With this new year, In Trust magazine marks two decades. We began in 1988 as an "occasional paper," largely of reprints, for "friends of theological education." Our purpose was to inform the growing number of board members in non-church-related professions about the nature of theological education while also teaching those in ministry about the economics of theological education. We wanted to elevate the calling of trusteeship at a time of upheaval in finances, demographics and church relations. Lilly Endowment convened the conversations and funded the early issues. From the start, our hunch was that effective governance was the key to effective leadership.
By 1992, In Trust had become a glossy quarterly with original articles and a circulation list of virtually all 7,000 board members in institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. By 1995 we had enough momentum to incorporate as a nonprofit public charity and begin expanding our educational services by diversifying our funding base. Our editorial council transitioned into a board of directors and we, like the theological schools we serve, entered the practice (not simply the observation) of nonprofit governance.
In 1996, Lilly again helped In Trust enhance its educational resources, this time by funding our Good Governance Seminars for presidents and board leaders. At the same time, other foundations, including Henry Luce, Arthur Vining Davis, Teagle, Carpenter, Connolly, and Good Samaritan, helped to diversify our funding base, strengthen our publication, and move us on to the World Wide Web.
By 2004 our seminar program had generated our Governance Mentor service, along with board self-assessment instruments -- which have since then led to new tools for addressing presidential evaluation and monitoring institutional health. Theological seminaries began to pay for the assistance of mentors and assessment instruments as well as for membership benefits, including access to all our online resources and discounts for all services.
Most recently, the Kern Family Foundation provided funding to deepen our Governance Mentor program, while the Carpenter and Luce foundations have funded our Writer Workshops to equip a new cadre of writers for In Trust magazine and In Trust Online.
We are committed to remaining a lean and learning organization focused on reaching out to seminaries through talented and experienced freelance mentors and writers who study regularly with the In Trust staff, senior mentors, and other leaders in theological education. Our goal is to make available to you wise and informed peers who are knowledgeable and representative of the range of governance models in theological schools. In Trust's job is close coordination and in-service training for quality control.
We work hard to be a company of Christian partisans representing the theological diversity of North American Christians. We are bound by a common commitment to prepare those who will proclaim the Gospel, tend the Christian tradition in its apologetic, ecumenical and interfaith dimensions, and witness to lives of service in the 21st century.
Our hunch has been borne out: effective boards operating within well-defined governance systems and led by able presidents make for strong seminaries. Our mission is to equip those who govern theological schools. We view our mission as a vocation, one made necessary by the need among boards and leaders to build, refine, and redesign their governance systems to keep theological schools on track and well supported.
With two decades of experience, we look forward to helping boards meet today's challenges. To flourish, theological schools must consider cooperative ventures with other schools. They must give deeper attention to enrollment management (from student recruitment through alumni services), more responsive educational systems, better monitoring of institutional economic trends, and renewed connections with congregations, donors, and church bodies.
Your service in theological school governance is also a vocation within the corporate vocation of your board and school. We hope and pray that your God-given calling energizes you for the significant tasks ahead. We hope this issue of In Trust can contribute to your renewal in the vocation of governance. Blessings from In Trust in 2008.