Shifting: From “Organization” to “Movement”

You may have encountered the following sentence at some point in your life journey: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” This not only makes for good theology but also for good business practice for faith-based organizations (as a side note, the origin of this sentence is in dispute but I’ll openly acknowledge that it did not originate with me!).

Last week we explored the shift from “institution” to “organization. This week we are exploring a second shift, from a single organization to a movement. For the purpose of this post you can think of an “organization” as a single entity reflecting the commitments discussed last week (you can read that post by clicking here) while a “movement” is a distributed network gathered around a common mission and purpose.

I am confident that Winebrenner Seminary is an “organization” as explored last week but I’ll openly admit that we are still on a journey toward becoming a “movement.” The following are three commitments we will continue to develop on our journey toward becoming a global movement:

A strong commitment to collaboration

Over the past few years InDepth has shared many stories and details about collaboration. When organizations begin cooperating for kingdom purposes some overlap may be present between the different groups. In order to be good stewards of financial and personnel resources, some schools may take steps toward sharing services or collaborating more deeply. The following links provide insight into some ways to think about sharing services and collaboration:

Collaboration: Shared Services

Collaboration: Questions to Consider

Collaboration: Models & Next Steps

It’s important to note that when I write the word “collaboration” I am imagining multiple free-standing organizations working together toward larger kingdom purposes. While merges are sometimes the end result of these conversations, it is my belief that Winebrenner Seminary will be strongest by remaining independently governed by its own Board of Trustees.

A deep understanding of flexible business models

Of all the series that I’ve written for InDepth the one that has been most challenging is the “To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant” which uses the language of Jeremiah 1:10 as a framework. Throughout that series the various aspects of the “business model canvas” were utilized to break the operations of Winebrenner down into the component parts in order to rebuild around a fresh mission and strategy. The following links will take you to the specific categories I explored:

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Introducing the Business Model Canvas

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Value Propositions

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Channels

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Building a Digital Platform

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Revenue Streams

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Key Resources

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Key Activities

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Key Partnerships

To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Cost Structures

Having a deep understanding of each of these components allows organizational leaders to understand how to better align different organizations to begin having a movemental impact.

Releasing physical proximity as a key priority

Conversations like these continue to assist in thinking through what it means to develop a new approach to theological education built around low fixed costs, creative curriculum, and subscription tuition. The requirement for geographic or interpersonal proximity is not found in Winebrenner’s mission, strategic priorities, values, or any of the items above. The assumption for generations has been that coursework could only take place when the instructor and students were in the same location. Likewise with many beliefs about collaboration. However, in order to move from a single organization to a movement we need to reconsider how we view relational proximity.

This is not to suggest that “community” is unimportant. Community remains a priority, even in a distributed model of education. However, where students once experienced community among fellow students and the instructor sharing geographic space they may now find community among their local ministry context and virtual classmates.

There are many more commitments that will become evident when shifting from an organization to a movement. These are three that can serve as starting points for conversation and reflection.

– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President, Winebrenner Theological Seminary