From category archives: In Trust Blog

Executive Leadership

Profit for the Lord: seminaries and economic margin

 

“I fear that whenever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must of necessity produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”

This famous speech from John Wesley points to the fascinating relationship between money and faith. There is often discomfort in the church with addressing the dynamics of money and power. Too often, we overly simplify these complex issues: Church leaders (who have the truth but not power or money) speak truth to leaders (who have power and money, but no truth). Money is evil. God’s people should hate money and have nothing to do with it.

But as we know, these issues are more complex than that. Therefore, it’s no wonder that seminaries struggle to teach “finances” to their students as they wrestle themselves with their financial futures.

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How to manage your consultants

During a recent conversation with a seminary president, we talked about consultants. How many consultants were presently being used in this president’s institution? “I simply don’t know,” he admitted. “Each department brings in and works with its own consultants. I just know we use lots of outside talent. We have to.”

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What happens in Vegas is tweeted in minutes

Is confidentiality, as a part of good governance, a thing of the past?

This old faculty joke is funny because, like all good humor, it’s partially true:

Question: "On this faculty committee, what is meant by confidentiality?"
Answer: "Confidentiality means that you can share the information but only with your closest friends."

It’s not only faculty meetings that suffer leakage. Many boards and committees also have real trouble defining and practicing confidentiality.

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Some critics don't want religious schools accredited

Within the world of higher education, a few voices have recently been arguing that religious institutions should not be accredited. A recent example is an opinion piece published in June in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Sustainability: Not just about the green

When I think about sustainability, what immediately comes to mind is green. Green — as a concept and not just a color — dominates every conversation.

 

As I specifically consider leadership of a theological school, Green raises so many questions.

Questions about ecology and the environment: Is my campus kind to the environment? Are our buildings green or at least getting greener? Are our behaviors on campus environmentally responsible? At the very least, do we recycle?

And always, questions about money: Are our budgets balanced and our financial forecasts realistic? Where does our current financial path lead? Is our cash flow sufficient? How sustainable are our finances?

As leaders, we need our institutions to be sustainable, both financially sustainable and environmentally sustainable.

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Cream doesn't always rise to the top

You can’t pursue any sort of career for long before you realize that advancement and promotions are not always handed to the most effective or competent people. . .

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What does it mean to govern?


Q: What does it mean to govern? [Careful – this is a trick question.]
        a.) to supervise
        b.) to manage
        c.) to donate
        d.) to advise

The correct answer, according to the 2004 governance classic, Governance as Leadership, is e.) none of the above. To govern is “to lead.” And yes, leading includes supervision, management, fundraising, and advising, but leading also supersedes them.  Let me explain.

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Giving thanks: A formula for success

My wife often travels for work. It’s one of the sacrifices we accept in exchange for the ability to work together from home. Trips usually take her away for no more than two or three days, but this month a huge project demanded that she be in New Hampshire for nearly two weeks.

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Dunk-worthy: How do you handle unpopular opinions?

Recently, views opined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led to the resignation of the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the head of the Episcopal Church at Yale University, and the withdrawal of an offer of tenure for Steven G. Salaita, who was to teach with the American Indian studies program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Offering an opinion can be a dangerous thing in the world of higher education. In some of our seminaries, where right thinking . . .
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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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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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Is your board's culture entrepreneurial or risk averse?

What is your board’s relationship to risk? Does its work reflect a culture of risk taking or risk avoidance? 

The question surrounding board culture and its engagement with risk seems to arise more frequently these days as boards are increasingly encouraged to travel two seemingly conflicting roads of risk -- the entrepreneurial road of risk taking and the security-conscious road of risk management.

Which road do you prefer to travel? Given your institution’s situation, which road must you travel?

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Shared governance is flawed but fixable

Few people appear happy with the state of shared governance at American colleges and universities.”

 

 

That’s how Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, begins a thoughtful essay on how to reform shared governance in higher education.

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Educators of fortune (or "Schools contract adjunctivitis")

The number of adjuncts continues to grow, and the issues involved with hiring part-time contract instructors are coming to a head, and board members and seminary trustees are going ...

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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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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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Everything you need to know about shared governance

Several years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on shared governance. The writer worried that few people in education seem to understand what the phrase means. . . . This piece made me wonder, Can that be true of readers of In Trust? We talk a lot about shared governance. (I mean, a lot.) Could it be that some of our readers—seminary presidents...

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Jargon that works: Dashboards

One particular piece of jargon that appears to me to have some staying power, simply because it does such a fine job of helping us visualize an idea, is the dashboard. There may be a risk that best practices start to require too many key indicators on the dashboard, but when someone uses the term...

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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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A bit of winter inspiration

John Coleman’s short essay for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, “Leadership is Not a Solitary Task,” should inspire presidents, board chairs, board members, and anyone who cares about the direction of an institution.

Coleman notes that . . .

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Can your school apply the “eight stages of brand love”?

A post by Tim Halloran on the Harvard Business Review blog is targeted toward businesses, but seminaries might find it worthwhile to look at these stages of love in relation to their own stakeholders.

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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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What happens when schools weaken denominational ties?

A recent article in Christianity Today showcases a new three-part study from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that examines what happens to schools when they weaken denomination ties. While some students welcome a broader, less sectarian . . .

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Culture wars: A look at merging institutions

One of the solutions that’s floated to the problem of overall declining enrollments at seminaries and other theological schools is the idea of merging with a larger institution — preferably a university with some resources. But it doesn’t take an expert to know that this kind of venture is ...

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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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Seminary keeps undergrad program, appoints media professor

The seminary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced that its undergraduate division will remain open. A task force had been assigned to make a recommendation about closing St. Charles Borromeo Seminary's College Division. Also, the seminary has appointed a new academic chair in "social communications" to explore the theological dimensions of mass media.

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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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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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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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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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How much information is helpful to boards?

Which is better -- a 99-word paragraph or a table with four data points? Guest blogger Timothy Lincoln says he'd rather have vital information presented in one simple table than in a richly textured narrative.

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All hands needed on the governance deck, and noses, too

"Noses in, fingers out." That's what many boards believe. But guest blogger Rebekah Burch Basinger says that this approach is all wrong, and the demarcation between governance and management is not that clear.

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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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You're probably making this mistake

Have you heard (or even uttered) these statements during meetings? 

  • It would be great if…
  • Someone should…
  • Do we all agree to…?
  • Can you try to…?
  • The chair would like...
Repeat after me: No more weasel words.
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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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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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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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Are open trustee meetings a good thing?

In a recent article on the Inside Higher Ed website,Academic Fantasies: Open Trustee Meetings,” John Lombardi examines a polished pillar of board leadership: the open board meeting (or as Lombardi describes it, that “theatrical forum where talented individuals play ritualized parts according to well prepared scripts”). 

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President/chair relationship key to job satisfaction

Daring to Lead 2011, the third in a series of surveys of national nonprofit executives, found that the relationship between presidents and board chairs plays a significant role in overall presidential job satisfaction. 

 

 

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More discussion of student debt

Back in 2005, the Auburn Institute published a timely report, “The Gathering Storm: The Educational Debt of Theological Students.” The warning was clear: As the cost of education increases, more students come to graduate school with undergraduate debt, and they add to that burden throughout their time at seminary, graduating with more debt than someone with a clergy salary can afford. Simple math.

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What happened in Virginia?

Have you been keeping up with events at the University of Virginia this summer? The blowback may have been more about perceptions than actual substance. The deeper issues here — the purpose of public university education, the importance of a liberal arts curriculum, the speed at which universities ought to embrace new educational technologies — weren’t necessarily the reason for the ruckus.

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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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