Seminary Spotlight: Fuller Theological Seminary

By Michaela O’Donnell Long, reprinted from Made to Flourish.

It might not surprise you to hear that at Fuller Theological Seminary and its De Pree Center for Leadership, this year has been marked by change and uncertainty. After all, who hasn’t felt the turbulent effects of change in 2020? In the midst of this, we remain committed – perhaps more than ever – to the vision for human flourishing we share with the Oikonomia Network. We trust that God is indeed on the move in the particulars of our society, economy and organizations. Expect to hear more about our commitment to that when our president, Mark Labberton, speaks at Karam Forum next month!

Despite the unusual year, it’s been a full and fruitful season for us at Fuller. I’m excited to update you about a few of these good fruits, namely: newly published books, momentum in our Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative, and the launch of our Road Ahead cohorts for people in transition.

Books, Books, Books!

Three of my Fuller colleagues, Matthew Kaemingk, Scott Cormode and Tod Bolsinger, have recently published books that touch on issues of work, economics and leadership in their own ways. I encourage you to check each of them out and consider using them with students or in your programs!  

Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory Willson:Drawing on years of research, ministry and leadership experience, Fuller’s Matthew Kaemingk and co-author Cory Willson explain why Sunday morning worship and Monday morning work desperately need to inform and impact one another. Together they engage in a rich biblical, theological and historical exploration of the deep and life-giving connections between labor and liturgy. In so doing, Kaemingk and Willson offer new ways in which Christian communities can live seamless lives of work and worship. See the excerpt published in last month’s ON newsletter.

The Innovative Church: How Leaders and Their Congregations Adapt in an Ever-Changing World by Scott Cormode: Directing years of congregational study and learning toward the notion that the church as we know it is calibrated for a world that no longer exists, Cormode argues that the church desperately needs to recalibrate in order to address the questions that animate today’s congregants. The book is full of expertise and wisdom that offer church leaders innovative ways to express the never-changing gospel to their ever-changing congregations. See the excerpt published in the September ON newsletter.

Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change by Tod Bolsinger: In this timely book, Tod Bolsinger examines both the external challenges we face and the internal resistance that holds us back as we try and lead change: “To temper describes the process of heating, holding, hammering, cooling, and reheating that adds stress to raw iron until it becomes a glistening knife blade or chisel tip.” When reflection and relationships are combined into a life of deliberate practice, leaders become both stronger and more flexible. As a result, these resilient leaders are able to offer greater wisdom and skill to the organizations they serve.

Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative

I’m excited to report that our work aimed at helping folks in or entering the “third third” is gaining real momentum. Led by De Pree Center Executive Director Mark D. Roberts, we’ve spent this past year listening to and researching the needs of people in this life stage. Now, we’ve begun to publish interviews, host webinars, and produce devotional guides all with the goal of serving the needs we’ve heard. We invite you to check out our website where many of these new resources are collected.

Road Ahead Cohorts

We are delighted to tell you about an experience we’ve developed for people in seasons of transition. We advertise Road Ahead as a six-week group experience that helps people make spiritual sense of the season of work they’re in and discern next steps on the road ahead. Over and over again, people report to us that these groups helped them move from stuck to unstuck and deal with realities they didn’t even know they needed tending to. Rooted in my own research and developed over time, the process is designed to give people space to self-reflect, recharge and explore new possibilities as they consider what and whom God is calling them to in their work. We have everyone from professors to tax attorneys to pastors to stay-at-home parents join us in these groups. Currently, we are running these groups for specific affinity groups: professional women, third third folks, ministers and creatives.

At Fuller, we are grateful that in a tough year that there is still so much good work to do. We are grateful to work at an institution facing change head on and seeking God in the midst of it. Perhaps this is why we are especially proud that this year’s Karam Forum is being headlined by our own president, Mark Labberton. Because we get to watch his good leadership up close, we trust that he will bring wisdom and hope to the question of how theological institutions can seize the present moment in order to thrive in the coming century. We hope to see you all there, even if it is digitally!

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