For greatest impact, each theological school must discern and articulate its unique mission within the broader purpose of theological education in service to the Church and the Kingdom of God. This mission then guides the strategy of the school, for which the faculty is perhaps the most essential resource as the means of achieving institutional objectives. Therefore, faculty development should serve the mission of the school. The following draws on the examples and experience of the Vital Sustainability Initiative.1 While applicable across theological education in general, the article specifically addresses the needs and approach for schools located within the Majority World.

The Mission of Theological Education

Broadly defined, theological education prepares leaders for service in a vast array of roles within the Kingdom of God. Theological education includes both formal and non-formal approaches for developing leaders. Even within the recognized structures of the theological school, which will be the focus here, both formal and non-formal approaches and outcomes are present. Schools offer organized degree programs, stand-alone courses, seminars, and training sessions. Students may earn accredited degrees, certificates, or attend one or more courses for personal enrichment. Graduates, likewise, may serve within ordained positions within the church, lead mission and humanitarian organizations, as church planters or other entrepreneurial ministries, and serve as Christian leaders located within the workplace and society.

Given the breadth of engagement and outcomes, the literature unsurprisingly defines the purpose of theological education in several ways. Kelsey (1992) defines the ultimate aim of theological education to know God truly. Cobb and Hough (1985) focus on the outcome of developing thoughtful practitioners who combine the intellectual and academic aspects with the development of character and ministerial skills needed to lead and serve God’s people. Most schools endeavor to integrate knowledge (head), spirituality (heart), and skills (hands) in ways that equip graduates for Christian service.

Drawing on Tertullian’s famous question, what has Jerusalem to do with Athens, writers have used the metaphor of cities to express the tension found in the mission of the school as it spans the gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the church. Kelsey promotes a view of theological education situated between the Greek idea of paideia found in character formation and wisdom (Athens), and the German notion of Wissenschaft expressed in scientific knowledge (Berlin). Pazmino (1997) and Banks (1999) repeat Tertullian with Jerusalem as the place of worship, devotion, and service to the church. Cheeseman (2018) introduces Edgar (2015) and a fourfold pattern of locationsthat adds Geneva (confessional) to Athens (classical), Berlin (vocational), and Jerusalem (missional) as descriptors of theological education (2018, loc. 1191). Further global cities like Kiev, Lagos, Medellin, or Bangalore might introduce an array of contexts that demonstrate the breadth of expression in Christianity that stretches beyond the historical confines of Western civilization. Such demarcations also remind us that the mission of the school integrates the task of education while also engaging the particular context in which the school operates, recognizing that technology potentially extends the reach of a school beyond its geographical boundaries.

The theological school, therefore, has an essential role to play within the mission of the Church. Describing the role of theological schools in Africa, Paul Bowers refers to them as “the backbone of organized evangelicalism in Africa” (2007, 2). The critical spinal role extends beyond one continent to virtually every location of the church, embodying the oft-quoted theme that “as the seminary goes, so goes the church.”

Within the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, the mission of the theological school has been defined through its two primary contributions to the church and society, namely the formation of leaders for Christian service and the cultivation of prophetic voice that reflects biblically, theologically, and missionally on issues facing the Church and society. The language of formation encompasses a holistic approach that goes significantly beyond academic instruction. Formation includes the loci of Jerusalem and Geneva, developing Christian character, ministerial skills, and the cultivated habits of discipleship, accomplished within a community of faith. Defining the outcome as service recognizes that the graduate may take on a myriad of ministerial roles including, but not limited to, pastoral vocations. Fundamentally, institutions do not merely produce and confer degrees, but instead, they form women and men who will serve God’s purposes throughout the Kingdom.

While the church in the West may seem increasingly marginalized in influence the growth of the church globally has led to a greater interest in the importance and interest in the role of theological education in forming leaders for the mission of the Church (cf. Jenkins 2002; Walls 2002, Wahl 2013). The reach of the school extends to the world through alumni, and then even further through the congregations, ministries, and spheres of influence touched by those Christian leaders. The recently published Africa Leadership Study illustrates the impact of well-formed leaders in that more than half of the respondents in both Kenya and the Central African Republic listed a pastor, by name, as a person of personal influence outside of their immediate families. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of the respondents believe that churches have a significantly influential role in the lives of believers and in society as a whole (2016, 3-4). Therefore, the development leaders for the church is an important task.

The second component of this two-fold mission of the institution lies in the cultivation and exercise of prophetic voice. Kelsey provocatively writes that the theological school must simultaneously be “about,” “with,” “for,” and “against” the church (1992, 207). The school serves the church and must be intimately connected with the needs and aims of the local bodies for which it prepares servants and members. However, as Cannell describes, the church is not always clear on what it wants or on how what it wants aligns with what it really needs (2006, 119). The theological school, and specifically the faculty of the theological school, is uniquely called and equipped to guide the Church in theological reflection, biblical exhortation, and the task of edification. Therefore, the theological school must also speak bold truth to the church and society. In scripture, the prophet assumes this role – speaking forth God’s truth. Because it is engaged as a part of the Church in society, the school should be able to identify issues, develop responses, and empower God’s people for the task of God’s redeeming work in society. At times, this calling may also mean standing “against” the Church in the sense of calling out error, or challenging complacency, or exhorting action in keeping with God’s word. Those who seek temporal power, wealth, or claim novel teachings directly from God have, at times, misappropriated the title and task of the prophet. However, for the theological school, prophetic voice is rooted deeply in the word of God, in response to the needs and issues of the immediate context – whether within the church or across broader society.

While the most pervasive reach will come through the women and men formed for Christian service, many of whom will in turn shepherd and disciple the laity as active Christian witness in society, the institution also has an opportunity to speak directly to specific issues facing society. In the development, empowerment, and exercise of prophetic voice, theological schools employ their unique resources of research skills, critical analysis, and theological reflection in service to the church and society. Cannell amplifies Moltmann and Wolf declares that authentic theology must always extend beyond the walls of the institution and make an impact on society (2006, 57). In many parts of the world, this engaged approach is part of a more holistically integrated worldview. For example, Weanzana notes that many Africans, like others across the Majority World, actively reject a dichotomy between the “so-called spiritual needs and physical needs or social needs. For many Africans, the presence of God in their midst should be manifest in a concern for human flourishing that includes health, peace, security, and prosperity” (2017, 109). The school forms leaders who act as the hands and feet of the gospel in this mission but also has a calling, and even obligation, to help the church speak prophetically to such pressing issues in society.

Each school defines its mission and approach within the two-fold calling of the school. The school determines the degrees, program offerings, curricula, and areas of study through which they will form leaders for Christian service. Whether through extension-site based part-time training for full-time pastors in Sri Lanka, or a formal research doctorate in Ghana, or a Saturday morning program for lay leaders in Colombia, schools determine how they will develop leaders, equipping them for Christian service. At the same time, schools can also assess the most pressing issues facing the Church in a particular context and take the lead in developing theologically reflective prophetic responses.

The Importance of Faculty Development

The institution must develop many resources to accomplish its localized expression of the broader mission of theological education. Schools need appropriate facilities, technological capabilities, library holdings, curriculum, and even marketing and alumni mobilization. However, the faculty remains the most essential resource for achieving that mission. Faculty members, of course, teach classes, lead seminars, and develop curricula. They also mentor students, model Christian leadership and service, and inspire future generations of pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and theologians. They equip Christian business leaders with a scriptural worldview that promotes honesty and justice in the workplace. Through research and writing, they help the church develop and articulate biblical perspectives on issues facing society. McLean reiterates this importance stating, “Through their teaching, scholarship, and service, faculty carry out the mission, establish the school’s reputation, and, through curricular and hiring decisions, determine its future. If the faculty succeed, ‘the rest of it works’” (1999, 109). The faculty are not only the heart of the institution but, as described by Deininger, they are also the hands and feet of the institutional mission (2018, loc. 572). In essence, the faculty – individually and collectively executes the mission of the school.

Scholarly pursuits, particularly in the Western academy and those schools which follow its pattern, are often grounded in an individualistic approach. Promising scholars often choose a field of study and return to teach in areas of personal expertise. They conduct research primarily driven by personal interest, seeking personal rank and promotion along the way. A community of scholars may emerge within the school, and even support the school’s mission, but it is often a collection of individuals, pursuing personal interest, in response to a calling to theological education. However, in their study of North American faculty, Gin and Williams- Duncan reiterate the role of faculty development in creating and reinforcing the institutional mission, “If there is a concern that the faculty are individuals who merely share an institutional home, these data suggest that faculty development is one way to develop a shared collective vision” (2017, 94). As institutions better define mission, they can also help faculty join in their specific outworking of the two-fold calling of forming leaders for Christian service and engaging in theological reflection in order to speak help the church address pressing issues in society. In short, the institution can value the autonomy of the academic individuals while also guiding faculty development in service to its mission.

As the critical resource for the mission of the school, the institution needs to invest in developing the faculty in at least three significant ways.2 First, schools must develop future faculty members. To meet the demands for growing programs, address new fields of study, and replenish faculty attrition due to retirements and other departures, the institution needs to continue to identify, recruit, and equip new faculty members who align to the school’s mission. Second, the school must find ways to continue to develop its current faculty members as educators, scholars, and mentors in service to the mission of the school. Finally, the school must give attention to the faculty as a whole; a community of scholars who help the school fulfill its mission within the broader work of the Kingdom of God. A holistic approach to faculty development addresses each of these categories.

The Development of Future Faculty Members for Mission

In some parts of the world, a school with a vacant teaching position might receive dozens of applications for the job with most CV’s including both teaching experience and a list of publications. However, most schools outside the West must identify, recruit, and develop faculty from among promising undergraduate and graduate students. Once identified, candidates may require a half a decade or more in pursuit of advanced degrees including a doctorate to procure their credentials. Given the importance of the faculty, and the long cycle time from identification to full engagement within faculty ranks, a long-term faculty development plan is important to the school. In addition to identifying talented individuals and developing a sequence for obtaining the degree, the most effective plans will be grounded in the mission of the school and account for future needs within a strategic plan.

Alignment to Future Faculty Needs: The mission of the school ultimately translates into programs offered to students. Faculty size, therefore, depends directly on enrollment and course offerings – along with intended class sizes and faculty to student ratios. Schools that project growth in enrollment, either through the addition of new programs or higher admissions to existing offerings, must also plan for growth in the faculty. Plans should include both the overall size of the faculty within the institution and needs by department, degree, or course topics.

Schools must account for projected changes in the student body as well as projected attrition among the faculty, whether from retirements, sabbatical leave, termination, or other departures. Such considerations include both the quantifiable needs related to faculty to student ratios, coverage needs for course offerings, and research and writing interests and giftings for prophetic voice. Schools may also have a desire to create a specific mix of faculty members across categories such as experience, gender, denominational affiliation, or indigenous and expatriate identities. Furthermore, accrediting agencies or government regulations may also place requirements on the school related to faculty ratios and credentials.

Once the size and scope of the needs have been determined, the school should also consider the financial implications of future faculty members. These costs may include support provided during doctoral studies, if required. Long term, schools must account for the changes in faculty salaries, and any additional expenses for integrating new professors into the faculty.

Credentialing of faculty: In addition to identifying promising candidates, the institution may want to consider how the future faculty members will receive their academic credentials

  • Internal Development: Schools that have a doctoral program can develop candidates internally. Advantages include an ability to mentor students in the ethos and values of the school. They can be socialized into the culture, mission, and institutional citizenship of the school (see Tienou 2018). Students can begin (or continue) their teaching careers while earning their degrees, with mentoring from senior faculty members on both their academic work as well as coaching and modeling skills in the classroom. Challenges may include limited access to broader global perspectives that shape the developing scholar, limited exposure to other educational models, and a need for access to additional bibliographic resources not contained in the school’s library collection. In some instances, library research trips and short-term exchanges with other schools may mitigate these challenges.
  • External Development: Earning a degree outside the institution can provide access to renowned scholars and institutions, and enhance the reputation of both the individual graduate and the institution. Schools may want to consider whether or not viable programs exist within the cultural context or whether students must go to the West to receive their degrees. Most schools in the West have more substantial library holdings as well as greater access to online journals and other resources. Students benefit from a more global engagement and dedicated time for their studies. However, in addition to the increase in cost, other challenges may include a more limited degreeof contextual engagement, increased time away from the scholar’s home institution, and more cross-cultural adjustments for the scholar (and the family, when applicable). For those who go abroad, schools should also plan for the absence, return, and cultural reintegration of faculty members and their families.
  • Split Site Programs: Some institutions find split site programs offer faculty members in training the opportunity to earn their degrees “away,” while also maintaining a presence within their own institutions. For example, South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India has developed a model that maximizes the use of such programs for faculty development. Participants in their “Faculty-in-Training” (FIT) program earn their degrees on a part-time basis, usually through a program in the West that does not require full-time residency. During this time, they maintain a lighter teaching load at SAIACS, traveling twice a year to the degree-granting school for research, writing, or course requirements. While at SAIACS, they havea local faculty mentor who helps them develop their teaching skills, offers contextual input on their dissertation research, and from whom they learn the practice of being a faculty member. Their faculty expectations include time set aside for their research and writing. Upon completion of their degree, they are expected to join the full-time faculty at SAIACS. In this example, future faculty members gain the academic knowledge, disciplines, and credential needed to serve as faculty members, while also growing in their experience in teaching and becoming socialized into the role of a professor.

The type of doctoral program, the location, and the length of study all have implications for the institution as it considers the recruitment and development of future faculty members. The institution may also want to consider the mix of training locations and the subsequent influence those degree-granting schools will have on the overall faculty. For example, consider the impact on the faculty when a substantial number of faculty members earn their degree from the same school (internally or externally). Therefore, it makes sense for schools to work closely with candidates to create a plan the fits the individual objectives of the emerging scholar with the aims and needs of the institution.

Alignment to Mission: Whether identified from among a group of gifted students or recruited from the outside, schools do well to include alignment to the mission of the school as a significant portion of the identification and recruitment process. Smorynski writes,

Faculty development success begins with recruiting faculty to a specific institution’s mission during the recruitment and interview process. Bringing faculty into an institution who are not committed to its teaching, research, and service mission incentives and imperatives will lead to mismatches and between faculty career aspirations and institutional resource commitments. Such mismatches undermine the congeniality and undercut faculty development efforts. (2018, 4).

The question is not just whether the individual is gifted and capable, but how does he or she fit with the mission for student formation and prophetic voice (expressed in teaching, research, and service) of this particular institution. Such alignment has value for both the institution and the individual. For the individual, their overall effectiveness may depend on integrating into the broader faculty (Deininger loc. 577). Smith places an alignment to mission as one of the key factors for success stating, “integration with the culture, mission, ethos, and values of the school is a profoundly significant indicator of likely success as a faculty member.” (2002, 241). For the institution, success will depend on recruiting and developing faculty who have commitments to the institutional mission that exceed their personal research and teaching objectives.

When determining mission fit, internally recruited candidates may have a natural inclination to a mission that has already helped shape them as students. Schools can benefit greatly from developing a methodology for assessing commitment to mission for all candidates, regardless of source. For example, one seminary in the Middle East has developed a faculty with a strong commitment to its unique mission in the Arab world. Every potential faculty candidate is asked to read and interact with two articles– one on Islam and one on pedagogy – that help encapsulate the mission and ethos of the school. Through this process, they have had greater success in recruiting faculty members who align to the mission of the institution.

Developing Faculty to Form Students for Christian Service

For seminaries, the primary pathway of student formation happens through courses and degree offerings. However, it is important to reiterate that as institutions we form people – we do not produce degrees. While programs are often organized according to discipline and degree, students seek vocational preparation far more than they seek a specific degree. Students enroll so that they can become better prepared for service within their calling – whether through a certificate, bachelor level training, or an advanced research degree. The mission of the school is therefore rooted in course offerings and having faculty members who will prepare students for their vocations.

Implications for Future Faculty Development: The institution not only needs a faculty to match the size and scope of future programs but members specifically engaged in the formation of students for Christian service. The faculty must represent disciplines and capabilities that align with the vocational objectives. Consequently, the institution should become proactive in the development of faculty members in fields that will serve these ends.

At many schools, strength follows strength. Promising students often follow in the footsteps of popular and successful professors. A school that has particularly strong teachers in New Testament will naturally produce more New Testament scholars. While good in its own right, such a pattern can prove challenging as a model of faculty development. Schools that anticipate growth in new fields must diversify their model for recruitment. For example, many of the schools in the Vital SustainAbility project have added new graduate programs, often expanding into new fields beyond their undergraduate offerings. In one instance, the program with the largest enrollment is a master degree in counseling. A strong biblical and theological faculty is necessary for the development of Christian counselors. But for the graduate program to flourish, additional faculty members with expertise in the field of counseling are needed.

Schools with a small faculty do not always have the luxury of large departments in any area of study. However, as they plan for future faculty development, recognition of the vocational needs of students should guide faculty development. Academic preparation rightly rests on the particular interests of the scholar. However, that individual calling also happens in the context of the community of the school. As it plans strategically for the future, the school should work with the emerging academic curiosities of potential future faculty members, helping align their preparation to the mission of the school as it prepares women and men for Christian service.

The Importance of Good Teaching: Completing a PhD does not inherently prepare one for primary responsibilities of a faculty member. Therefore, the institution should make an important investment in the ongoing development as teachers, scholars, and mentors. These three roles of a faculty member are interrelated and help build one another. Faculty members who mentor students better understand the challenges faced by aspiring Christian leaders and therefore become better teachers. Active research informs course content and models academic engagement for the students. Good teaching moves beyond content delivery to bring about transformational learning within the students. Their questions lead to personal conversations and, perhaps, new topics for academic research. While all three are important roles for a faculty member, teaching and mentoring have the more direct implications in the formation of leaders for Christian service. The subsequent section on developing reflection and prophetic voice will focus on the importance of academic scholarship.

Developing Better Approaches: Good teaching often requires effort and practice. The credential for academic teaching usually comes as a result of solitary hours of library and field followed by the production of a thesis; activities ordinarily located at a distance from the classroom. Therefore, most professors must learn to be teachers through experience, often based on how they were taught during their years as a student.

Fortunately, content transfer, what Freire (2000) referred to as the “banking” model, has increasingly fallen by the wayside. Forming students for vocation necessarily requires more than moving information from a set of notes on the teacher’s desk to set of notes in the student’s possession. Greater attention to adult learning theory and pedagogical methods3 has moved the focus from the teacher to the learner. For theological schools, particularly those with more advanced degrees, seminars for teachers that develop approaches grounded in adult learning theory can help. Described by Knowles (2011) and others, adult learning theory values 1.) greater self-direction by the student, 2). student experiences as contributors to learning, 3.) a strong emphasis on application, and 4). an orientation toward solutions to problems over content mastery. Better pedagogy leads to better learning and, therefore, better formation for ministry.

Not only does better learning take place, but better teachers are more contextually engaged. Content expertise is needed, but teaching for meaning and transformation, especially for the purpose of Christian ministry, requires a context. Because it draws on the experience and prior knowledge of the learner, students perceive adult learning approaches as more contextually engaged than traditional lecture models (Hunter 2014). Experience is inherently contextual. Teaching methods that incorporate discussion, problem-solving, and application root learning within a particular time and space, a context. Contextual engagement leads to meaningful preparation for ministry.

A Brief Comment on Online Learning: Not only has the role of the teacher shifted in the classroom from that of the “sage on the stage” to a more engaged learning facilitator, but the increased use of technology and distributed learning methods has implications for the development of teachers in service to the mission of the school. Institutions everywhere are experiencing the impact of e-learning on their programs and their faculty. Even in countries where current technological capabilities and infrastructure limitations make online platforms impractical, the trajectory is clear. Technology will have an impact on every school; it is only a matter of how soon.

Assuming schools have already defined how online and other technologically mediated forms of distributed learning fit within their mission, the preparation of faculty to engage this mode of student formation will be essential. Research on theological faculty in North America found that most (65%) have a negative view of online teaching (Gin and Williams-Duncan 2017, 90). Many faculty members in Majority World contexts may have even less exposure and therefore greater apprehension than their North American counterparts. However, most faculty members also recognize the importance of online learning as an educative tool. Therefore, theological institutions should invest in helping teachers become effective educators online.

Too often, administrators or governing Boards assume that online courses are as simple as video recording lectures, thereby freeing up the time of the teacher. This sentiment misses on two fronts. Effective online teaching often requires the development of an additional educational skill set for the teacher. Online courses, teaching seminars, and many organizations now exist to help develop these skills. Furthermore, studies have shown that online teaching often requires more time of the professor (and perhaps supplementary staff ), with implications for faculty load (Tomei 2006). Institutions, therefore, should intentionally engage the development of their faculty in areas related to online learning as part of their mission.

Developing the teaching capacity of the faculty is essential to the mission of the school. Institutions use a variety of means to improve the pedagogical capabilities of their teachers including student evaluations, peer and administrator observations, seminars, and online courses. Smith (2004) maintains that understanding, assessing, and improving teaching effectiveness are matters of essential stewardship of the resources of the institution. They are also critical to the effective formation of leaders for Christian service.

More than Academic Preparation: In his book on doctoral education, The Formation of Scholars, Walker (2008) intentionally uses the language of formation to indicate that completing a PhD includes more than the research and writing of a dissertation but rather the entire process of the doctoral journey. So too, the use of formational language indicates that student preparation at a theological school extends beyond the classroom. In recent years, theological schools have placed a renewed emphasis on the holistic development of students and spiritual formation. Cheeseman stresses the importance of spiritual formation in faculty development stating, “Perhaps the most significant issue affecting theological faculty development in recent years has been the re-emphasis placed on spiritual formation” (2018, loc. 921). Labberton makes an interesting observation related to the changing student profile at Fuller Theological Seminary, “Here’s something else I wonder if you know: increasing numbers of people are coming to us wanting the formation of biblical and theological scholarship, but not wanting a graduate degree. They may already have a theology degree, but they want more spiritual formation” (2018, “Discernment in the Whirlwind”). Similarly, many schools in the Vital SustainAbility Initiative has seen an increase in enrollment by Christian professionals in certificate and diploma programs. In some instances, these pursuits may lead the students to change career paths and earn new degrees, but for many their intended objective is to become more fully formed Christians who serve God in their current jobs. Students can find content courses online, often for free. They seem to have a renewed interest in being formed, through the school, for Christian service.

For faculty, engagement in the broader development of students beyond their courses most often comes through the skill of mentoring. Mentoring can happen in at least three ways: mentoring students, mentoring other faculty members, and academic mentoring.

Mentoring Students for Formation: Faculty members participate in the spiritual formation of students in a variety of ways including preaching in chapel, classroom prayer or devotions, modeling Christian character, and working alongside students in ministry activities. Much of the formation of students, however, comes through formal and informal mentoring relationships.

Watters expresses the missional importance of mentoring students stating, “The mentoring of students attending evangelical academic institutions must be strengthened significantly to better fulfill the Great Commission given by Jesus” (2018 Loc 3958). Anecdotally, many Christian leaders cite mentoring relationships as crucial to their development in seminary. Results from the Africa Leadership Study (2016) add quantifiable data related to the impact of mentoring relationships in Africa, that speculatively have value in other contexts. Certainly, the vast majority of Christian mentors exist beyond the walls of theological schools. However, within the ranks of faculty, the task of mentoring is one that has vital importance for the development of leaders. David Ngaruyia writes, “Mentoring appears strategic in developing leaders in Africa, not only because it creates a system of accountability, but also because it provides a platform for leadership succession” (2017, 36). As such, mentoring helps the school achieve its mission in forming leaders for Christian service, as well as becomes another touch point for the recruitment and development of future faculty members.

Professors who mentor well require a certain amount of time and presence among students. Consequently, the institution should consider issues such as faculty workload expectations and the amount of teaching covered by adjunct and outside faculty members. If effective mentoring is part of the calling of the faculty in support of the strategic mission of the school, then time for formal office hours and informal student interactions must be part of the professor’s schedule. Furthermore, the school might consider how mentoring factors into annual objectives, faculty evaluations, and promotion.

Within residential programs, pastoral presence can be structured through formal advisory groups or faculty and student small groups. For modular or distance delivered programs, mentoring may have to take place beyond the reach of the teaching faculty member. Such work might include regional cohort groups or the use of alumni and local pastors as supplements to the faculty. One school in the Vital SustainAbility Initiative entered into a year-long spiritual formation emphasis among the faculty that included retreats, readings, and spiritual direction. In doing so, they emphasized the importance of spiritual formation in the life of the seminary and consequently saw significant effects among the students.

Mentoring Other Faculty Members: Mentoring most often focuses on the spiritual formation of the students as part of the mission of the school. However, many of the best mentors have also benefitted from their own mentoring relationships. The mentoring of junior faculty by more experienced faculty members has positive implications inside and outside the classroom. Alford and Griffin write, “We hire people and expect them to teach effectively, publish frequently, serve as effective committee members, and maybe even serve as successful administrators. How many hires on your campus arrive fully prepared and competent to fill that job description?” (2018, 7). Few come fully prepared, and, like the formation of students, the formation of faculty is an ongoing process throughout the professor’s career. Alford and Griffin further outline four steps that help develop better faculty members through mentoring; steps that transfer to the mentoring role of faculty with students as well. First, mentors move beyond instruction through modeling and demonstration of the skills, character, and aptitudes desired among faculty (and students). Secondly, they provide feedback and guidance so that those being mentored can reflect and learn from their experiences. They observe new faculty members in their roles so that they can help faculty members build on areas of strength and make adjustments in areas of weakness. Finally, they empower mentees, by giving them freedom and encouragement to step out and engage in the desired tasks on their own (2018, 7-8). Beyond skill development, mentoring relationships also reinforce the culture and ethos of the school, developing what Tienou (2018) refers to as good institutional citizens. Faculty handbooks guide institutional protocol, but faculty development for mission is more than procedural. Part of the development of faculty who align to mission will always be social, inviting faculty members to join a collective purpose, with a culture, a set of values, and an ethos that embody its unique vision.

As with students, both formal and informal relationships contribute to the formation of the faculty, which naturally has implications for the formation of students. One Academic Dean noted the change at his institution when he replaced the annual faculty planning meeting with a faculty retreat. Caring for the souls of the faculty prepares them to care for those of the students. The best mentors have also been mentored along the way. Cheeseman summarizes the importance of the ongoing formation of faculty writing, “Academic, personal, and ministerial formation must apply to faculty if they are to apply to students, and all need to understand and develop their relationship with their confessional community” (2018 loc 919).4

Academic Mentoring: Schools with research degrees include a particular aspect of formation found in academic mentoring. This role begins with academic expertise. However, in service to the mission of the school, it extends beyond the production of a quality thesis or dissertation. Shaw and Lawson’s Handbook for Supervisors of Doctoral Students in Evangelical Theological Institutions proves a valuable resource with practical advice for faculty engaged in academic mentoring. In it, they also state that the pivotal role of the supervisor also includes modeling godly scholarship, and a commitment to the academic and spiritual formation of those they mentor (2016, 2). Academic mentoring includes helping students develop critical thinking capabilities and capacities to engage in academic and theological discourses. In addition to shaping them as individual scholars, it socializes them into the role of the professor or academic leader. Unlike other levels of education, those who complete research degrees and doctorates often immediately join the ranks of faculty. Good academic mentoring prepares graduates for this new role as peers.

Developing Faculty for Prophetic Voice

Recently, a Board member at a seminary in Ethiopia described the school as the “mind of the church,” by which he meant that the school helps shape the thought of the denomination. Smith and Wood (2003) describe the seminary as both a community of scholars and a community of practitioners. As the gathering place for the faculty, the theological institution has the unique resource for developing theological reflection. Stewardship of this resource requires vested interest by the institution in the scholarship of the faculty.

For a variety of reasons, this role of the faculty is often underdeveloped in Majority World settings. Heavy workloads, which often include church engagement, as well as academic teaching, leave little time for writing. Many professors find themselves with access to fewer resources by way of library collections and online journals. Distance from academic conferences and other interactions of the professional guilds of academia, along with limited access to publication outlets such as academic journals, mean that faculty members experience a diminished demand for publishing. Finally, many schools have not emphasized publication as a significant requirement for annual review and promotion. Each of these challenges has root in the realities of the Majority World context. However, rather than encourage the development of scholarship for scholarship sake or the cultivation of a “publish or perish” mentality as part of faculty tenure, institutions might consider scholarly development as part of their mission around prophetic voice. As stated above, prophetic voice is rooted deeply in the word of God, in response to the needs and issues of the immediate context – whether within the church or across broader society. Schools can increase their impact by focusing on a set of issues to which they feel particularly called. Through academic scholarship, the faculty can help the school achieve its missional objectives. The academy has a long tradition of protecting academic freedom. Scholars have personal interests, rooted in areas of specialization, that require development. However, such development does not preclude bringing their research skills – and research interests – to bear on issues with collectively defined importance.

Implications for Future Faculty Development: Many aspiring theologians have their areas of interest shaped by mentors along the way. Not all students who discern a calling to further studies begin with a specific question in mind. Some follow their supervisors’ interests, creating a deeper, but derivative area of study. Increasingly, however, even in secular settings, schools and doctoral supervisors, are looking for research that has meaning for both the church and society (for example, see Nerad and Heggelund 2008, Lee and Boud 2009). Furthermore, the rationalization for the launch of new doctoral programs has been rooted in the need for scholarship in service to the church (Poerwowidagdo 2003, Starcher 2003, Vikner 2003). Such motivations create an opportunity to align personal research interests with institutional objectives related to prophetic voice.

When an institution has developed a strong sense of its prophetic voice, emerging scholars who have received their formation within the school may naturally gravitate toward research topics within the scope of those issues. Others from outside the institution might be recruited based on their contributions to the topics of most importance to the school. Gin and Williams-Duncan echo this sentiment, “If an institution wants to strengthen research in a particular direction, it could choose to increase the number of faculty with the corresponding profile” (2017, 94). Encouraging research on issues in keeping with the school’s prophetic voice takes place across disciplines and perspectives. For example, faculty in training at a school in the Middle East have engaged issues related to its Islamic context from the fields of Old Testament studies, theology, and history. In each case, the prophetic engagement of the institution has helped shape research interests across disciplines. In return, the work done by these faculty members will help further the school’s prophetic engagement in its context.

In addition to research topics, other aspects of faculty development can contribute to a school’s prophetic voice. For instance, a school in Nigeria has committed to developing female faculty members, making a statement to the church and society about the value and role of women in the church. Similarly, a seminary in Ethiopia continues to intentionally develop an ethnically diverse faculty in a society that has experienced deep wounds through ethnic divisions. Such diversity is critical not only for making a visible statement but even more so to modeling Christian engagement across traditional boundaries.

Implications for Ongoing Faculty Development: Faculty roles as teachers and mentors also contribute to prophetic voice as the influence of the institution extends through graduates who teach, preach, and engage society. As a place of theological reflection, the school helps shape student perspectives and engagement. For example, a school in Nairobi had developed a research emphasis on biblical and theological perspectives on ethnicity. The focus took on even greater prophetic importance after a contested election resulted in ethnic violence throughout the country. Students and faculty soon found themselves addressing the issue in churches, seminars, and on radio programs. In this instance, the emphasis on ethnicity did not sustain, but the potential role of faculty and the institution to make an impact in society remains.

More directly, prophetic voice develops through the research and writing of the faculty. Traditionally, development of faculty members as scholars has focused on the individual. A study among North American theological faculty members found individual interest as the primary motivation for research and publication, with the needs of the church, the interests of the guild, and the needs of society ranking lower (Gin and Williams-Duncan 2017, 89). In some ways, the isolation from the academic guilds may prevent research and writing in non-Western contexts. However, such distance may strengthen scholarly attention to the needs of the church and society. Contextually engaged scholarship promotes necessary self- theologizing, as well as maintains the crucial link between theological institutions and their faith communities (Wahl 282). In addition to locating theological reflection more directly within the context of church and society, topics related to a school’s identified prophetic voice also promote multi-disciplinary research as topics receive consideration from a variety of perspectives.

Institutional Investments in Prophetic Voice: Institutions play a practical role in helping the faculty develop as scholars in service to the mission of the school. Institutions can help by creating an environment and culture conducive to theological reflection and writing. Tangible steps that address stated obstacles include recognition of writing as part of the workload. Not all scholars will write prolifically, but all should write some.

Institutional journals or symposia help create an outlet and a demand for scholarly work. For example, one school in Asia hosts an annual theological forum featuring papers on a single them from faculty members across the seminary. Some years ago, the school organized its Forum in an effort to bring hope in the midst of a series of natural disasters affecting the country. Theologically, the forum addressed issues of suffering and creation care. In addition, members of the counseling program visited devastated areas, ministering out of their developing expertise and skills. The papers were then published and disseminated in an edited book. Through institutional intentionality, faculty members grow as scholars and the school addresses issues they have identified as poignant to the church and society.

The school can also help by making academic research part of each faculty member’s annual objectives. One way the institution can help is by distributing workloads in a manner that creates time for research. For example, one school in Latin America has structured faculty schedules to include one term each year (of three in their calendar) with a lighter teaching load and an expectation of writing and research.

Finally, schools that want to develop faculty for their mission in areas of research and scholarship need to invest in their libraries or other access points for faculty research. The library serves as a resource to both the students and the faculty. However, an adequate library for undergraduate theology degrees may not provide enough resources and support for meaningful academic research in areas related to prophetic voice. In addition to resourcing the library, including developing some specialization around issues of strategic importance, the school may want to explore partnerships or other creative ways to increase faculty access to resources.

Research has value to the individual scholar and projects often follow personal motivations. However, many faculty members also want to write meaningful materials in service to the church and society. The interests of the scholar and the interests of the institution may converge around issues of prophetic importance and, therefore, provide an opportunity for the school to help faculty develop in service to the institutional mission.


As a community of scholars and a community of practice, the faculty of an institution plays a unique role in the mission of the school. The most effective faculties are more than the sum of their parts, possessing what Smith (2004) refers to as a sense of “collective vocation” that is embedded in the mission of the school. Research among faculty indicates many faculty members value a connection to the school’s mission and a sense that their calling as faculty members is part of a larger, cohesive, purpose. They see the process of faculty development as essential to achieving those objectives (Gin and Williams-Duncan 2017, 86).

Both faculty effectiveness and job satisfaction tie back to the process of faculty development rooted in a shared vision. Hines (2018) indicates that faculty members with the deepest sense of satisfaction are those who believe their teaching and ministry have an impact on the institution. Surveyed theological faculty in North America indicate that the profile of a faculty member who would choose the profession includes those who believe their institutions are 1.) committed to developing faculty in their research and scholarship; 2.) have a commitment to measuring their impact as teachers that give greater attention holistic student formation (not just classroom learning); and 3.) have an ability to serve the school and the larger community through their work (Gin and Williams Duncan 2017, 94). In short, faculty members want to be developed – individually and collectively in ways that reinforce their connection to that vision. One can imagine that if the research conducted among North American faculty members were repeated in a Majority World context, the results would be similar, with perhaps an even greater commitment to a collective calling by those from more communal cultures. The faculty is the most important resource of the school. Investment in their development, individually and collectively, is among the most strategic paths for the institution to sustain in its mission.


1 The Vital SustainAbility Initiative is a project launched in partnership between ScholarLeaders International, Overseas Council, several funding entities, and an initial group of 19 schools in the Majority World, that has now grown to a potential group of 50. The purpose is to develop strategic plans, grounded in the mission of the school, holistically encompassing faculty, curriculum, facilities, students, alumni, and boards, so that the school can sustain in its mission and thrive in its calling.

2 This three-fold approach to faculty development is further developed in the paper, “Developing Leaders for the Institution, Church, and Society” presented at the 15th Annual International Theological Education Conference at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomosho, Nigeria on March 7, 2018. Publication pending.

3 Technically, pedagogy focuses on the teaching of children, while the field of adult learning theory is more accurately called andragogy. In addition to the gendered nature of the description, the term has proven awkward in its adaptation. In this article, pedagogy will refer to the task of learning and teaching more generally.

Another area of faculty mentoring is in the preparation of faculty members for roles in administration. Many who find themselves in roles of academic leadership have experienced a very steep learning curve. Starcher (2004) traced the rapid rise of PhD graduates into roles as professors and deans among scholars from Africa who earned their PhD’s. Citing a study by Contreras (2016) on administrators in the Caribbean, Eguizabal emphasizes that few institutions take intentional steps in preparing leaders for roles as Deans and Presidents (2018, loc. 4832-4836). Most administrators join a school as a faculty member, but find themselves accelerated into leadership without much formal preparation. In addition to committee assignments and training courses, mentoring and coaching are essential for the preparation of faculty members as academic leaders (Eguizabal 2018, loc. 4824).


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Evan Hunter

Evan Hunter has worked with ScholarLeaders International since 2004. He is currently Vice President for Integration and Executive Editor for the InSights Journal. Through SL, he has had the opportunity to serve hundreds of theological leaders across the Majority World. He holds a PhD in Educational Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his family live near Minneapolis, Minnesota.