From category archives: In Trust Blog

Strategic Planning

Resource roundup: Design thinking and creative problem solving

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving process that your team can use to quickly discuss concepts, test ideas, and create solutions. 

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Abandon your past to create your future

Robert S. Landrebe, who has just retired as senior vice president at Asbury Theological Seminary, offered advice for finding clarity in your school’s future in the Spring 2014 issue of In Trust. In his article titled “To create the future, selectively abandon the past,” Landrebe offers blunt but empathic advice to schools facing shrinking enrollment (in other words, most schools): “Let me describe theological education as an ‘industry.’ We are part of an industry that has a vital mission that serves the church. But, over the last decade, our student market has been in decline. During this decade we haven’t adjusted our expenses in response to a shrinking market. Rather, expenses have risen even faster than the consumer price index." 

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Disruption can drive change that leads to sustainability

A recent issue of Trusteeship magazine features an article by Peter Smith titled “How Should Boards Respond to Disruption.” The article was written primarily for boards of universities and colleges, but it goes right to the heart of what it will take to lead a seminary through the next 30 or 40 years.

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Two to tango: Insights from a partnership

In the May issue of Colloquy, the online newsletter from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), two representatives from Andover Newton Theological School and Yale Divinity School offer some reflections on Andover Newton’s transition from a freestanding theological school to an embedded seminary.

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Preparing your students to work without pay

Increasing numbers of churches are turning to part-time, low-paid, or unpaid ministers. What does this mean for seminaries?

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Four questions for your enrollment team

Enrollment is critical. You might have a wonderful vision, an outstanding strategic plan, and top-notch personnel in all the key spots – but without enough students, your school will struggle.

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Resource roundup: Succession planning

Succession planning isn’t just for a school’s presiding officer. Having a plan for transition and succession that applies to the entire institution can reduce stress and avert ad hoc emergency decision making when change inevitably occurs. 

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Resource roundup: Online learning

The ever-changing landscape of theological education can make adapting to new educational models daunting, but there are resources available to help you.

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Resource roundup: Social media management

With the right resources, it is possible to run successful social media campaigns without hiring a full-time social media marketer.

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How (and why) to do board assessment

As part of the ongoing work of the In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Initiative, participating schools are completing board self-assessments, which their faculty coaches are using to create board development plans. Creating a plan is something that every school should consider doing.

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Resource roundup: Institutional financial health

The fiscal responsibilities of seminary boards, presidents, and administrators are vast and complex. And for those who want to maintain or improve their school’s financial health, it's sometimes hard to know where to start. Here are resources that may offer some guidance in tending to institutional financial health.

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Diversifying your board

As the diversity of students entering theological schools continues to grow, many school leaders are challenged with mirroring that diversity within their administration, faculty, and board. 

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Strategy is still the issue

Back in 2012, Christa Klein, then president of In Trust, spoke with Robert Cooley, “the guru of governance,” on the question of strategy and the rapidly changing landscape of theological education. Their conversation remains relevant today.

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Leveraging the power of Facebook

By now, we all know the vast reach that Facebook has across the globe, and many are aware of how powerful a tool Facebook can be for nonprofits and educational institutions to engage with constituents and potential donors.

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Your top strategic issues

When your board meets, how much time do you spend focusing on strategic issues facing your school? If the answer is less than half of the meeting time, then your board is like many others. 

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Your top strategic issues

When your board meets, how much time do you spend focusing on strategic issues facing your school? If the answer is less than half of the meeting time, then your board is like many others. 

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Resource roundup: Assessing institutional culture

How do your faculty, staff, and administrators experience the culture of your institution? Knowing the answer can help you make improvements that result in lasting benefits and contribute in significant ways to your school’s success.

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Visualizing governance systems

The dashboard of a car can tell you a lot — fuel level, speed, air temperature, tire pressure. The one thing it can’t tell you is where you’re going. For that we need another metaphor. Randall Basinger at Messiah College has just the thing: GPS, or governance positioning system.

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Visualizing governance systems

The dashboard of a car can tell you a lot — fuel level, speed, air temperature, tire pressure. The one thing it can’t tell you is where you’re going. For that we need another metaphor. Randall Basinger at Messiah College has just the thing: GPS, or governance positioning system.

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Tending shared governance

“Effective shared governance is hard work.” That’s how a new article focusing on shared governance in this month’s Trusteeship magazine begins. This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the practice of shared governance, but it’s certainly nice to read the words and appreciate that others struggle with the practice too.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Where do the “best” seminarians come from?

Why are some seminarians more successful than others? What is the background of these star students? Is there such a thing as a "best" seminarian? 

 

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The value of successful interim presidencies

According to a 2014 In Trust article by Heidi Schlumpf, "...interim or 'acting' presidents...can be valuable to a seminary, offering stability and continuity, achieving specific – often financial – goals, and providing time to reexamine mission and vision while searching for the most appropriate permanent leader." 

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An American icon that fell victim to the “competency trap”

The New York Times has run an obituary of sorts for Xerox, the American corporation that is merging with Japanese behemoth Fujifilm Holdings. The company prospered and innovated for decades, but then they began to fall behind. What lessons could we in theological education learn from their example? 

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New Year 2018 issue is now available


The New Year 2018 issue of In Trust magazine was recently mailed and is now available to read online.

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New Year 2018 issue is now available


The New Year 2018 issue of In Trust magazine was recently mailed and is now available to read online.

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Trustees seek change amid public scrutiny of higher education

According to a recent poll, more than half of trustees agreed that public perception of higher education has deteriorated in the United States over the last decade. They are not all in agreement, however, on the causes of and solution to this problem. 

 

 

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Writing for the mass media: A practical how-to

On November 2, the In Trust Center hosted a webinar on “Writing for the mass media” aimed at seminary leaders. 

 

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Leading with Intent: BoardSource report available now

 

 

At the recent BoardSource Leadership Forum in Seattle, there was a lot of discussion about the results of a recent report, Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. The report highlights findings related to the composition, culture, responsibilities, and impact of nonprofit boards. BoardSource collects data from chief executives and board chairs and breaks the data down to reveal the differences in responses. 

 

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Show me the data

 

A key priority for Pierce College, a community college in Washington state that serves more than 20,000 students at two campuses (as well as online and at a local military base), was bettering its college completion rates. Ben Gose writes about this initiative in the October 6, 2017, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

 

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Innovation, innovation, innovation

Innovation is a buzzword for our current time. Everywhere you look, someone is writing about the need to be innovative, and organizations are bragging about how innovative they are.

 

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When board members go AWOL between meetings, try this

The complaint we hear more than any other from nonprofit execs and/or board chairs is this:

 

Board members disappear between meetings. Poof! They’re gone. Most can’t even be bothered to respond to my message with a one-word reply: “received.”

Sound familiar?

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Key qualities of a new president

Leadership turnover is inevitable. Every institution faces it at some point — usually before they want to. Searching for a new leader is challenging, and even before beginning a search, the governing board must be clear about what kind of leader it seeks.

 

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Highlights from In Trust's Autumn 2017 issue, available now

The Autumn 2017 issue of In Trust was recently mailed  to subscribers and is now available online. Click "Read the rest of entry" for highlights.

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Highlights from In Trust's Autumn 2017 issue, available now

The Autumn 2017 issue of In Trust was recently mailed  to subscribers and is now available online. Click "Read the rest of entry" for highlights.

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For resources on shared governance, contact the In Trust Center

The Resource Consulting team at the In Trust Center often receives questions about shared governance and points theological school leaders to the most pertinent resources from both inside and outside the field of theological education.

 

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A review of David F. Labaree’s A Perfect Mess

The “fundamental thesis” of David F. Labaree’s A Perfect Mess, according to Edwin Woodruff Tait, is that “American higher education is an instrument in maintaining both social mobility and social stability.” 

 

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