by organizations.

Ignatius’ approach to discernment assumes that God not only exists, but loves us and wants to be part of our lives.   Like any parent, God wants the best for us. Discernment is deepening our relationship with God so that we can perceive his gentle direction at work in our own lives and in the good intentions of our colleagues on the board.

Trustees, like everyone else in the school, are called to cooperate with God’s grace.  Discernment of the path forward for the school is their special responsibility.  To assist them, Managing for Mission has prepared this five-part post on Board discernment, including this “Overview,” “The Spirit of Discernment,” “The Habit of Discernment,” “The Six Components of Group Discernment” and “The Four Core tools of Discernment.”

To learn more, please read the next part of this post, “The Spirit of Discernment.”

More information on how boards can best carry out their crucial role is available several places on this website, www.managingformission.com