Belhaven chief touts new book, Jackson university's growth

TUPELO – As he promotes his new book about long-term leadership, Belhaven University President Roger Parrott also is focusing on guiding his university beyond short-term goals.
Parrott, president of the Jackson-based evangelical Christian school since 1996, spoke to the Tupelo Rotary Club on Monday and afterward visited with the Daily Journal. He discussed the book and the university, which will add campuses in Chattanooga and Atlanta this fall.
Titled “The Longview,” Parrott’s book encourages Christian leaders to avoid the cultural trap of measuring effectiveness by immediate results rather than lasting significance.
Beginning with the junk bond era of the ’80s, he said, people have become so accustomed to quick gratification that they demand instant results from leaders.
The first chapter of Parrott’s book urges readers to “Lead as if You’ll Be There Forever.” He said that too often, leaders make a big splash and then leave longer-term problems to successors.
What brings short-term results may actually hurt the institution over time, he argues.
But that doesn’t mean long-range planning is necessary, he said. One of the books’ chapters is titled “Planning Will Drain the Life from Your Ministry.”
Leaders often feel they must develop elaborate five- or 10-year plans. This is a mistake, Parrott argues.
“I know what we have on our plate for the next 18 months,” Parrott said. “What is after that I have no idea. But if we are good stewards and get the most out of what we have, the right opportunity will come along.”
The key, he argues, is to be a sailboat rather than a powerboat. He uses the example of Belhaven’s recent decision to buy the adult accelerated learning programs in Chattanooga and Atlanta from Covenant College.
Parrott happened to be meeting with the president of Covenant College in Chattanooga, who mentioned that the school was about to sell its adult programs.
Belhaven, which already had three campuses devoted to adult learning, was looking to expand its program.
“We can be like a powerboat and be in position to go where we think God wants us to go,” he said. “I believe we should be like a sailboat to go where God leads us.
“We expect something to come, so we leave room for that. When you plan too much, you don’t leave room.”
Parrott’s long-term visions have led to big changes at the Presbyterian-affiliated school, including its name change in January from Belhaven College to Belhaven University.
The school now has about 1,000 traditional students on its Jackson campus. Thanks to an emphasis in the arts – the university is one of only 30 in the country to be accredited in all four of the primary arts – it now attracts 70 percent of its students from outside of Mississippi.
The school also has 500 graduate students and is aggressively adding adult classes and online classes. It now has five separate campuses – Memphis; Houston, Texas; Orlando; Atlanta and Chattanooga – for working adults to take business classes.
About 1,600 students are enrolled in that program and about 400 more are taking online courses from the university.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal