Monday, January 09, 2017

Ten Years Ago and Ten Years from Now

It is January 2017 and I just received notification that the video of the Institute of Lutheran Theology's appearance on the "Leaders in the Future of Education" series on the public TV program Voices in America will be distributed to PBS stations across the country at the end of the month.  I was also notified that our first ILT commercials will be run on the Fox Business Network during prime time on January 19 & 20th.  (The commercials are an added benefit in being featured on Voices in America.)  ILT has come a long way.  

As we begin 2017, I am thinking back to 2007.   As many of you know, I am the President of a new educational initiative called the Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT), a fully-operational seminary and graduate school offering a M.A. in Religion, a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Sacred Theology, a Doctor of Ministry, and certificate programs in pastoral and youth ministry.  ILT is presently on the fast-track towards full institutional accreditation, which we hope to have as early as 2018.   Tonight, however, I am not thinking ahead to next year, but am thinking back to a time ten years before.  What was life at ILT like ten years ago?  Thinking about ten years ago, makes me wonder as well about ten years from now?  Where will ILT be in 2027?  

Before remembering January 2007, however, it might be beneficial to some to review what the Institute of Lutheran Theology is.  A good way to learn what we are about is to visit our webpage.  You will find there that ILT has a nicely elaborated Mission Statement and a number of Institutional Goals.  If you examine the page long enough you will find out about our many programs that still offer something of a theoretical approach to theology.  Graduates of our Masters of Divinity program learn Greek, some Hebrew, some logic, basic philosophy for theology, some ethics, a theology & science course, study the Biblical texts, take 4-5 courses in the history of theology, study Luther and the Confessions, take three courses in systematic theology, have 9 courses in practical theology plus a year-long internship.  We offer this program reasonably (about $30k for the full Masters of Divinity) and almost wholly through on-line video conferencing.  Each student sees and hears the other students, sees and hears the professor, and the professor sees and hears each student.  (Note: Internships are not virtual.  Students must do flesh-and-blood ministry in congregations.)   Though we are very young, we have already had about 40 graduates from our various programs, 16 in the last calendar year alone.  

Our faculty is very solid with several members with long academic records and research reputations.  We are blessed to have theologians from the following Lutheran traditions and bodies teaching with us: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, and North American Lutheran Church, the Association of Free Lutheran Churches, the Augsburg Lutheran Churches, and the American Association of Lutheran Churches.  ILT's students come from many church bodies, but predominately Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), the Canadian Association of Lutheran Congregations (CALC), and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).  In our Doctor of Ministry and Master of Sacred Theology, we do, however, presently have students from the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) as well as the Reformed tradition.   

So where was ILT ten years ago today?  

We were nine months forward from our launch at the April 2006 WordAlone Convention in Golden Valley, Minnesota.  We were seeking partnerships when and where we could find them, about to visit Concordia University in Irvine, California and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  We were eight months away from our first course being delivered over the internet, eleven months away from being incorporated as a non-profit in the state of South Dakota, 13 months away from being granted our IRS 504 c (3) status, and still 32 months away from offering our first graduate course.  (We chose to offer courses to lay people within congregations in our first few years.)   The ILT staff in those days consisted of four people, each having full-time jobs doing something quite unrelated to ILT.  (It would be  42 months before I gave up a tenured full professorship to work to build the Institute of Lutheran Theology.)   Four part-time staff is a far cry from the ten dedicated full-time staff we have now.  In 2007 we raised approximately $30,000; while last fiscal year we raised almost one million dollars.  

People have asked me, "If you knew how hard this would be, would you have done it?"  I always answer, "I always knew it would be this hard, I just did not know we would be this successful."  After all, how does one begin a graduate school and seminary without institutional support and funding?  How does one bring it about ex nihilo?  The answer, of course, is that one does not do such a thing, and cannot do it.  However, by the grace and will of God, with perseverance and patience, things come into being that one could never engineer.  ILT exists by the grace of God and it will exist as long as God graces it.  

So where would we like to be in ten years?  What constitutes the success of ILT going forward?   

We will finish this academic year with a headcount of about 100 students.  It is reasonable to expect that as a fully-accredited institution, we can grow this headcount 7.2% a year to 200 students by 2027.  We think by 2027 that we will have had 8 cohorts of Doctor of Ministry students graduate, as well as a dozen or more Masters of Sacred Theology students, 30 Masters of Arts, perhaps 40-50 Masters of Divinity students, and maybe 125 certificate students.   We hope to grow our tuitional revenue by 200% and our donor revenue by 100%.  In addition, we want to be able to obtain grants to upgrade our programs, our library, and our entire facility.  It is possible that by 2027 we will have both a functioning Ph.D. program and a nascent BD curriculum.  Who knows what God might have in store if we are bold enough to dream?  

All will be for nought, however, if we don't remain true to our Mission.  At the beginning we were wary of locating at a denominational seminary because our experience was that the theological trajectory within the ELCA could not be controlled by traditional affirmations of adherence to Scripture and the Confessions.  We thought that being independent gave us the best opportunity to stay Biblically-grounded and Confessionally-based.   We still think this.  Our philosophical presuppositions and theological affirmations are meant to situate us on the same basic semantic and ontological field as was present within the Reformation itself.  We hold that there really is a God that is causally involved in our salvation, a God whose acts can be spoken about in true propositions.   

If you have not been thinking about us for some time, or have never really heard about us, do some research about us.  Our courses our top-notch.  We teach classical Christian theology from a Lutheran perspective.  We aim a bit higher intellectually than has been the wont within vast reaches of North American Lutheranism recently.  Check us out. You don't have to be Lutheran to benefit from great courses from faithful and competent professors, delivered right to your home computer.  

No comments:

Post a Comment