Friday, September 24, 2021

Another Chapter 7 Excerpt -- Good

Excerpts so far from God with Ten Words:

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What we can say for certain is that God is good. We can say for certain that God is love. Why do not know exactly why God allows such things to happen. But we believe that God has a reason and that the reasons are good. We just don’t see the big picture.

You’ll notice that I said God “allows” such things to happen. There is an important distinction here. There are some Christians who believe that God directs everything that happens in the world. They believe God selects who will be saved and that every single event that happens is according to God’s intricately detailed plan.

The problem with this approach is that it makes God directly responsible for evil. On this understanding, every last detail of every murder that has ever been committed was planned by God down to the last, intricate detail. On this understanding, every last detail of every rape that has ever happened was planned by God down to the last, intricate detail. On this understanding, Satan and demons are but puppets through whom God tortures the universe. God becomes the author of evil on an astounding level.

This is untenable and incoherent. If God is responsible for all evil on that level, then Christianity is a farce.

When we say that God allows evil, we are saying that God has chosen—on God’s own authority—to give the creation some freedom in decision-making. There are likely many things that God makes happen in the creation, things that God determines. But Christians from my tradition believe that God has given some freedom to the creation to make its own decisions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Chapter 7 Excerpt -- Good

Excerpts so far from God with Ten Words:

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... The classic answer is the second one. God is good. God could stop evil and suffering. But God has good reasons not always to do so, even though we often do not know what they are.

When I think of this question, I often think of the story of Abraham arguing with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. God knows how the conversation is going to end. God knows how many righteous people are in Sodom and has since the creation of the world. But God walks through the conversation with Abraham for Abraham’s sake. Abraham is a creature in time. God is outside of time and knows exactly how it will turn out without forcing it to go a certain way.

“Will you save Sodom for fifty righteous people?”

“Sure,” God says.

“What about forty?” “What about thirty?” “Twenty?” “Ten?”

Again, God saw this conversation before the foundation of the world. God knew what Abraham would (freely) ask, and God knew what would be answered.

What I find particularly interesting about the conversation is one of Abraham’s questions. “Will not the Judge of all the land do justice?” (Gen. 18:25).

To me, this is an excellent picture of our situation. We know that God is good and will always do what is the best and what is right. The problem is that we do not always know what that is. God does, but we don’t.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Another Chap 6 Excerpt -- Immanuel

Excerpts so far from God with Ten Words:

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Before I go any further, let me remind us of mystery. One of my points in this thought experiment is to remind us of how small our sense of things usually is. The universe is much bigger than earth, and God is much “bigger” than the universe. Perhaps, if we knew what God knew, this entire line of questioning would be revealed as hilarious, not because of how fanciful it is, but because it is not fanciful enough! I hope you are beginning to catch a glimpse of how small our understanding of things must surely be.

Nevertheless, if we persist through with this line of questions, we likely conclude both that Christ would have come to those planets that sinned and those planets that did not sin. It seems likely that the Word would have taken on the “flesh” of those thinking creatures too, both those that sinned and those that did not. The Logos may have done so before coming to earth as a human and perhaps even since...

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Another chap 5 Excerpt -- Presence

Excerpts so far from God with Ten Words:

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The New Testament goes further. While in the Old Testament, it might not be entirely clear that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person, the New Testament begins to talk about the Holy Spirit in those terms. In a famous blessing, Paul prays for the Corinthians that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13). The Great Commission instructs the disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). In these and other places, the Holy Spirit is treated as a distinct person from God the Father and Jesus.

Perhaps the most striking references are in the Gospel of John, where masculine pronouns are used in relation to the Holy Spirit. The word for spirit in Greek is a neuter word, pneuma. Accordingly, neuter pronouns are normal to refer to spirit: “it.” But more than once John uses masculine pronouns: “he.” “That one [masculine] will teach you all things” (14:26). “That one [masculine] will witness concerning me” (15:26). “I will send him to you” (16:7). “That one [masculine] will convict the world” (16:8). “Whenever that one [masculine] comes… that one [masculine] will glorify me” (16:13, 14).

The point is not that the Spirit has male anatomy. And someone might rightly point out that the word “advocate” is masculine, so the masculine pronouns, more than anything, are referring to the Spirit as the advocate. That is all true. But it does not change the fact that the Spirit in these passages is discussed in strikingly personal terms.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Chap 6 Excerpt -- Immanuel

Excerpts so far from God with Ten Words: __________________________

We are now halfway through the ten words with which we are trying to get a small glimpse of what God is like. But something very crucial is missing. More than one religion understands God to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. The fact that mystery and holiness surround God would again be a common understanding. But from a Christian perspective, no sense of God could be complete without knowing that God came to earth as Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh and tented among us" (John 1:14).

The 1600s saw the rise of the scientific revolution. That century saw the foundations of modern science laid in physics with great thinkers like Isaac Newton and Galileo. A shift had taken place toward seeing the world as something like a machine that operated according to certain rules or "laws" that God had built into the machine. Rather than see a thunderstorm as God or a demon trying to get me, these thinkers looked for patterns and laws in nature that God had put there--laws that we could discover with our human minds.

There is nothing wrong with this perspective. The inventions and technological developments of the last few centuries are obvious, including this laptop that I am typing on. Laws were discovered. As I write this chapter, the first space launch entirely made up of non-astronauts has gone into space. The achievements of science are astounding and undeniable, and they follow directly upon a shift of thinking that sees the world as something God has created to run to some extent "on its own." [1]

There is also a danger here, and that danger also reared its head in the 1600s. The danger is Deism...

[1] We can debate whether it really runs "on its own" or whether God is just pulling consistent and predictable levers on a deeper level.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Another Chap 4 Excerpt -- Fine Tuning Argument

Plugging a hole in chapter 4. Excerpts from a writing project so far, God with Ten Words

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However, regardless of evolution, the particulars of the universe are just right in a Goldilocks kind of way that simply boggles the mind. For example, if our universe had more mass, it would have crunched before any solar systems or planets could form, and we would not be here. If the universe had less mass, it would have ripped apart before any solar systems or planets could form. Frankly, the fact that we have matter at all is good fortune in itself. If the early universe had been completely symmetrical, all matter and antimatter would have annihilated itself into energy, and we would not be here.

Why does the universe operate on the basis of an inverse square law? Both the force of gravity and electricity increase or diminish in relationship to the inverse square of the distance between objects. If it were an inverse cube relationship or a one-to-one relationship, nothing would work in the universe. Atoms can exist because the gravitational force is weak, the electromagnetic force is strong, and the strong nuclear force is very strong but only works at a very small distance. Everything is just right or the atom wouldn't work... and we would not be here.

The universe expanded just right for some helium to form early on but for most of it to remain hydrogen so stars could form. The process by which helium can fuse together is just right for carbon to form in supernovas. If none of these aspects to the universe were not just right, we would not be here.

An atheist would not deny any of these things. They would perhaps invoke what is called the anthropic principle. Yes, it is highly unlikely. But, hey, we’re here having this conversation so we must just be lucky. The only plausible way to deal with the sheer improbability of such things by chance is to invoke the concept of a multiverse. Maybe there is some universe bubble machine that is constantly spitting out random universes. Maybe there are countless, nearly infinite dead universes out there that did not work. We are here because we just happen to be on the extremely, extremely lucky one that actually can work.

Or, we can believe that there was an Intelligence that designed the universe to be just right. And this Intelligence we call God. It is thus perfectly reasonable to believe both that God exists and that God is all-knowing.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Chap 5 Excerpt -- Presence

Excerpts from a writing project so far, God with Ten Words

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According to modern physics, the universe began with a point smaller than any of us could imagine, an atomic point, if you would. But by that statement, I refer to something much, much smaller than an atom. There was no space outside that point. I cannot even comprehend what that means. There was what we might call in math the “empty set,” not even including zero. There was not even emptiness. Everything of our universe that existed—what would become space, time, matter, energy—existed as a point. There was nothing else from our point of reference.

Except God. God existed before God created that point. Some scientists and philosophers like to talk of a multiverse beyond our universe. No matter one way or another. If there are other universes, we believe God created them too.

But from our perspective, there was no space, no emptiness, and only this point holding all of everything we know, except God. And God was there. God was everywhere present in that point.

According to current theory, a trillionth of a second later—again, a moment of time shorter than anything we know—everything that exists in this universe had expanded to about the size of space between the earth and our sun. And God was there. God was everywhere present in that 93.6 million miles of all existence.

When the creation was one second old, according to the current understanding, the whole universe was about the size of our solar system and the six nearest star systems to us. [1] And God was there. God was everywhere present in that space that is considerable to us but nothing compared to the size of the universe as we know it today.

One key Christian belief is that God is everywhere present or “omnipresent.” We say that God exists beyond this universe and that God exists within this universe. When we talk of God being beyond this universe, we refer to God as “transcendent.” God exists far beyond our reality or comprehension (remember mystery). When we speak of God within this universe, we refer to God as “immanent.” God exists everywhere within this universe.

Psalm 139 gives us one of the best pictures of this truth about God’s “all-presence”...

[1] I don’t mean, by the way, to suggest that the earth was the center of where it started. That would be rather narcissistic of me. In fact, it would misunderstand the nature of space itself, as if it has some sort of fixed location in some other fixed something. I am only trying to give a sense of size to which we can relate.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Chap 4 Excerpt -- Knowledge

 Excerpts from a writing project so far, God with Ten Words

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The fact that God created the world out of nothing has even more profound implications when we think about God’s knowledge. We could use the analogy of cooking. If I were to cook something, perhaps something very bizarre and random indeed, how it tastes is ultimately “baked into” the ingredients and rules of chemistry. I might have no cooking knowledge or skills whatsoever and still cook something delicious by accident. I didn’t make the rules of ingredients and mixture.

When we say God created the universe out of nothing, we are saying something quite different. We are saying that God invented not only the ingredients but the rules of the universe. Again, God may have created countless other universes that behave by quite different rules. We have no point of reference to have any comprehension of what that might look like. We can imagine simple changes, like a place where people can fly and you can teleport from one place to another. But God no doubt can invent “things” that are unspeakable and unrepeatable (2 Cor. 12:4).

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that God would know everything about this universe. Certainly God knows every possible thing about this universe. We mentioned in an earlier chapter that God invented math. There is no discovery of science that God does not already know. There is no equation yet to be formulated that God did not formulate before the creation.

The implications go even deeper. Sometimes people imagine that God learned what it was like to be human when Jesus came to earth. Some imagine that God learned what suffering is on the cross. All these pictures forget that God created the world out of nothing. They confuse God with the creation and make God into a Zeus. God invented the possibility of humanity in every respect. God invented the possibility of suffering in every respect. Indeed, God invented the possibility of evil, a fact that we will discuss soon enough. When we say that God has all knowledge, we mean that God has all knowledge.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Chap 3 Excerpt -- Power

Excerpts from a writing project so far, God with Ten Words

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Belief in ex nihilo creation fits very nicely with what physics currently believes. The landscape can change, but it is a very satisfying agreement at this moment in history. For one, physics agrees that the universe had a beginning point. Interestingly, most of the famous physicists of the mid-twentieth century did not like the idea that the universe had a beginning because it played too neatly into the idea of a Creator. The term “Big Bang” was originally a term of derision, not from Christians, but from scientists.

In the 1950s, the favorite theory among physicists was what was called the “steady-state” theory. Championed especially by a man named Fred Hoyle, it argued that the universe did not have a beginning but that matter was constantly “coming and going” from the universe, as it were. When a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaître pointed out that Einstein’s equations could support a beginning, his hypothesis was fairly strongly rejected.

Sometimes I hear Christians express a negative view toward the idea of a “big bang,” but I believe they are mostly opposing the atheistic version of the theory. The idea that God started the universe with a bang fits extremely well with the way most Christians understand Genesis 1:1 and creation out of nothing. In short, while we might debate about how long ago it was, the latest theories in physics of the universe’s beginning fit very nicely with our sense that God created the world out of nothing at a specific point in time in the past.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Chapter 3 -- Power

Excerpts from a writing project so far, God with Ten Words

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God created the world out of nothing. Most Christians throughout the centuries have believed this idea. The belief became clear in second hundred years of Christianity when there were some Christian thinkers who believed the physical world was evil. We find an allusion to these “Gnostics” (as they were known) in 1 John 4:2, where we hear of “antichrists” who did not believe Jesus came “in the flesh.”

The Gnostics of John’s world could not believe Jesus took on flesh (cf. John 1:14) because they thought that would have made him evil. There was actually a Christian thinker named Marcion about the year 150 who concluded that the creator of Genesis must be a different being than the God of the New Testament. He came to this conclusion because he believed the creation was evil, so its creator must be evil.

These controversies made it crystal clear to most Christians that God must not only have shaped the world into what it is out of a watery chaos but that God actually created the material of the world itself ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” Accordingly, in one of the early creeds, Christians confessed that God was the creator of both “what is seen and unseen” (Nicene Creed).

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Chapter 2 -- Love

 Here's an excerpt from chapter 2. Here's the overall book concept and an excerpt from the chapter on mystery.

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So what is God’s attitude toward those who are not “on God’s team,” so to speak? We have already seen that the Bible says “God is love” and that “God loved the world.” That seems fundamental. Does this apply to God’s enemies?

Jesus says so in Matthew 5:43-48. “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say, ‘Love your enemies’” (5:43). Jesus goes on to say that this is exactly how God acts toward the unrighteous, giving them sun and rain. The paragraph ends by saying that we need to go the whole way like God does and love our enemies.

Verses like these in the Bible show us that God is not only loving toward those who follow but also those who do not. The "righteous" are not the only ones. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants everyone to be saved, including such ungodly people like the Roman emperor. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not want anyone to perish but for everyone to be reconciled with God.

The book of Jonah in the Old Testament has an astounding message when you think of how focused the Old Testament is in general on the people of Israel. One of its messages is that God cares even about Ninevites. When they turn to God, God forgives them. God cares about the sailors on the boat who serve other gods. In fact, the person who is the worst example in the book is the Israelite Jonah himself, the preacher guy who knows the most about God with his head. God even seems to care about the animals in Nineveh (Jonah 4:11). Jesus says that God even notices every sparrow that dies (Matt. 10:29).

This is something that is impossible for me to grasp! My family has been raising chickens of late. We are not raising them to eat but for eggs and just for fun. We have named them and every one is special to us.

Yesterday, one of the smaller ones died. We’re not sure why. Perhaps it had something to do with the chill of the morning. Perhaps one of the other chickens pecked it just wrong. Who knows?

But we were all sad yesterday for Ellie. We will ask why God allows so much death in the world soon enough. I do think that death is perhaps not as bad as we sometimes think it is. It is natural, at least as the world is now. We will ask those questions in chapter 7.

For now, I note that the almighty creator of the universe, who put the stars into space, noticed the passing of Ellie yesterday. It is dumbfounding. It is unfathomable. If it is hard to grasp the vastness and tremendous mystery of God, it is thereby even harder to understand that God cares about the sparrows and chickens of this small planet.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Excerpt from chapter 1: God is mystery.

Continuing from yesterday. Here is an excerpt from a possible first chapter of God with Ten Words.

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...

So the first word to help picture God is mystery. God is infinite. We can’t understand infinite except that it isn’t finite. Even the universe, as incomprehensibly vast as it is, is not infinite. God is “transcendent.” That means God extends beyond this universe, whatever that might mean. I certainly can’t comprehend it, and I wouldn’t believe Einstein if he said he could.

The Bible and Christians sometimes use another word as well for God’s Godness: holiness. To say God is holy is to say that God is God. It is to say that God is fearsomely awesome. A man named Isaiah caught a glimpse of this awesomeness of God, and he immediately fell flat on his face (see Isaiah 6). A man by the name of Rudolph Otto once called this aspect of God the “tremendous mystery.” The Latin he used makes it sound even better—mysterium tremendum!

So we need to keep in mind as we go through the other nine words that they all ultimately come back to this first word—mystery. We can know pictures of God, analogies of God. We can know broad strokes about God, like the fact that God is loving. But our understanding of what that means will always be colored by our cultures and background. We can know that God is just, but our understanding of what that means will always be partial and insufficient.

We can know what God is not, like the fact that God is not finite. God is not limited by our universe. There is no rock that God could create that God would not be able to lift. But in the end, “there is no finding out his understanding” (Isaiah 40:28), at least not on a fully literal level. When we have reached the limits of our comprehension, God will barely just be started.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

God with Ten Words

I was thinking of self-publishing a short, simple book on God. Just some very basic stuff that a child could more or less understand. Very short chapters. Maybe some illustrations.

Here's an outline:

1. Mystery -- God is beyond anything we could comprehend. God speaks baby talk to us to give us pictures. 

2. Love -- God created the universe not because God had to but out of the overflow of God's love.

3. Knowledge -- In order to design the universe, God must be amazingly smart.

4. Power -- In order to create the universe, God must have more power than we can imagine.

5. Presence -- As God made the universe out of nothing, God's Spirit filled it with God's presence.

6. Immanuel -- God became human in Jesus so that God might be with us and in us and so that we might be with God forever.

7. Good -- God does not cause evil, although God allows it for greater goods. God wants our best. God protects us. God ultimately removes evil from the universe.

8. Parent -- God wants us to grow up to be good too. This means that God gives us the freedom to walk away. God disciplines us at times to help those of us who choose the right path.

9. Authority -- God is ultimately in control. Nothing happens that God does not allow. We are quite fooled if we think we have any authority that God has not given us.

10. Savior -- God wants to save us. God does not want us to self-destruct, although God often does not stop us if we stubbornly refuse help.    

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Hello Campus EDU!

This is my first day working for Campus EDU

Before I tell you about Campus, I'll get some quick questions out of the way:

  • But Ken, what about the academy? Campus EDU represents much of the future of the academy, as you'll see below. If anything, my engagement with the academy is about to spike. I'm now working for many Christian colleges instead of just one.
  • But Ken, what about the church? Campus EDU is about bringing Christian education to the whole world, and it is almost certainly going to do it more quickly and extensively than any individual college could or will. In some places, it may even surpass the church in mission. 
  • But Ken, what about teaching? I expect to continue teaching, perhaps now for more than one school. I'm scheduled to teach online for Houghton in the late fall. The philosophy course I authored with Campus EDU and Houghton is offered every term. Want me to write and teach a course for your college or university on the Campus platform? 
  • Ken, are you moving back to Indiana? Not immediately, but we'll see. My wife is teaching at Houghton Academy right now, so we aren't rushing to move.
  • What about your chickens? They're coming with us, wherever.
First, I should say that my sense of Campus EDU is exactly that. It's my sense. If I get something wrong, I'll come back and correct it. In my mind, Campus is something like a cross between Amazon and Elon Musk in relation to Christian colleges:

Amazon
So Amazon is not really a publisher. It is a marketplace for publishers. So Campus EDU doesn't actually grant college credit itself. What it does is broker courses for a wide variety of Christian colleges (e.g., Gordon, IWU, Lipscomb, Abilene Christian, Houghton...). And it does it at a much more reasonable price. Anything that higher education has to offer--certificates, self-directed learning, etc--Campus is poised to do as a broker for students between many different Christian colleges. 

The credit comes from the Christian colleges in the space. It will transfer anywhere that the credit of those colleges will transfer. The student doesn't have to already be a student somewhere. They can sample several Christian colleges and pick the one they find most attractive to finish up. This also gives Christian colleges access to markets they are not a part of, including the vast Christian high school market.

There are great possibilities for collaboration here. Instead of College X getting rid of that Spanish major, why not have several colleges share the curriculum between them in the Campus space? Why do all the Wesleyan colleges have to field an entire team of Bible, theology, and ministry professors when Wesleyans students training for ministry could sample the best of all of them? 

All those degrees the budget hawks were going to get rid of? Share them. In fact, a college could save on its entire gen ed curriculum by outsourcing it to the Campus space and instead focus on specialized majors. A college without any online program in some area could use Campus to instantly create one--and it would be much better than what they could have created on their own!

Elon Musk
Campus is different from Acadeum in that Acadeum only provides a marketplace for a college's existing courses as they are. Campus actually helps each partner college take their courses to the next level. The videography is top quality. (What? Videography? You thought you were just going to make a Zoom video, right?) The instructional design is the latest. (Is your college still doing the purely "read, read, read, write, write, write" model of the 2000s?) The campus team is a wildly creative team. We know engaging courses. 

When Houghton was working on a New Testament Greek course with Campus and Biblingo, it was hard at first to convey to the writer how this course could be "next level." No Zoom recording of lectures. We're going outside. No need for a whiteboard--Campus will make the Greek appear in mid-air. There is usually a storyline that runs alongside the course (in this case we used the motif of uncovering vistas you didn't know were there). In short, it is a holistic experience that goes well beyond mere knowledge transfer. And the integration of faith into learning is a must. The latest in interactive "textbooks" for language and coding learning is used.

Many online programs say you need something more than a smartphone to take the classes. I don't think that's Campus' philosophy. I believe Campus will be bringing Christian education to remote parts of the world on cell phones. We'll let Elon Musk put up the satellites. But when they log on, Campus will be there.

If you want to talk, my new email is ken.schenck@campusedu.com

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ten Musings from My Time at Houghton

Many will know that today is my last day at Houghton College. I'm going to work for Campus EDU and will still interact with the college (for example, I speak in chapel later this month). But I'm jumping to the other side of the fence. More on that tomorrow.

When I came to Houghton, I did a post titled, "The Top Ten Things I Didn't Know about Houghton."  I thought I would close out my time with "Ten Musings from My Time at Houghton." Not all lessons because, in some cases, I'm still pondering and waiting.

Top Ten Musings
10. You can't do anything you put your mind to.
I've worked really hard these last two years at innovation--REALLY hard. I think some really creative and interesting options emerged--online auditing, "super-auditing" for ordination and certificates, opportunities for high school coding... Maybe I'll post some of those sometime. We tried to implement in-church online cohorts. Houghton did a massive pricing reset. There were some wins, but nothing on the level we were looking for. You can make really clever plans. "God giveth the increase." 

9. You don't know what will go viral.
The death of George Floyd created a tidal wave of interest in the issue of race. We seized the moment and opened a seminar on Race and American Christianity. Some 1700 people signed up. It launched a webinar series that I think was very successful in most respects. We also got some backlash. But you can't really predict these things entirely. You just have to have your surfboard ready for when the wave comes.

8. "All press is good press" -- in skillful hands.
OK, I don't believe it either. But one lesson I took away from the Trump presidency is that there are people who have a knack at turning almost any "bad" publicity around to their advantage. I don't know how many times during the Trump presidency certain cable newsgroups thought he was now "done." Almost every time he was able to turn it around. Better to have good publicity, of course! But I've taken note that there is a skill set that can actually gain rather than lose ground in turmoil.

7. Know thyself.
It is not uncommon for a higher ed institution to agonize over who it is. "What makes us distinctive?" "Who needs us?" "What 'job' are they hiring us for?" In the past, Houghton strived for what was called the "courageous middle." This is the idea of not going to either extreme but moderating between opposing sides. It was the true "liberal" ideal of being a place where all sides could live together and talk together. Let's just say it hasn't sold very well. It often alienates "both sides" because that's how we humans work. We're herd animals and feelers more than thinkers. 

Ambiguous identity is a killer. Have one. It can be as simple as, "We're the Christian school in this area" or "Our General Superintendent wears funny socks." Ok, maybe not that last one, but people and personalities can be the identity.

6. Price, price, price
Sometimes you will hear someone say, "It's ok for us to cost more because people will pay for quality." There may be some circumstances where that's true but probably not if you're aren't an Ivy League school. As long as the school meets some modest level of quality (which the buyer can't always judge), price is often first or second in driving the decision. Houghton cut all its major tuition prices this last year. Some tweaking is still needed, but it was a good move... although it has yet to move the needle.

5. Accessibility
If it's not easy to apply, if it's not easy to find on the website, they're gone. There are too many other options to hang out on a website that doesn't tell you what you want to know and get you where you want to go. I might also throw in here that you need to be visible. I have beamed out all sorts of stuff on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to the world, but I'm not sure that the right people saw any of it. Or maybe it needed more time to percolate. That could be on this list too. 

I've seen several different angles on marketing while I've been here. The first was content marketing. Write articles, blog stuff. Put it where the right people will find it on the web. Drive them to your website. Another is the good old, "outsource it." Hire firms to get names and then blast them with emails and texts. Then there is the realization that most clientele is regional, a somber fact for a college in the middle of the woods. One realization for Houghton, I think, is that Buffalo should be its first port of call as a market.

4. Continuity is important.
I think there have been something like 8 people over enrollment and marketing at Houghton in the last 10 years. An INCREDIBLE amount of turnover here. Frankly, you could have the best school in the world, and I don't see how it could do well with that much turnover. Thankfully their new chief officer over enrollment and marketing seems to be here for the long haul, and he is excellent. I suspect an average person with consistency is better than a string of 1 or 2-year superstars.

3. Good operations makes for good success.
Don't get me wrong. I believe in good, strategic thinking. You need the whole package, the whole team. But a mediocre product with exceptional operations might be enough, while a great product with horrible operations will probably fail. Houghton has some incredibly gifted operations people right now. I'm not sure that alone is enough for it to thrive, but it might be. Innovators and strategic thinkers must never take for granted the people who make the magic happen.

2. Kill the hedgehog
OK, I don't really mean it, but I am not fond of how Jim Collins tends to play out in higher education. He is used as an excuse not to try new things. "We are this. This is our hedgehog" comes to mean, "Let's not offer many options to students." Or, "Let's double down on this thing that isn't working." 

This is one I continue to muse over. I am a "let's have lots of options" person. Collins tends to drive the academy to "let's do one thing and let's do it really well." I don't like it. Not at all. And it's not like the institutions that do this are thriving either. We'll see. 

There is a cycle of attrition, of managed decline. Enrollment issues. End a major. Now we're getting to our hedgehog. Bigger enrollment problems. End a department. Now we're finding our hedgehog. Even bigger enrollment problems. Close a school. At some point, you have to grow some stuff.

1. "Fail often, fail quickly, fail forward."
Since you can't know what will go viral, you have to experiment. You can do all the market research in the world, and it won't predict what will work for your situation. Houghton has done market research on all its new programs, but it has not predicted success. Sometimes the right people are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes the right people are in the wrong place at the right time. [1]

Those are some of my thoughts, lessons in progress. Houghton has hired a really strong and smart new President, Dr. Wayne Lewis. He is wise. He has a lot of experience and insight. I look forward to learning from him from the other side of the fence. My musings are a work in progress.

[1] Let's play it out. Sometimes the wrong people are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes the right people are in the right place at the wrong time.