I love this insight by Michael Cooper-White about his leadership at Gettysburg Seminary: “Discern what the Spirit, church, and institution require of you.” Roles are ever-evolving, he says, and leaders need to be ready to take on whatever role their position demands at any given time.
Cooper-White says that presidents need to be “sustainability-seekers,” and some need to be “game-changers” at the same time. It’s a tall order, but I think the same is true for all institutional stakeholders, including faculty, boards, donors, and church leaders. You’ll want to see his reflections here.
How can you be a seeker of sustainability and a game-changer? Jeff Iorg offers one way. Iorg is the president at Gateway Seminary, formerly known as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He has recently shepherded his school through the sale of their main campus, relocation to another part of the state, a building project, and name change — and through it all a clarification of mission. They weathered this particularly challenging time, Iorg says, through clear and regular communications with their highly engaged board. He reflects on his ability to keep staff morale up and maintain unity during this period by acknowledging the times they would pause and say, “This is so much bigger than what we could have done on our own!” It was obvious, he says, that “God was moving in our school.”
As Iorg asks, if God is intervening, who doesn’t want to get in step? It makes me wonder what bold steps God is calling other schools to accomplish. Read more about Gateway Seminary here.
Many seminaries are realizing that they need to prepare students in new ways to lead an ever-changing church. One of the growing needs is for a deeper understanding of psychology. And some theological schools are formally incorporating the discipline of psychology into their curricula in order to equip students to fulfill their vocation. An article by Barbara Saunders shows how students are learning strategies both for collaborating with mental health providers and for protecting their own mental health and well-being. Because the pressures placed on the future leaders of the church will not diminish, it is important to examine what seminaries need to do to provide all the tools their graduates will need.
Finally, Robert Saler of Christian Theological Seminary has been asking a diverse group of seminary graduates about the distinction between “church” and “secular” work, and he’s been hearing some responses that you may have already anticipated: Many seminary graduates who are not in parish work nevertheless think of their work as ministry. Some seminary leaders may want to think more about how to include these graduates in the stories that the seminary tells about itself — there are so many that it seems disingenuous to call them “non-traditional”! Do students and other potential employers need to learn more about transferrable skills gained in theological programs? If more and more graduates go into bivocational ministry, this may become even more important.
Over the past two months, I’ve had the chance to meet with presidents, board members, denominational leaders, and administrators, both on individual campuses and at conferences hosted by the Association of Theological Schools.
Why participate in such events? Because I’m committed to becoming better informed about what is happening at all the In Trust Center’s member institutions and in the broader landscape in which theological education takes place. I am intentional about both learning and sharing what I learn with the In Trust Center’s staff and board — and, when appropriate, with other schools that are looking for resources and conversation partners. Through these exchanges, all of us can enhance our own leadership and serve our institutions more effectively.
What will you take away from this issue of In Trust? And, more importantly, how will you share it?