I do not believe the word “disruption” has a distinctly positive or negative connotation. But it can serve as the vehicle for change, which then leads to some intended or unintended outcomes.
Fuller sits at the intersection of massive disruption across a web of interwoven macrotrends and systemic changes in the United States: an ever-shrinking student base at graduate schools and Christian seminaries, perceived lack of relevancy of seminary education, decline in church growth within several mainline denominations, and technological advancement that has continually reshaped how education is being delivered and received with this next generation of learners and leaders. Many of these trends directly impact Fuller’s sustainability and financial viability as an institution. Several reputable and longstanding seminaries have already closed their doors or unwillingly merged with other schools to ensure that some remnant of their historical legacy survives.
Fuller has announced that it will uproot from its primary campus and leave a city where it has been located for over 70 years. Understandably, this decision has grieved many in the Fuller community, but it has also reinvigorated many others.
Even though some of the initiating factors to this decision related to financial and operational impact, I believe the potential opportunity for this reshaping of Fuller’s strategic and missional impact across the globe is far more significant and multi- dimensional. Inherent in this decision to move is a mindset where Fuller will need to assess, prepare, and preemptively adapt for the uncertainty and continued disruption ahead—all while maintaining the purpose of Fuller’s core mission.
This will clearly be a difficult task that may entail a herculean collaborative effort from key constituents within the institution, but it will force Fuller to go through an invasive and honest self-assessment of how we should best “form global leaders for kingdom vocations.”
Disruption breeds uncertainty, but it can also catapult us ahead into opportunity that was unattainable prior to that disruption. As one of the most influential Christian seminaries in the world, Fuller has been provided this unique opportunity to reimagine itself and seminary education.
+ Lenny Moon is Fuller’s Chief Financial Officer