What’s Not Negotiable (and What is)

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Hardly a day passes without someone asking about the leadership transitions that are in process at Fresno Pacific University. The early stages of a presidential search are in process, with hopes of an announcement in early 2017. And the related plan is for an interim provost/senior vice president to begin service in the summer of 2016, to give the new incoming president adequate time and freedom to select a new senior vice president. One of the common threads that weaves through all these inquiries is the understandable concern for the right balance between continuity and innovation, predictability and progress, stability and change, dependability and uncertainty.

As the board seeks to recruit the best available person to be the next president of FPU, and as that new president then seeks to recruit the best available partner to help lead and manage a large and complex university, what elements or factors, if any, are essentially not negotiable? The list of particular issues is truly endless, but here are some of the items that recur quite consistently.

What if the “best available person” does not like or does not fit the leadership structure and position descriptions that the FPU Board of Trustees adopted when they appointed Rich Kriegbaum as president and supported the major expansion of responsibilities for Steve Varvis as senior vice president? The answer to this important question is actually quite simple. Any candidate for either of these positions who does not enthusiastically support the basic elements of the current structure of executive leadership and management is, by definition, not the best available person for either position.

In order for the next president to succeed in raising the gigantic amounts of current contributions, planned gifts and grants that will be required for Fresno Pacific to survive and thrive, the next president must be a credible and highly effective fundraiser, public representative, speaker and writer who maintains high visibility and positive relationships with a wide range of financial supporters and external organizations. In addition, the president’s responsibilities must be intentionally organized to ensure that the president (and the president’s spouse) can devote the equivalent of one normal full-time work week to these resource-generating relationships. The president must then be capable of joyfully providing spiritual and managerial leadership to the institution with the additional “second week” of work that presidents are traditionally expected to provide.

For all this to succeed, the president must be able to depend on a highly skilled senior executive officer whose primary responsibility is to ensure that the president has a high-quality, highly regarded and enthusiastically Christ-centered university to represent. Its academic quality and Christian character must be widely known and accepted. It is implicitly obvious that both of these two institutional leaders must be sincere and committed followers of Jesus Christ with an appropriately high view of the authority of the Bible, and an understanding of the essential nature and importance of truly Christian higher education that is purposefully rigorous and pragmatically relevant.

The long-term needs of the institution, the profile of the president who would serve those needs and the organizational structure and support to make the president successful are not negotiable. They are givens, firm assumptions, principles of the process that the board has established, and which are now rapidly becoming everyday practice for Fresno Pacific. Many details about how these desired conditions will be achieved are highly flexible and completely negotiable. Also negotiable are the professional background and base of experience that God may have used to prepare a person to assume this role. The next president may be man or woman, business leader or church leader, an unknown or a celebrity. Substance and success will matter, but style is negotiable.

One thing is sure, the process that brings these important leadership changes to closure will require great prayer. Never hesitate to ask questions or make suggestions, but be certain to pray before, during and after this long and careful process identifies the person that we all believe God has prepared and anointed for this role. The ministry and mission of Fresno Pacific University, and especially the process of choosing its leaders, can only be achieved with your consistent and fervent prayer. Prayer is a requirement for success in the work of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Prayer is not a negotiable factor.

  • Walter Saul

    As usual, eloquently and powerfully communicated. As you shared in College Hour this morning, these firm positions can and do make us uncomfortable in this world, but that is the healthy sort of discomfort that makes us fit for Jesus Christ’s work in this world – and the next.