Sobering statistics, paths to the future

           
         

 

In the New Year 2014 issue of In Trust, Greg Henson and Gary Hoag provided data on charitable giving. Their conclusions, and their advice to schools, are still timely.

 

   

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Must you let people know that you're closing?

           
         

 

 

 

Every institution runs on confidence. Startups need investors to believe that their money won't be wasted. Banks need customers who trust that their savings won't be lost. Schools need students who are confident that the school will be around long enough for them to graduate. And the donors to these schools need to feel confident that their contributions are not being tossed into a black hole.

   

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Understanding the (stained) glass cliff

           
         

After a female faculty member was promoted into seminary leadership, a colleague stopped by her office to congratulate her. But he also asked, “Does this mean the school is in trouble?”  

It didn’t — but the colleague was assuming the theory of the so-called “glass cliff” might be at play.

   

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How can a seminary react to financial stress?

           
         

Unanticipated financial setbacks sometimes become little deficits. And the response to little deficits can shape the course of a school’s future. What are the options? 

   

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Undermining your president

           
         

In the final scene of Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004), a drilling machine bursts through the street and a mole-like man steps forward to address the screaming masses: “Behold, the Underminer! I'm always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness! Soon, all will tremble before me!"

 

   

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Human formation, a key to ministry preparation

           
         

In the Catholic context, preparation for priestly ministry is guided by the Program of Priestly Formation. Theological educators of any denomination can benefit from reading this document, especially the section outlining the four elements of formation – spiritual, intellectual, pastoral, and human.

   

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Mastering the graceful exit

           
         

P. T. Barnum is credited with the saying, “Always leave them wanting more.” It’s good advice. When Douglass Lewis was asked why he was retiring as president of Wesley Theological Seminary, he replied with a similar idea. It was something his mother used to say: "You ought to leave the party while you're having a good time."

 

   

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Administrators strive to serve international students

           
         

Students from Africa and East Asia come to study in North America because theological schools in the United States and Canada offer top-quality education. However, immigration and financing systems don’t always prepare these students for the hurdles they inevitably encounter.

   

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The board's role in spiritual formation

           
         

Theological school boards are responsible for all aspects of the school they serve, including the spiritual formation of their students. But how can boards know for sure whether spiritual formation is being adequately addressed?

   

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Seminaries and a theology of work

           
         

Most ministers who want to engage the working world will find that their theological school left them unprepared,” argues Chris Armstrong in “The other 100,000 hours,” an article in the New Year 2013 issue of In Trust. 

   

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Unleashing your inner leader

           
         

Becoming an effective leader in theological education -- whether as a president, dean, or board member -- usually requires intentional study and practice. Rarely does someone become a great leader through sheer instinct and natural talent. Rather, great leaders combine their natural gifts with the wisdom they gain from experts and real-world experiences.

   

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Instructional design

           
         

Instructional designers and instructional technologists are often confused, but the titles aren’t interchangeable,” says Sue Ann Husted, who has held both positions at various institutions during her 24-year career.

   

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Accreditation and the forces that shape the standards

           
         

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) is in the midst of an ambitious project – the first redevelopment of its accrediting standards in nearly a quarter-century. The work will eventually affect every theological school -- perhaps as soon as 2022, when the new standards may go into effect.

   

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Tools for board improvement

           
         

Do you have new (or existing) board members that require orientation? Interested in conducting an assessment of your board's efficacy? Feel as if your board could be communicating or collaborating better? 

   

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Help with the Carver Model of governance

           
         

Most authors, researchers, and support organizations agree that no one-size-fits-all template dictates how boards should function. Rather, governance gurus urge boards to shape the way they work to the contours of their specific organizations.

   

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Learning from the past: Schools that thrived during the lean years

           
         


In 2014, the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education published Through Toil and Tribulation: Financing Theological Education 2001-2011, an analysis by Anthony T. Ruger and Chris A. Meinzer of revenue and spending of theological schools during a period that encompassed the Great Recession as well as declining levels of formal religious affiliation. The fifth in a series of studies of revenue in theological education, this report told a tale of hard times and the ways in which some schools were able to strengthen their financial position in spite of a poor economy and changing religious environment, and it outlined best practices in the institutions and leaders who saw improvements during these years.

   

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Overwhelmed by the idea of strategic planning? Start here

           
         

Strategic planning can be expensive and daunting for boards and executive leadership teams. It can be a great idea to bring in a consultant to lead and guide the process, but for schools struggling with tight budgets, the cost can be prohibitive. So why not handle the strategic planning process internally? The problem might be that you don't know where to start, or what model to follow. 

   

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A community-based leadership “creed”

           
         

Boyung Lee is the first Korean American woman dean at an ATS school. She cites the work of a group called Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM) as pivotal to her development as a leader. Here she shares her 13-point "Leadership Creed," an embodiment of the lessons she's learned in PANAAWTM.  

   

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Planning and imagination — or how to connect dreams and means

           
         

 

Effective strategic planning requires an active imagination — not because such effectiveness is hard to imagine but because we need to activate our imagination to plan effectively.

   

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Seminaries struggle to build community with affordable dining services

           
         

 

Declining enrollment and increasing numbers of distance education and off-campus students are making the economics of providing food increasingly unsustainable for theological schools. Yet everyone agrees that shared meals build community. What's a seminary to do?

   

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The importance of the executive session

           
         

Executive sessions should be a regular agenda item for every board meeting. Are they at yours? If your board is like many others, perhaps your honest answer is no. Why have an executive session if no pressing issues need to be addressed?

   

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Strategic planning = spiritual discernment

           
         

Leaders of theological schools routinely navigate the nuances of Torah law; Trinitarian controversies; the oeuvre of Rahner, Barth, and Marion; not to mention the subtleties of shared governance. Yet we can still be intimidated by the occult mysteries of strategic planning — not just planning, mind you, but strategic planning.

   

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When it comes to development, the personal touch might just be the Midas touch

           
         




What can board members, who have a big role to play in development, do to make fundraising more productive and, dare we hope, less onerous?

   

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The gift of a learning community

           
         

An interview with Tim Shapiro, president of the Center for Congregations and author of How Your Congregation Learns: The Learning Journey from Challenge to Achievement.

   

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Get merger discussions started by reviewing a document required by ATS

           
         



Schools accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) that are considering a merger should download and peruse a key ATS petition early in the process.

   

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