Design for the Future Leaders of the Church and the Academy | Forum for Theological Exploration

Design for the Future Leaders of the Church and the Academy

By: Patrick B. Reyes
January 28, 2020

Design is about meaning and purpose. Design is about calling and vocation.

Design is taking seriously our own agency, power, and responsibility to create the conditions for future generations to thrive.

Behind all social structures and institutions, there are people that make decisions about how we organize our people, resources, and time. From streets to buildings, to the food and media we consume, design is everywhere.

At FTE, our aspiration is to capture and inspire a new imagination of the church and academy as just, healing, and inclusive. That is our design challenge.

As we emerge from a year of strategic planning, we are embracing this idea of design. As Kathryn Common names in Practical Matters, “Design is a problem-solving process that aims to develop aesthetic and functional solutions to particular problems.” FTE is addressing the fundamental and complex challenges of accompanying the next generation of Christian leaders to find meaning and purpose in their call to ministry and theological education.

We design to address particular strategic objectives:

  • We design to cultivate the vocational imagination of young adults and doctoral students of color.
  • We design to build the capacity of institutional leaders to create conditions where diverse, inclusive, and equitable approaches to vocational discernment with young adults and doctoral students are more possible and sustainable.
  • We design to share with the church, academy, and a wider audience the stories, learnings, tools, and resources FTE develops with leaders who work on leadership formation with the next generation.

We design for these priorities in a complex environment and time. The changing religious landscape, shifting demographics in North America, environmental and social challenges all require a new imagination about how to design accessible, equitable, and just resources to help a new generation find and pursue their call to ministry and teaching. Design is our way of naming an intention to draw on the diversity of expressions in North American Christianity.

We design resources, tools, and culturally responsive and relevant vocational discernment practices for and with the young adults, doctoral students, and partners who are accompanying them.

This is not a completely new orientation to the work. The history of FTE’s ministerial, doctoral fellowships, grants, and gatherings all demonstrate FTE was intentional about the “who” we were designing for—the future leaders of the church and the academy. Those resources, such as grants, fellowships, and experiences, will continue. However, the scope of resources is expanding to meet the needs of generation Z.

Design is about change, storytelling, vocation, creativity, and the greater good. It is about interpreting theological symbols, naming the church of tomorrow today, and pointing to another way to lead the church and the academy.

Design, as practice, an ethos, as habitus, guides our work, leveraging our resources, time, and energy to create the conditions for leaders of the church and academy to be bold, faithful, and courageous. Design is creating solutions and spaces that demonstrate to the next generation of Christian leaders, the church and academy are yours. Not just in the future, but now.

Tags...: Design Thinking, Inside FTE


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