Leading an institution as broad and diverse as a university brings unique challenges. Like any wise leader sizing up his new position, Dr. Marty Marriott approached the early days of his presidency with an appropriate sense of patience and deference to the existing organizational processes. He was new to the position, but he was no stranger to Maranatha. Both a graduate from Maranatha himself and the father of three alumni, Dr. Marriott supported the institution in his position as a pastor and Maranatha board member. When he transitioned into the presidency, he came with a short but ambitious list of specific goals for the institution. Within five years, every goal was implemented.
Dr. Marriott once told me, “An effective leader clearly communicates his values and goals. He develops a personal relationship of trust, support, and open communication with those he leads and devotes himself to their growth, development, and productivity.” He opened his office and his home to students and met frequently with those in front-line student service positions. As he got to know the faculty and staff on a more personal level, and as he witnessed the limitations of the existing leadership structure of the institution, he realized that unnecessary barriers were preventing Maranatha from reaching its full potential to accomplish the ambitious mission of the ministry.
A New Structure
In the first few months of his new administration, Dr. Marriott came to understand that the existing oversight structure of the college did not support his conception of the collaborative environment in which high-performing ministry organizations should operate. Preferring a streamlined and personal flow of information, he developed within that first year new venues for appropriate communication throughout the ministry.
The existing Administrative Cabinet was split into three groups, each with a specific mandate and purpose.
The Executive Council, made up of the president and his vice president-level officers, was established to approve new hires, establish institutional policies and practices consistent with direction received from the Board of Trustees, and to hear any appeals that arise out of day-to-day operations.
The Strategy Council, made up of the president and vice presidents as well as key leaders from other units and an appointed faculty representative, was established to oversee the implementation of the strategic plan, all accreditation efforts, and continuous quality improvement within the institution.
The Leadership Council, made up of all the directors of staff and academic units, was established to provide a venue for the free flow of pertinent and timely information within the institution.
These three councils have become vital to the implementation of Maranatha’s vision for the next decade and beyond.
A Renewed Emphasis
At the top of Dr. Marriott’s list of goals for his tenure as Maranatha’s president was the establishment of a scholarship program to support young men and women training to enter full-time Christian service as pastors and Christian educators. Dr. Marriott frequently refers to the Bible and Church Ministries majors as the “hub of the wheel.” When the spiritual hub is strong, all the “spokes” of the campus benefit.
Understanding their future earning potential may not be as strong as other vocations, many students called to pastoral and Christian school ministry wisely try to avoid student loan debt. Lower-cost college options, therefore, hold some draw, even if they are not the student’s first choice for ministry preparation.
To aid ministerial students in avoiding these student loans, Maranatha conceived two new scholarships and phased them in over several years: the Bible and Church Ministries (BCM) scholarship and the Teacher Education (TEd) scholarship. This 2017-18 year, Maranatha is on track to award over $1,200,000 through the BCM and TEd scholarships, as well as the new ministry-focused scholarships such as the Teaching and Leading scholarship for ministry workers in MBU masters programs and the Doctor of Ministry scholarship for pastors enrolled in that program.
The number of students enrolled in the Bible & Church Ministries program has doubled since Dr. Marriott took the helm. Bolstered by funded scholarships for those in vocational ministry, the Master of Education, Master of Organizational Leadership, and Doctor of Ministry programs have grown exponentially in the years since their initial launches.
A New Frontier
When Dr. Marriott assumed the presidency in 2010, Maranatha Online was in its early stages of deployment. In his first meeting with the administration, he laid out an ambitious challenge: “What would it take to double our enrollment of online students?” One by one, every administrator answered that it could not be done with existing capacity.
While the new venture into distance learning showed extraordinary promise, it was hindered by outdated systems that could not handle the unique demands of online education. Vital information was dispersed through 11 different databases in several different systems. In order to rise to the challenge, Maranatha needed an integrated student information system that was built to accommodate students dispersed all over the world.
“What Is a Jenzabar?”
Every alumnus of Maranatha knows by heart the story of the miracle of Maranatha’s founding. Through incredible circumstances, God used Dr. and Mrs. Cedarholm to raise up a functioning college with a fully furnished campus in a few short months. Only God could have orchestrated the events in such a way!
While a technological miracle may not have been quite so dramatic as a campus gifted to Baptists by Catholic monks, truckloads of carrots, or faculty and students showing up sight-unseen, the task faced by the administration in 2010 seemed equally impossible. High-tech systems like the one Maranatha needed literally cost millions of dollars, and the ministry’s available cash was, well, significantly less than that. Venturing out on faith again, though, a team was established to evaluate available options and pursue the selection, acquisition, and implementation of an integrated system that would modernize Maranatha’s ability to educate distance students.
The Advancing Information Management (AIM) Team was established and led by Maranatha’s Informational Technology Director at the time, Mike Bartman. After reviewing and evaluating dozens of options, one solution consistently rose to the top as the best option for Maranatha—a system with a very funny name: Jenzabar.
Jenzabar could do everything on the AIM Team’s wish list. Its modules for every department gave distributed access to centralized information while also allowing flexibility for each office to customize available features in the way that worked best for them. Unfortunately, the price tag was incredibly steep. While the value seemed justified, Maranatha simply could not afford it. That’s when Dr. Mark Stevens, Maranatha’s former long-time CFO and experienced haggler, went to work.
Through the next few weeks and months, Dr. Stevens negotiated an incredible deal. In round after round of discussions, various capabilities were added to the bundle of services in the contract, and yet the expenses were kept to a reasonably affordable level. By shifting resources and balancing priorities in the next year’s budget, the Financial Committee determined that the purchase could be afforded.
Then the deal hit an impossible snag.
Systems this complex cannot be implemented in a few short weeks or even months. Since they touch every process in every office on campus, it takes a full year to analyze and prepare the system—a year in which existing systems must be maintained while the new one is prepared for installation. Having used every budget maneuver possible to afford only the new system, Maranatha could not afford to pay for two. Dr. Stevens sheepishly brought the news to Dr. Marriott that the deal was apparently dead.
Undaunted, Dr. Marriott told Dr. Stevens to go back to the company and tell them that the new president was notoriously frugal and ask them to give us the first year free. With all his experience, Dr. Stevens knew full well this was a fool’s errand, but nonetheless, he went along with the request and thought, “Maybe God will do something.”
To everyone’s surprise, the company agreed to defer all costs and expenses until the second year, allowing Maranatha to proceed with its system update. Mr. Bartman led the efforts to customize and implement the system, joined by Dr. David Hershberger and Mr. Steve Carlson in the Registrar’s Office as well as many others. Today, Jenzabar provides the technological infrastructure that powers Maranatha’s successful online program.
Today, Maranatha’s online and distance learning programs have grown nearly 20 times over what they were in 2010! The cutting-edge technology delivers the consistent learning experience that modern students expect. While not one person originally involved thought such an endeavor was humanly possible, God brought together the people and circumstances to provide exactly what the ministry needed to further the extensive distance education programs that Maranatha now offers.
Through ambitious goals, fearless leadership, and faithful reliance on God, Maranatha has been blessed with a decade of innovation “To the Praise of His Glory.”