Last Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an op-ed piece by Trace Haythorn and Ian Markham called "Theology suffers a funding crisis." The essay makes the case for increased financial support for theological students. And it cites a couple of organizations that are helping theological students with financial support:
• The Fund for Theological Education (FTE) will award $1.5 million this year to seminarians.
• Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) awarded $1.2 million in financial aid grants this year, and plans to match that number next year.
The Fund for Theological Education is a great organization -- a colleague of In Trust as we seek to strengthen theological schools across North America. And Virginia Theological Seminary is an outstanding theological school. (The former dean-president of the seminary serves on In Trust's board.) I'm pleased that both institutions have received some good publicity in a major newspaper.
But it's not accidental that this particular nonprofit, and this particular seminary, were highlighted in the op-ed essay. In fact, one co-author, Trace Haythorn, is president of FTE, and the other co-author, Ian Markham, is dean-president of VTS.
There's a lesson here. Part of a comprehensive communications strategy is putting your message "out there" into the public discourse. Don't just issue press releases, publish brochures, post YouTube videos, "tweet" on Twitter, update your Facebook page, create DVDs and CDs, preach in churches, and run top-notch admissions, development, church relations, and public relations offices.
Do all those things, to be sure. But if you want to be taken seriously as an institution, then make sure that your leaders -- especially the board chair and president, but perhaps also other leaders -- are taking part in the public discourse. That may mean speaking at a public event. But it also means writing for the public media, like the nearest major daily paper. I don't believe that this is taking the president away from his or her on-campus responsibilities. On the contrary, representing the theological school to the world is one of the many important duties of the president.
And I believe that Haythorn and Markham are a good example for all of us.
Read the entire article here.