It’s not surprising to see the words “changes” and “challenges” used to describe theological education today. Our world is in a constant state of change, with continual new challenges to face and overcome. But for a theological school, a time of change can also be an opportunity to embrace new approaches, models, and people while creating your future in pursuit of your unique mission.
I am grateful for this season of change at the In Trust Center for Theological Schools. As you read this issue, I begin my service as president — a role I eagerly embrace as we pursue our mission of serving you, our members. Our staff is committed to providing you with the resources you need and supporting you in your work of leading North America’s theological schools.
You’ll find some of those resources in this issue and others via our webinar library at www.intrust.org/webinars. We also hope that you’ll call our office to discuss your needs so that we can connect you to consultants, wise practices, articles, or conversation partners.
In Trust has been sharing stories and resources with you for more than 28 years. Recently I spent time revisiting many past issues to track patterns in our reporting on specific topics. One thing is clear: The topic of change in theological education is not new. We’ve been reporting on periods of rapid change for more than two decades. What’s exciting about the current period is the new thinking that’s emerging.
One example is the responses generated by our Autumn 2016 issue, which included a special section about mergers and partnerships. More and more leaders are looking at various kinds of alliances to address the realities of declining enrollment and budgetary pressures.
A merger isn’t magic, and in most cases two weak institutions can’t partner to make one strong one, but opening the door to new options does provide an opportunity for innovative thinking.
This month we are sending out a survey asking you to share some questions you have about partnerships. Your responses will be used to develop the content for our March 7 webinar on the topic. Check out the back cover or go to www.intrust.org/webinars and consider participating.
What else should you check out in this issue? On page 8, Robert Landrebe of Asbury Theological Seminary asks us to consider what we are doing today to create our future 10 years from now. How are we educating ourselves today about alternative education models? Landrebe outlines seven traps that prevent leaders from creating their future. Which trap might you be in?
On page 15, Greg Henson and Nathan Hitchcock discuss competency-based education and offer this reminder for those pursuing competency-based programs: Pursue them in the spirit of outcome-based education or you’ll miss an important opportunity.
On page 20, Molly James of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut explains how her church is rethinking the role of seminaries in theological formation. They’re no longer assuming that all candidates for ordination will go to seminary, but they still see seminaries as important resources for formation. James’s article suggests that new responses are necessary to meet the challenges of an evolving church, and these responses include flexible formation programs.
What challenges are you facing and what changes are you considering to create your future? We hope that this issue inspires conversation within your leadership team about the opportunities that times of change can offer. It is during just such periods that bold questions can be asked and creative thinking can occur.
Best wishes for the New Year.