As I mentioned in my previous post, I serve on a Board for a university in Haiti. As part of my role on that Board, I was tasked with researching collaborative models between different seminaries and universities. The following provides a summary of what I found most helpful for collaborative partners.
First, it is possible to create a large-scale system of theological education between non-geographic bound seminaries and schools. One example in the US is the Kairos Project (https://www.bli4u.org/kairos-project/). One of the aspects that I appreciate about this model is that they don’t use the word “merger” and instead talk about “integrative partnership” as a way to resonate with stakeholders (this is further nuanced by the limits of legal language that emphasizes mergers, acquisitions, or transfers of assets).
The strength of the Kairos Project is that each school involved is maintaining its own identity while at the same time working in partnership with the larger “platform.” In partnerships like this, partner schools maintain their name for the purposes of branding and constituent relationships. It’s worth noting, as mentioned by Greg Henson (President at Sioux Falls Seminary), that theological education is communal and contextual so there is a theological reason to maintain a localized name; one’s identity is often tied to the school/seminary where he/she was/is formed spiritually.
Another benefit of such a model is that employees can be hired by the same entity and, eventually, could even share a Board of Trustees. Depending upon the location and commitments of the school(s), there may be an accreditation requirement for the full Board to approve the partnership. Regardless, accreditation should also be a primary point of conversation throughout these discussions.
Collaborations develop in many different ways. Sometimes, one school is seeking a partner and other times it comes from a place of desperation. As mutual trust is developed, the future possibilities are wide open! The timeline depends upon the coherence of mission and direction; this takes time, but can move quickly if alignment is high.
As I noted in the previous post, none of this is intended to be exhaustive, but simply to provide starting points for further discussion. Above all else, the organizations must make sure there is shared understanding of vision/direction, values, and strategy.
Let me know if you have questions or see other collaborative models that work.
Collaboration is a great demonstration of the unity in God’s kingdom!
-Dr. Brent Sleasman, President
-Image by DesignClass via Unsplash/AdopeSpark