If you tried to text the question in the headline above to me, I wouldn’t get it. I don’t have a cell phone.
Which means, I fear, that I for one am not entirely ready for this nu day.
The chair of my board, on the other hand, who’s older than I am, travels constantly, with a cell phone in one hand and a laptop in the other. I don’t know whether Bob Cooley, In Trust’s board chair, who is president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is into texting yet, but he certainly keeps up his end of an e-mail correspondence, sometimes replying almost before the correspondent is sure the query has been sent. For once, though, I can’t pose my query about his texting ability directly to Bob. He is in Turkey as I write this, touring archeological sites and not available on line.
(Note: if you don’t know what “texting” means, you’re even farther out of the loop than I am. It’s the process in which technophiles, especially young ones, barrage each other with written messages via cell phone through the day. The illustration on the cover provides an example of texting, complete with popular abbreviations that speed the thumbs as they flick out the msg.)
Technological savvy is one requirement for moving ahead in the world we now find ourselves in, but only one. Equally important is to understand how technology is affecting the way we work, manage, keep track of our personal affairs, and—some bold social philosophers believe—even the way we think. Watch anyone under 30 manipulate a cell phone or cruise the internet, and you’ll have no doubt that the way people learn is changing, perhaps forever.
It is into this milieu that the disturbing Auburn Theological Seminary study of trustees, titled “In Whose Hands,” arrives.
Auburn’s findings are discussed in detail in the article titled “Toward a Stronger Future.” In a nutshell, though, the findings are these:
• Boards are moving far too slowly to recruit gifted new trustees, even though the ages of present members suggest that at least half of them will need to be replaced in the next ten years.
• Boards are ineffective in raising money and too many board members are themselves ungenerous to their schools.
• Board members are neglectful of making their schools known and respected in the public arena.
All three of these shortcomings limit the ability of schools to update themselves, but without updating and imaginative leadership there are serious questions whether some theological schools can long survive.
Auburn has sounded a clarion call. Other stories in this issue highlight other dissatisfactions with seminary performance, some justified, some not, that suggest arenas for board concern and action.
In Trust is actively preparing its own response. Over the next few months we will be making available a number of tools intended to assist boards to meet the challenges of this nu day. The first, which will be ready in a test version this autumn, is an instrument with which board members will be able to evaluate their own performance. Using the instrument, boards will be enabled to lay out goals for themselves for the year ahead—and then determine how effective they were in doing what they said they were going to do.
Other In Trust tools will follow along in short order: study packages focused on recurring board problems; an online short course on effective collaboration for presidents and board chairs; additional Good Faith Governance seminars; a consultation service; and more.
These offerings, along with In Trust’s new, enhanced, interactive web site that will bow in this autumn, will propel In Trust well along toward its goal of building on its foundation as a quarterly magazine to become a full-scale governance education service for North American theological schools. The contributions of In Trust will serve little purpose, however, unless boards and their members recognize that for most schools the day of the decorative, rubber-stamp board is over. It is a nu day, and the warning flags are flying.
Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. The handwriting is on the wall. Or rather, the text is on the cell phone.