Luther Seminary Strategic Plan

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1 Luther Seminary Strategic Plan Mission Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities, called and sent by the Holy Spirit, to witness to salvation in Jesus Christ, and to serve in God s world. Central to our mission is that God calls people to faith, community, and vocations of service. As a community centered in Word and sacrament, our learning is grounded in God s loving promise to us and our call to proclaim the gospel, as witnessed in Jesus Christ and testified to in Scripture. Shaped by Lutheran theology and tradition, ecumenical engagement, and attuned to the wider needs of the church and society, we open ourselves to learn from and with our neighbors. Through classrooms, community, and contexts, we form and prepare Christian public leaders to be faithful and innovative as they seek justice and participate in God s mission in a rapidly changing world. Current Situation In today s rapidly shifting cultural contexts, the religious landscape is becoming increasingly more diverse and fluid. The old denominational categories and affiliations that once provided identity and assisted the church in carrying out its mission are waning at the same time interreligious conversations are gaining. Many established forms of Christian community, practice, and witness no longer connect in meaningful ways with church members and the increasingly diverse population. At the same time, new forms of Christian life together are emerging and new voices coming forth from all around the globe. Amidst increasing plurality and demographic diversity, the church systems we primarily serve struggle to address the opportunities and challenges present in today s cultural contexts and globalized society. Theological education, a main source for forming leaders for the church, finds itself in the midst of these realities struggling to be faithful, responsive, and vibrant. As in the Reformation, our times demand faithfulness and openness to the Holy Spirit s sending. Some things do not change. God s promises in Christ are steadfast. Proclaiming the gospel and embodying God s reconciling love are central callings of the church. The local church is the main form of Christian community and witness, and the many expressions of God s church in the world are a gift. But some things do change. Discerning the church s future requires a posture of learning, adaptation, and innovation aware of the emerging realities while also recognizing and claiming the central tenets of our Christian tradition. Luther Seminary lives to educate. We serve our mission best by becoming a learning community for leaders who contribute to the vitality of the church now, while also having competencies for leading into the future. As we engage in this important work, Luther Seminary continues our legacy of transformative scholarship and participating in God s mission in the world. 1

2 Theological commitments Our mission is set in the midst of the interplay between God, the world and humanity. In that dynamic interplay, we seek to be a learning community shaped by three theological convictions: 1. God s promises bear God s own faithful character which we receive as new creation in the midst of the old; 2. Community gathered around Word and Sacrament embodies God s promises for us; 3. The world of neighbors, in all its dynamic complexity, engages us in God s continually creative and good activity. Vision To carry out God s mission in the future, Luther Seminary will be: A catalyst of God's transforming work for church and world God calls and sends Luther Seminary to foster dynamic and transformative Christian leadership in a changing church and world. Aware of an ever more pluralistic, environmentally challenged, and globalized context, we will be a learning community where sound Christian scholarship meets creative practices addressing the traumas of our times and witnessing to the new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We will be a holistic learning environment that will form and prepare students to be faithful, innovative and collaborative Christian public leaders. Domestically and globally we will establish partnerships that will expand our learning experiences and educational platforms, enhance our scholarship, increase our diversity, open us ecumenically, and teach us about God s work in the world. We will embody the Lutheran confessional witness for the sake of the mission of the whole church, thus embracing intercultural competencies for sharing the Gospel and learning with our neighbors near and far. God s work through Luther Seminary will form pastors, teachers and leaders who will inspire others to live a faith active in love in a church and world beset by multiple injustices in hope for the Spirit s renewal (Romans 8:26-39). Strengths and Challenges Strengths In a world where assets of the past and needs and opportunities of the future must inform each other, Luther Seminary is well positioned. Our curriculum. Rooted in Christian convictions, Lutheran theology, ecumenical commitments, and an awareness of contextual challenges, all degree programs are learner-centered, flexible, and offered in multiple modes, including a robust cohort-based distributed learning program. Our faculty. As a diverse constellation of teachers of the church, our faculty are committed to students and represent various Christian traditions, disciplines, and research interests. Our students. Joining a long history of students passionate about leading God s church, our student body is academically and culturally astute, as well as ecumenically, geographically, generationally, and experientially diverse. 2

3 Our staff. Gifted with diverse backgrounds and expertise, staff accompany the work of teaching and learning by providing a co-curriculum that connects Luther Seminary with various partners, attends to the ongoing life of the community, and refines and amplifies our shared work. Our learning environment. On and off campus, Luther Seminary cultivates learning in a wide array of environments for students, lifelong learners, and area leaders. With a vast research library, various on-campus classrooms, multiple worship experiences, a robust online expression, and diverse configuration of contextual partners, our teaching and learning take place across an expansive ecosystem. Our Lifelong Learning. Committed to educating leaders outside of degree programs, Luther Seminary offers learning opportunities for various audiences residentially and online, as well as a multitude of accessible online resources. Our physical campus. Situated within the vibrant cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Luther Seminary s campus is an asset. It has adapted to our changing needs as it cultivates community, enhances learning, provides space for worship, houses students, and hosts gatherings. Our partners. Luther Seminary s partners range from alumni and donors to various learning institutions and contextual learning sites to denominational leaders and global churches. These partnerships are dispersed across many networks, diverse in their thinking and constituency, and invested in educating leaders for Christian communities. Challenges In this fluid and changing time, Luther Seminary has some real challenges to face and critical decisions to make. Preparing leaders for the church. Over the past decade, the preparation of leaders for service to the church and the world has experienced massive shifts. On one hand, enrollment in theological education among our ecumenical partners is declining, with the ELCA experiencing the highest decrease at 38% 1. On the other hand, the ELCA has more congregational openings than rostered leaders to fill them, with trends projecting the number to increase from today s 500 to 2,000 by Denominational leaders are exploring creative means for preparing new leaders and being attuned to the ongoing shifts is critical for our future viability, as is being open to new ways of educating leaders. The religious landscape is shifting. In the U.S. these shifts include increasing populations who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or no particular religion 3 ; aging mainline denominations with some generations significantly underrepresented; and growing religious needs among ethnic 1 While enrollment in all theological education from experienced a decrease, according to the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the decrease in ELCA enrollment is the highest. ELCA -38%, Mainline - 28%, Roman Catholic -15%, and Evangelical -5%. 2 This estimate is based on the continued trend of fewer seminary graduates, more clergy retirements, and estimates of the number of congregations able to afford a full-time pastor. In 2015, for example, there were 209 M.Div. graduates and 455 clergy who retired. Even accounting for the 70 TEEM candidates, without any major change in the number of congregations seeking full-time pastoral leadership there are not enough rostered leaders to keep pace. Add to that reality the demographics of ELCA clergy and the retirement rates are estimated to remain at similar numbers through (The Supply and Demand for Clergy in the ELCA Report, March 2016) 3 As documented in the Pew research, the nones, a category that includes people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is nothing in particular, now make up 23% of U.S. adults, up from 16% in

4 and immigrant populations. For Luther Seminary to be responsive to these shifts requires imagination, intercultural competency, flexibility, and attentiveness, as we serve our mission to educate leaders. Congregations as leaders, partners, and teachers. The local church continues to be the primary expression of Christian community and the location most of our graduates serve. As congregations face these changing times, their continued faithfulness, vitality, and resiliency matters to the church, to our students, and to us. Extended dialogue with congregational leaders is essential as they are not only our partners, but also our teachers of God s church. Our students are the center of our work. In recent years the student body has decreased in numbers and experienced shifts between the distributed and residential populations. Joining students in our residential and online communities in their formation as a Christian public leader continues to be important ongoing work. This work joins our commitment to increase ethnic and ecumenical diversity and recruit high caliber students who will thrive at Luther and serve Christian communities faithfully and innovatively. Learning community. As a hub and resource for the church, Luther Seminary has the need and opportunity to reimagine a community of learning that is meaningful and engaging in these changing times, beginning with faculty, staff, and students, and extending to lifelong learners and area church leaders. Educating Christian public leadership in the midst of our complex world demands interdisciplinary study within an intercultural community. Common Investments. In the aftermath of several disruptive and institution altering years, Luther Seminary is a community seeking to rediscover its center. Embedding our Lutheran theology and ecumenical commitments into our internal culture in a way that also connects with the world in meaningful ways is necessary and our ongoing work. Collaborative leadership. Navigating the complexities of these changing times amplifies the need for governance, strategic thinking, and decision-making that fosters shared leadership centered on our mission and vision. Cultivating collaborative leadership that nurtures the agency of board, faculty, staff and students in governing, planning, and decision-making honors our best assets and maximizes our efforts in making a difference in God s church and the world. Student debt. One way Luther Seminary serves the church is by being attentive to the fiscal challenges facing students. Faithfulness to our mission and Christian communities requires awareness, intentionality, and creativity in our approaches to this real concern. Long-term sustainability. Since 2012 Luther Seminary has been recalibrating its financial plan within new economic realities. Rethinking institutional finances, models for staffing, capital investments, and development within our shifting student population, curricular design, and the current contextual realities with a long-term view is of utmost importance. Physical campus. While Luther Seminary s campus is as an asset the multiple, simultaneous changes taking place provide the opportunity for rethinking campus investments and discerning how best to steward our property in light of a new future. Partnership with the ELCA. One of the many changing dynamics is our denomination, the ELCA. As Luther Seminary discerns our future and the ELCA does the same, we engage each other with both shared and competing commitments. Working with these commitments requires Luther Seminary to lead as well as follow, be independent as well as connected, and serve our denomination as well as the wider church. 4

5 Strategic Priorities Romans 12:2 calls on Christians to be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Likewise, our strategic priorities invite us to be transformed for leadership by God s promises, learning in community, and collaboration with neighbors. Based on our mission, theological framework, analysis of the current situation, vision, strengths and challenges, we have identified three interdependent strategic priorities to guide the work for the next three years. 1. Transforming Leaders Form faithful and dynamic Christian leaders for rapidly changing communities, church, and world. A. Relevant programs. Ensure Luther Seminary is offering programs that meet the needs of the church and world. Educate leaders who will lead congregations that can communicate the gospel to all people, walk with them to baptism, and encourage their life in Christian community. Assess and enhance the M.Div. and M.A. programs to form and prepare students to begin ministry faithfully and creatively, and to continue as lifelong learners. Prioritize Lifelong Learning programs and online resources with the greatest potential to support pastoral formation, vocational enhancement for social ministries, and lay leadership. Engage potential leaders who currently do not consider theological education an option through addressing student debt and building distributed learning capacity. B. Global impact. Increase Luther Seminary s impact through educating global leaders in a rapidly changing world. Implement a redesigned and financially sustainable Ph.D. program for those who will prepare the leaders for their own contexts globally. Identify funding sources that support international students and global learning. Integrate global and intercultural perspectives in our program offerings and community life. C. Inspiring scholarship. Leverage Luther Seminary s capacities for scholarship to support the church s mission to share the gospel in meaningful ways around the globe. Identify and support faculty and staff research that deepens and enlivens our educational work. Ensure that the fruits of our research influence the scholarly community and reach a wider constituency in the church and public. Establish an institutional strategy for seeking external research funding. D. Innovative recruitment. Increase recruitment of prospective students for leadership roles in the church, service ministries, and global theological education. Create strategies to engage prospective students from our traditional constituencies, while broadening our efforts to engage a more diverse group of potential students. Determine optimal length and design of our M.A. programs to meet student vocational needs. Promote M.A. and M.Th. programs for international and domestic students following a contextual model as proposed in the new Ph.D. program. 2. Transforming Learning Community Develop a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable residential and online learning communities that are responsive to the changing ways in which students learn, live, interact, and worship. A. Learning culture. Shift the institutional culture toward engagement by all community members around a shared identity. Define and embrace the seminary s identity, values and strategies. Ensure the seminary s theological commitments to promise, community and neighbor are holistically embodied in the formation of our students. Rethink how we create a vibrant community to enrich and support vocational formation for both campus and online learning environments. 5

6 B. Greater diversity. Create a more diverse community of students, staff, and faculty. Increase diversity through recruitment and hiring practices. Cultivate ways of listening that help the seminary assess how minorities experience Luther Seminary as a Christian community. Foster inclusive community with emphasis on intercultural competencies. C. Effective stewardship. Redevelop Luther Seminary s physical, digital, and human resources in order to sustainably support its core commitment to provide a holistic learning environment and to ensure more effective stewardship of the seminary s assets. Continue to create plans for campus consolidation and student housing that will foster a vibrant learning community and effective use of campus spaces. Develop our technological and other capacities to create an effective pattern of year-round oncampus education. Configure faculty and staff to support Luther Seminary s commitment to educate Christian public leaders in ways that are sustainable both in the short and long term. D. Building relationships. Enhance integrated planning, governance, and community life that builds relationships, aligns the institution, and emphasizes preparedness for change. Clarify and implement appropriate practices of consultation and agency in decision making among the various members of the seminary community. Promote hospitality for all guests and engagement within our local community. Seek opportunities to learn from neighbors within other diverse communities. 3. Transforming Collaboration Create systemic change through innovative partnerships within and outside of the seminary to prepare and engage leaders in ministry. A. Expanding alliances. Create strategic alliances with colleges and other institutions in order to reduce costs while maintaining quality support. Identify infrastructure, space, and personnel resources that could be shared through alliances. Develop robust financial and governance models to support alliances. Support faculty initiatives for educational, multi-disciplinary, and scholarly collaborations B. Seminary partnerships. Partner with other seminaries in innovative ways that benefit students, the faculty, and the seminaries. Support specific programs that might be conducted by multiple seminaries (e.g. rural ministry and theological education in Spanish). Develop new ways of identifying and educating future leaders for the church. Explore possibilities of a learning exchange that would lead to greater innovation in the ways leaders of the church are educated. C. Global commitment. Increase and engage in key partnerships with global church institutions and networks. Identify theological institutions in Asia, Africa and Latin America with whom exchange programs (students and faculty) may be implemented. In collaboration with the Lutheran World Federation, the ELCA, and our ecumenical partners, form a global theological education network that includes our redesigned PhD program. D. Stakeholder engagement. Partner with judicatories, congregations, and social organizations to understand their leadership training needs and find ways to offer academic and Lifelong Learning programs that are valuable, effective and relevant. Identify how to attract more students into education for ministry professions. Research ways in which judicatories and congregations are meeting pastoral needs without requiring an M.Div. (e.g., Synodically Authorized Ministers [SAMs], Theological Education for Emerging Ministries [TEEM], Theological Review Panels [TRPs], leadership institutes). Determine how we can better partner in the effort to educate pastoral leaders beyond the M.Div. 6

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