News & Insights

If you are a leader in theological education, you are already familiar with overall trends in seminary enrollment. Usually, reports about enrollment are gloomy, with a half-hearted silver lining that suggests, “Well, at least we’re not the only ones struggling.”

In 2013, In Trust recapped a report called “Theological Student Enrollment,” published by the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education. The full report is available on the Auburn website. Authors Barbara Wheeler, Anthony Ruger, and Sharon Miller found that from 1992 to 2004, enrollment increased about one percent a year then began to decrease at about the same rate of one percent through 2011.

Like the flu, declining enrollment hurts the weakest among us. The “big players” struggle, but smaller schools — those with no endowments, newer schools still finding their feet, and older institutions with years of deferred maintenance — have suffered the most. Schools have sold off property, merged with other seminaries, or embedded themselves in larger institutions. The number of full-time faculty has been cut. And some schools have closed their doors altogether.

It can be exhausting to keep up with all that’s going on, because while knowing what is happening in the greater context of North American theological education is important, it does little to change the fact that you need 12 more students in the fall.

Recognizing what is happening on a larger scale has forced many schools to think about what they do at a fundamental level. And that kind of thinking leads to important questions. Is there another way to deliver theological education? What does pursuing our mission look like next year? Five years from now? Fifty years from now? How do we engage the church now to be sure we are forming the leaders the church needs and wants later?

In the meantime, the news from the enrollment gurus is not all bad. For a more upbeat report, check out this story from the Association of Theological Schools on the 2016-2017 academic year: “New Data Reveal Stable Enrollment but Shifting Trends at ATS Member Schools.”

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Upcoming Events

The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

Called to the Chair: Board Leadership for Unsettled Times


Dr. Rebekah Basinger addresses the opportunities and challenges that come with chairing the board of a theological school, which include how to design effective board meetings, enhance board member engagement, and develop the board for long-term effectiveness, while giving attention to the board chair and president partnership and the critical importance of call in both roles.

Stakeholder Management Planning


Every organization should be prepared with a plan that establishes specific communication goals for key stakeholders in order to ensure the success of its programs, initiatives, or ongoing communication strategy. In this webinar, Josh Peskin, Ph.D., an expert in organizational communications, will walk through the elements of developing a stakeholder management plan to help you engage with your audiences in a more effective way. Click to view.

Conflict + Crisis: Navigating the Shoals Part 1


Presenter Donna Alexander, President & CEO of Advoxum Global Strategies, offers best practices for navigating conflict and crisis. She examines the crucial elements of defining conflict and crisis, identifying, and prioritizing affected stakeholders, utilizing effective communication strategies, and ultimately, executing a plan of action.

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