Faith and Courage Outside The Box

Many leaders in theological education think their institution is prioritizing innovation and believe their schools have the resources to implement change, according to the results of a survey conducted by the In Trust Center in November.

The survey showed that 95 percent of the 605 respondents said innovation is a priority at their school, and nearly three-fourths were confident that adequate resources are available. Those promising findings reflect that the changing needs of churches, evolving vocational interests of current and prospective students, and pressing financial issues are timely and of critical importance, requiring creative thinking about the future of theological education in North America.

“There is good news here,” In Trust Center President Amy Kardash said. “While some respondents questioned the institutional will to change and embrace the level of work required, the results indicate that many schools are engaging with difficult issues. Interestingly, leaders indicate the pandemic has not slowed but rather accelerated innovation.”

Respondents cited curriculum changes and evolving educational models as the top areas of innovation, with over 75 percent naming those two areas.

Senior leadership was named by 69 percent of respondents as the primary driver of conversations about change and innovation, which some believe makes discussion more siloed.

And some of the open-ended comments indicated dissatisfaction with the pace and creativity around change. “Too little, too late,” one person wrote. Another said: “It’s an overstatement to say that we don’t spend any time thinking about the future, but the conversation we do have is often devoid of creativity and not systemized.”

A number of barriers also were identified by the survey, including resistance to change, finances and institutional capacity, ineffective existing business models, exhaustion, limited staffing, and time.

“We are seeing promising signs, and some challenges,” Kardash said. “One challenge is moving people out of conventional ways of thinking by discerning what mission fulfillment might look like in your particular space. How might that inspire people to look differently at resources and resource allocation?”


For more info about the survey or to speak with one of our Resource Consultants: resources@intrust.org


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