From category archives: In Trust Blog

News & Trends

Paying attention to the symbols of leadership

As leaders, we know that we must be clear about our guiding principles and also stand up for our beliefs.  Eloquent speeches, mission statements, and even articles about common values and vision are important, but aren't nearly enough. As leaders, we must embody our principles. Our deeds are far weightier than our words, yet they must be consistent. It is at this juncture of principles and behavior that the symbols of leadership become concrete and can take on a life of their own.

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Who will lead the exiles? A seminary-for-exiles

We live in a time of exile,” writes Carl Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary, in the latest edition of First Things.

“The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong . . .

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A call for board members to step up

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review best summed up a recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) with this headline: “Scathing report says college trustees fail in mission.” The gist of the report is that higher education is mismanaged, and the buck stops with the board. The public’s image of the country’s institutions of higher education is not the most positive. High on the list of complaints. . .

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Location, location, location

It's the realtor's mantra: "Location, location, location." If the school system stinks, it doesn't matter how nice the house is. If there's no traffic, it doesn't matter how cheap the retail space rents for. And as student demographics change, many seminaries are learning that the . . .
 

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Can seminaries begin a conversation about clergy health?

Are the church leaders who graduate from your school more likely to be sicker later in life than a random group of people in the same age group? New research by the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School indicates that Methodist clergy are, in fact, more likely to experience significant health problems — higher rates of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, angina, and asthma — than comparable state residents.

 
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Breaking bread, extending community

Is there anything more communal than the breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal? Jesus understood this. The church in the Book of Acts seems to have gotten the memo as well. Every small town pastor knows that "the tie that binds" is as much about shared potluck dinners as it is about shared woes. It is more certain than even death and taxes: Everybody's got to eat.

The good folks at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities seem to ...

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Paying attention to spiritual formation: What’s a board to do?

Spiritual formation is a topic gaining wide acceptance as a “growing edge” within many leadership programs in theological education. Students desire it. Professors recognize its role as glue for the whole curricular strategy. Surveys lift up the need for seminary leaders to pay more attention to it. Should seminary boards...

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Trends in church-going hint at a more diverse future for seminaries

The fact that with each generation, Americans seem less interested in religion has been sort of an assumed given. A recent article in OnFaith points tells us the reality doesn’t quite match up with the accepted narrative. The numbers are dropping among white millennials, but for non-whites, the story is very different...

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Do you offer online classes? You must register in every state where students live

If you’re the institutional liaison with your state office of higher education, or with the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), or with a regional accrediting agency, you know that there’s a deadline approaching: July 1, 2014.

 

If you have any kind of online presence that draws students from across state lines — and at least 112 ATS schools do! — then you should be prepared for it.

 

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Latest news from the Association of Theological Schools

This spring, the Association of Theological Schools issued its latest Colloquy newsletter online. Below are two items from that newsletter that are of interest to theological school board members.

Accrediting processes simplifiedAt its February 2014 meeting, the ATS Board of Commissioners approved changes to its policies and practices.

Continuing education for faculty: Five strategies that won't break the bank. Today, faculty must not only be masters of their disciplines; they must also master instructional design, educational technology, and more.

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Seminaries are launching pads

Barrett Owen works in the admissions office at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. He’s 29 years old, has two master’s degrees, and has been working as a bivocational pastor for six years. If you know anything about today’s seminarian, you know that Barrett is not alone. Thousands of theological school students are like him.

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News on demographics, essential skills, and more

Last year, In Trust published a report by Barbara Wheeler titled “Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline.” That article’s influence continues to grow. Most recently, it was cited in “Seminaries Continue to Attract Older Students,” an article that award-winning journalist Yonat Shimron wrote for the website Insights into Religion.

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What do professors do all day?

What do professors do all day? Jonathan Ziker, an anthropologist at Boise State University, tackled the work of finding answers. During structured interviews, subjects were asked to report everything they did from 4 a.m. the previous day until 4 a.m. on the current day. On average, faculty participants reported working 61 hours per week. They worked 10 hours per day Monday to Friday.

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Seeking a blessed union: Is a merger on your horizon?

Seminaries share little with the ambitions of corporate America, but it’s interesting to compare the matter-of-fact approach to mergers held up by the business world to the apprehension that talk of a merger can bring to a seminary boardroom.

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Maintain the mission while firing the faculty?

According to Inside Higher Ed, Iowa Wesleyan College is cutting 22 of its 52 faculty positions and 16 of its 31 academic programs, saving the school $3 million per year out of its $20 million budget. After the cuts, there will be two faculty members in the English department, and none in math. Naturally, people are distraught, but I’m not inclined to criticize the radical pruning. This is a college with . . .

 

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Taking a stand on a controversial issue

Since reading the “Church and State” piece in the recent issue of In Trust, I’ve been keeping my eye on the news for stories of schools that have taken a position on an issue, perhaps schools that don’t often make headlines. Here's one . . .

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Innovative management ideas at Internet giants

Could your school take management lessons from online giants Zappos and Amazon.com? It goes without saying that a seminary is different from a for-profit Internet company, but it seems as if some of their innovations are compatible with the tradition of shared governance in higher education. Is there a way to integrate innovative management practices . . .

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New In Trust Center board members elected

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools have recently elected five members to serve on the In Trust Center’s board of directors. Fifty percent of member schools voted, electing three new members and re-electing two continuing members. Click on "Read the Rest of Entry" to see their brief biographies.

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On a C. S. Lewis anniversary, honoring theological educators

One of my favorite characters in the C. S. Lewis canon is the Anglican bishop in The Great Divorce. Along with the other characters in this parable, the bishop has taken a bus from a vast purgatorial city to the very gates of paradise. Once at the gate, he can accompany his appointed guide into heaven if he simply lays down his burdens and follows. Easy! But the bishop waffles. 

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Six lessons a board can learn from an embezzling employee

Laura Otten, director of the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University’s School of Business, recently posted a sad tale about a nonprofit board that neglected its financial oversight responsibilities over a period of many years, creating an environment in which an employee was able to embezzle almost three-quarters of a million dollars, and leading to a lawsuit by a former board member.

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Seminarians need spiritual support too

Seminary board members give a lot — their time, their money, their expertise. But one thing they don’t expect to be asked for is spiritual support. 

Why not? 

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Trustees and technology: an uneasy combination?

survey of higher education trustees conducted in the spring of 2013 by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) found that only about one-third are getting board-level information about education and technology that they would rate as excellent or even . . .

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Montana institute blends postmodern faith and fly-fishing

A group of church leaders in Bozeman, Montana, is developing plans for a new graduate-level theological institute in their city, focusing on “emergent Christianity.” The institute’s first activities, held in summer and fall of 2013, were five-day immersion seminars that featured not only instruction, but also fly-fishing along Montana’s rivers and hiking . . . 

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A preview of our Autumn 2013 issue

 The Autumn 2013 issue of In Trust magazine is in the mail! Here's a preview of what you can expect:

"Pathways to Seminary: Where the Best Students Come From" by Barbara Wheeler.
In Part 1 of this series, "Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline," Wheeler explained the data that she and her colleagues have been analyzing: Over the last decade, overall seminary enrollment is flat or falling, but there are a few bright spots amid the negative numbers. In this issue, Wheeler shares what she has learned from interviews with the best students enrolled at theological schools across the United States and Canada. 

Two other articles . . .

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Seminary sells campus, moves to smaller space

Lexington Theological Seminary has announced that it will be moving from its 63-year-old campus to a 16,000-square-foot building near the Lexington Green Mall. Earlier this year, the school sold its real estate and buildings to the University of Kentucky for . . .

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More schools, fewer students

The Autumn 2013 issue of In Trust includes an article titled “More Schools, Fewer Students: What’s Your Seminary’s Position in the Changing Market of Theological Education?” Co-author Greg Henson, the VP for institutional advancement at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, has a blog that contains more . . .

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"Spirit matters": Change is good

In this guest post, regular "Spirit Matters" columnist Melinda R. Heppe proposes that guardians of traditions need to balance the need for preservation with the need for change -- and that they should put love above all.

A couple of months ago, my sister left me a message: “So, Hana isn’t going to her prom, and Yang is going to a formal?”

I laughed. "Yup, that’s right." But Hana is the fashionista. 

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Dr. Rick Bliese named president of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools

The board of directors of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools has named Dr. Richard (Rick) Bliese as the organization’s new president. In his new role, Bliese will oversee and direct all In Trust programs and activities, including In Trust magazine, a 24-year-old quarterly periodical for seminary trustees and senior administrators, and the In Trust Governance Mentor service, which offers customized help to theological school boards. Bliese will also lead the expansion of a new In Trust signature service funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., Resource Consulting.

“The board of directors is delighted to . . .

 

 

 

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Growing two green thumbs

Managing a board can be an ongoing struggle against human nature, and even on the best cultivated boards someone at some time is going get a bee in their bonnet and undermine the board’s efforts.

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Signs and portents?

A small private college in Virginia has closed; could this mean anything for your school? Well, perhaps. “The pending closure is credit negative for a small subset of the higher-education sector with similar attributes to other closed colleges: very small, private colleges with a high reliance on student charges, indistinct market positions, and limited donor support,” Moody’s analysts said. Seminaries, beware!

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Planning a new campus

With the declining number of students hitting up seminaries for education, and the average student age rising, schools need to be even more careful about planning new campuses.

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How widely distributed within the United States is your denomination?

The 2010 U.S. Religion Census from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies reports that there are 19 religious groupings (or denominations) with at least 1 million adherents in the United States. Together, these account for 89.4 percent of all religious adherents. The next-largest 42 groupings, with between 100,000 and 1 million adherents, account for another 9.4 percent of all religious adherents.

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Schools examining costs and benefits of tenure

Earlier this month, the board of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary brought the national debate over tenure home to Texas. By a unanimous vote, they decided to end the tenure program at Southwestern, and set in motion the process to make that happen.

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What happened to seminary enrollment?

Here’s the executive summary: Enrollment across the Association of Theological Schools is slightly down. The population of North America is way up. And this sounds like trouble.

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Requiem for the bookstore

This month, the Cokesbury bookstore at Lancaster Theological Seminary closed its doors for good. In fact, this wasn't the seminary's decision -- all the Cokesbury stores are closing, if they haven't already done so. As someone who deeply appreciates what goes into building and managing a finely curated collection of books -- a difficult task when the best of your collection regularly walks out the door, never to be seen until you re-order -- hearing that another store has closed grieves me.

 

 

 

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One of Canada's most influential theological training centres

To begin to understand the Toronto School of Theology, one needs to understand what a consortium is and what it is not, says Martin Campbell, a Toronto lawyer who chairs the TST board. “It’s a group of people or organizations who come together for a common purpose.”

In TST’s case, “it means the seven members give up only that part of their authority and power which is necessary to accomplish the common purpose, and they retain their separate identity,” explains Campbell. “That is a critical balance for TST — they all have their own heritage and are accountable to their own denominations and traditions. It’s that delicate balance that everyone has respected for more than 40 years. And the consortium could only function if that balance is respected.”

Read and print the full article here.
 

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Great resources for all kinds of boards

BoardSource, a Washington-based membership organization for nonprofits, has a host of free and low-cost resources that can be downloaded or ordered from their website at www.boardsource.org. Many of BoardSource’s materials are addressed to small nonprofits, but with minor adaptations, many may be appropriate for theological schools and seminaries as well.

 

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Looking for a president

The In Trust Center for Theological Schools is searching for a president.

The president works collaboratively with the board of directors to expand the new services of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools while strengthening existing program areas. In particular, the president will ensure that fiscal, operational, fundraising, marketing, human resource, technology, and programmatic strategies and capacity are working at maximum capacity to realize the mission and vision of the organization.

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Pope Benedict XVI's 1990 address to U.S. seminarians

In 1990, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the keynote speaker at a conference on priestly formation held at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. His remarks were published in a collection by Ignatius Press, The Catholic Priest as Moral Teacher and Guide.

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Moody’s issues glum forecast for education sector

On January 16, 2013, Moody’s Investor’s Service, the bond credit rating business, issued a “negative short-term outlook” for the entire sector of higher education. The bleak forecast for the next 12-18 months includes all forms of higher education, including community colleges and top-tier research universities.

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Does your development director want to quit?

Fundraising jobs can be hard to fill. Staff in this area often turn over at a high rate, and chief executives frequently express frustration at a lack of growth in fundraising.

Chaos in development staffing is highlighted by a recent study by CompassPoint, which says that half of development directors expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less and a quarter of CEOs fired their last development director. But the problem may lie with the CEO or the board, not the development officer.

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Member schools elect In Trust board of directors

In Trust member schools have just elected five members of the In Trust board of directors. Forty percent of member schools voted, electing two new members of the board and re-electing three continuing members. 

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Two reports reveal faculty views on digital learning

In 1998, working as a bookstore manager of a rather large seminary, I was surprised to discover that very few of the school's professors would respond to my e-mail. They all had accounts, of course, but when it came to actually checking the inbox, only a handful even seemed to know how -- and only of a few of that handful cared to do so. You are not surprised by this. Professors are often a considered a stodgy bunch.

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Research reveals information on "millennial" donors, volunteers



New research sheds light on the nonprofit giving habits of young people ages 20 to 35: They seek information on their smartphones (but not exclusively); they're more likely to donate if they volunteer first; they're very interested in leadership (but most haven’t been asked to lead).

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What? No grad degree in enrollment management?

The field of enrollment management -- which includes admissions and financial aid -- has traditionally been led and staffed by generalists. But new graduate programs in enrollment management are emerging to help newbies and senior leaders alike cope with the increasing sophistication of this field.

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Megadeth = good publicity

"Heavy metal rock star is Lutheran seminarian." That grabs your attention, doesn't it? On January 19, 2012, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a feature about David Ellefson, a founding member of the "thrash metal" rock band Megadeth, who is now a student in the Specific Ministry Program at Concordia Seminary. Ellefson, who is 47 and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, is an active member of Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, where, with his pastor's encouragement, he started a new music ministry called MEGA Life. Now Ellefson is preparing for ministry through a program at Concordia that allows him to take courses mostly online. Why should I care about this? I'm not interested in heavy metal music, but I am interested in how seminaries communicate. And from what I can see, this unlikely story has been a winner for the school. On January 20, the day following the original Post-Dispatch article, Rolling Stone posted an article about the "rock star who wants to become a pastor." The Assoc ...
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Preserve the core -- all else can change

The Alban Institute recently posted a must-read essay about congregational leadership titled "When the Mission Changes." In it, author Dan Hotchkiss reflects on the critical times in a congregation's history where the mission of the community needs radical reconsideration. This involves more than reworking the verbiage in the mission statement, he says. "[W]hat if times change so much that the original mission starts to look like a mistake?" Can a theological school find itself in a similar position? Of course. And more than a few schools are already taking the radical steps of rethinking and redefining their missions for the 21st century. For example: The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology changed its name this fall from Mars Hill Graduate School, partly to distinguish itself from a church with a similar name but dissimilar theological positions. But in the major rebranding process, the school has focused its identity on progressive evangelicalism and zeroed in on what it does best: ...
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Member schools elect new In Trust board members

In Trust member schools have just elected four members of the In Trust board of directors. Almost 70 percent of member schools voted, electing one new member of the board and re-electing three continuing members.  The newly elected board member: Rebekah Burch Basinger Elected to the board class of 2015 Chair of the Board of Directors, MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) Member of the Board, U.S. Foundation of the Theological College of Zimbabwe Rebekah Burch Basinger is an In Trust Governance Mentor and developed many of the In Trust assessment tools for boards. She previously served on the In Trust board from 1995 to 2003. She has been an independent consultant for board development and fundraising for more than 15 years and has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including MAP International (Medical Assistance Programs) and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. She is currently helping develop a master's program in higher education administratio ...
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"Like" In Trust on Facebook

Are you on Facebook? Click here to visit our page! And once you're there, be sure to click the "like" button.

Once you "like" In Trust, you'll find that that posts from In Trust occasionally appear in your own Facebook feed. All our posts are about governance issues or other topics releveant to seminaries, theological schools, and other forms of theological and biblical education.

Remember, you can also comment on anything or even post whatever interests you to In Trust's wall.

Is consolidation the future of Episcopal seminaries?

A popular website called Episcopal Cafe recently ran a strongly worded article by George Clifford called "A Word on Our Seminaries: Consolidate!" Clifford notes that the Episcopalians' current network, with 11 seminaries only loosely affiliated with the national church body, has significant down sides. For one thing, he says, 11 schools are too many for a shrinking church. Moreover, the individual seminaries receive no dedicated funding from the denomination, and hence many students go into significant debt paying substantial tuition. Clifford proposes a radical solution: Force nearly all the Episcopal seminaries to turn over their assets to the national denominational body (or else disfellowship them). Then liquidate them. Use the assets to support one or two seminaries and provide free tuition for ordination-track students while charging tuition to lay-ministry students. I don't think that this plan is actually feasible -- primarily because few schools would turn over their asset ...
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