How will we grow?

How will we grow?

2 Peter 3:18

Whenever I have a wellness appointment with my healthcare provider, I get weighed and measured. I stand up tall, hoping the inevitable aging process hasn’t stolen another fraction of my height, and I take off my shoes before standing on the scale, hoping I’m not growing in the wrong direction. I answer questions about my eating habits, my emotional well-being and my cognitive function. While these aren’t the only measures of my health, these metrics offer information about my general well-being. They serve as a kind of growth chart.

At FPU, we’ve been working to identify the appropriate goals for our institutional well-being and especially the metrics that will help us monitor our achievement. Our Strategic Map 2019-2022 uses the acronym GEIST to highlight the plan’s emphasis on Growth, Engagement, Innovation, Service and Transformation. Our current challenge is to identify the metrics that will help us monitor our well-being and the achievement of our goals.

Like my annual visit to the doctor’s office, growth can be measured in a variety of ways. We’re setting enrollment goals for the various student populations we serve. We want to grow our scholarship funds and the annual fund which supports the university. We’re identifying expanded revenue streams that can support academic programs and new initiatives. We’re taking a good look at our facility needs and thinking about the ways we can better engage with alumni and other supporters of the university. We want to grow in positive, healthy ways that will expand our capacity to serve our students and contribute to the well-being of our region.

For the seminary, our growth goals include increasing the number of students who access our online degree program. We are reviewing the way our scholarship dollars are awarded to make sure we are awarding the funds in ways that help us grow our student body and keep graduate education affordable. We’re exploring the possibility of a second online degree program and ways to take advantage of our partnership with Clinical Pastoral Education of Central California to help train chaplains. We want to grow!

In II Peter 3:18, the apostle Peter also encourages his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” As followers of Jesus, the apostle’s words encourage us to consider what growth might look like in this area, as well. What would be the metrics for “growing in grace” and deepening our knowledge of the one we claim as Lord and Savior?

The question reminds me of an assignment given to incoming seminary students in which they are asked to develop a personal growth plan. It isn’t uncommon for students to offer some version of “I want to love Jesus more” as a growth goal. The challenge, of course, is to figure out how to measure growth in loving Jesus more. What exactly are those metrics? I confess I’m not exactly sure how to measure such a goal even while I’m hopeful that some evidence will exist!

Still, just because it might be hard to measure doesn’t mean we abandon the goal. It seems right, for example, to think about how this educational community, founded on Christ, might demonstrate growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus. I suspect it will require a certain kind of intentionality to practice the ways of Jesus in loving our neighbor and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated. Maintaining integrity in our work, being truth-tellers, committing ourselves to participate in a local community of faith are all ways that we might nurture growth in the knowledge of our Savior.

We do this because we are already recipients of the enormous grace of God. Now, as beloved children of a generous God, we are invited to give witness to the transforming power of the love and mercy we have received.

While success in achieving enrollment and fundraising goals are essential and easily measured, growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord are the kind of intangibles that will also shape our community and help us fulfill our mission. Hopefully, we want to grow!

Connections
Valerie Rempel, Ph.D.

Valerie Rempel, Ph.D.

Vice President and Dean, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary