Oftentimes leaders of Majority World theological education programs can feel overmatched, having been appointed into their positions because someone had to step up and lead. Most leaders were trained in their academic disciplines as faculty members and have never led on this scale. They feel inadequate and overwhelmed by the demands of their roles. Imagine leading a seminary in the midst of emerging cultural issues like hunger, human trafficking, the dominance of Islam and war just to name a few. These men and women look around for help only to find that, truly, the buck stops with them. The reasons that leaders step down are many, but they ultimately boil down to the same things: little support, scarce guidance and few resources.
We at reSource have found that what theological schools and programs in the Majority World often need is not simply more funding but more learning. The Institute for Excellence in Christian Leadership Development provides much-needed resources for those who lead seminaries, colleges and organizations. Through investing considerable time and resources in the strengthening of institutions, we aim not only to build the capacity of the institutions but also build longevity into their leaders.
The Institute for Excellence is a regional, week-long working conference for the core leadership of our partner institutions in each global region, developed to strengthen leadership skills, organizational expertise and accountability. Participating in the Institute for Excellence and interacting with leaders of other schools can transform how these men and women address the challenges that await them and implement best practices. They are encouraged to know they are not alone and that like-minded brothers and sisters can help. Our work has a ripple effect: first to the faculty and staff of the institutions, then the students whom they influence and then to the individuals whom those students impact throughout a lifetime of ministry.
Since the first Institute in 1999, more than 4,000 leaders from 250 institutions representing 100 countries have participated.
We need to do more. For every leader who receives the support he or she needs in a timely way, there are many more of God's servants who are simply struggling to hold it together, feeling like they are in over their heads. To advance Christian leaders, we have to start with those at the top who bear the responsibility for guiding and directing their institutions. By investing in them, we improve the effectiveness of every other investment: the quality of education improves and becomes more connected with the needs of the Church; institutions become more effective and efficient; and the vision being put forth meets the needs going forward.
When I was asked to be the Principal back in 1998, I had very little experience in that kind of leadership….Six months after I took this job, Overseas Council had its first Institute for Excellence….I was just like a sponge, ready to soak up anything I could find out about how to lead an organization….In my own leadership development, I have found Overseas Council walking with me every step of the way.
Ivor Poobalan, Principal, Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS), Sri Lanka
Doctors ask questions of their patients and conduct tests to know how well the patient is doing. Teachers ask questions of their students to evaluate their progress in learning. And theological school leaders ask the following questions as part of evaluating the outcomes and impact of the education they provide: promoted with the churches in their countries.
How do we know we are providing effective theological education?
How do we know we are accomplishing our mission as a theological school?
During 2017, the Institute for Excellence is promoting a process of evaluation within a growing number of theological schools within the Overseas Council network. By asking deeper questions of a broader audience, these schools will gain feedback to help them revise their educational programs to meet the changing leadership development needs of the churches and ministries they serve.
Sixteen schools will complete this process in 2017, with support from the Overseas Council team of Regional Directors. This process will include consultations, training, field research and critical thinking about the educational programs in these theological schools. We believe that as more schools complete this process, each one will provide theological education that is more rooted, responsive, accessible and sustainable. In this way, Overseas Council continues to work with its partners for transforming theological education in the Majority World.
“The most important outcome of our Research Based Curriculum Development was the sense of ownership of the curriculum amongst the faculty, staff and College community. Emphasizing an African Christian world view is a theme that is now reflected in all our courses, which has enabled us to be relevant and yet flexible in our methods of delivery.”
Dr. Ray Motsi, President, Theological College of Zimbabwe