‘So what the Dickens is going on? Where are theological schools headed? Do we still have options that will not undercut the quality of education we expect and need for those going into ministry?
This last question is the one that keeps me awake at night.
Dan Aleshire, executive director of ATS and the wisest analyst of theological schools in our time, in his address to participants in the annual Presidential Intensive Leadership Conference quoted something said many years ago by Dutch Leonard, a professor at Harvard Business School. Dr. Leonard famously said: “The central challenge for nonprofit leadership is that mediocrity is survivable.”
To which Dan said: “Maybe no longer is this true.”
Dan is so right about this. Mediocrity is dead, as Tom Friedman said in one of his New York Times columns a couple of years ago (in response to which I wrote an earlier blog). If you want your organization to survive, whatever it does must be excellent. Just “good enough” is no longer good enough.
That is exactly where the rub comes. A mediocre school is not long for this world. Even great schools have failed. And most of the schools that have failed were still delivering a traditionally strong education to their students.
I would hazard to guess that many, if not most, of the schools that have stumbled and fallen in the past several years didn’t fail because they lacked adequate analytics. Like most businesses that fail, they failed because they didn’t do what their analysis told them they needed to do. Some failed because they jumped on what appeared to be a bandwagon headed to success only to discover too late that the solution wasn’t the right one for them. Others have attempted to do “business as usual” in an exceptional era, and they simply ran out of operating capital. Others were unwilling for whatever reason to sacrifice their sacred cows for the sake of their mission.
The seminaries that have flourished have disciplined themselves to make tough choices based on their strategic vision. Furthermore, successful schools in the current environment do not think of adaptation as something they did, but something they do’.
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