The Big Picture: Organizational Culture

Last week we kicked off this series with a fresh introduction to Winebrenner’s mission (you can read that post by clicking here). Even the most well-written mission statement doesn’t fulfill itself. In other words, activities that align with the mission will only emerge when an organization is intentional about doing what is necessary to carry out what’s suggested by the mission statement. Another way to think about this is that it is necessary to interpret and translate a mission into the life of an organization.

While often unnoticed to the casual observer, organizational culture is one of the best places to look for the priorities of an organization as it seeks to carry out its unique mission. A healthy organizational culture provides evidence of mission-fulfillment. [You can read more about organizational culture by clicking here.] You can determine how serious an organization is about its mission by looking more closely at its culture.

As I wrote last week, all of Winebrenner’s work happens for and within God’s kingdom. Therefore, the way in which Winebrenner carries out the mission should demonstrate God’s kingdom priorities. Two cultural priorities that are evident in our organizational culture are stewardship and discipleship.

Stewardship: A simple way of defining stewardship is the act of taking care of something. A biblical understanding of stewardship suggests that all of creation is God’s and our primary task is to manage, or steward, what he has provided for us. We most often associate stewardship with financial resources (our treasure) but we can also think in terms of stewarding our time and talents as well. At a recent meeting of Winebrenner’s President’s Council we spent considerable time discussing how we can best manage the time, talent, and treasures that God has provided for us.

As I noted earlier, there should be evidence of a given organizational culture. Over the past year Winebrenner leadership, including the Board of Trustees, has been evaluating the best ways to make sure we are prioritizing God’s kingdom culture. The following are a few actions taken to better serve our students (you can click on any of these for more information):

Discipleship: A simple way that we are defining discipleship is to become more like Jesus in every aspect of our lives. This understanding is infused with the ideas of Dallas Willard and others who have written on the topic. Over the past month I’ve been meeting with our faculty to get their insights into what it means to approach theological education as discipleship. One of the great points that has emerged is that conversations about discipleship are often at risk of focusing on the method of discipleship and missing the core purpose – to become more like Jesus.

As long as the focus remains on Christ-likeness, the methods can look very different from organization to organization. And, yes, the approach Winebrenner takes to discipleship will be complementary to, but very different from, a local church. Here are a few coordinates for how Winebrenner approaches discipleship (you can click on the underlined terms for more information):

  • Through scheduled and structured learning experiences;
  • For various lengths of time, but most often for 12-weeks for one continual focus on a given topic (packaged as a “class”);
  • Continually throughout the year, in three 12-week trimesters;
  • There is some content online that is freely available but much more is available for a fee;
  • These experiences are offered for different levels of learners with some at the Institute level and others at a graduate level;
  • Depending upon the specific area of focus, some are available in person while most are available online via Zoom;
  • Packaged in terms of a relatively recent human invention called the “credit hour

Stewardship and discipleship are two of Winebrenner’s cultural cornerstones. In a future series I will share more about several other emerging features of Winebrenner’s culture.

Check out next week’s post for more insights into Winebrenner’s “big picture” and how each of these items builds upon one another to fulfill God’s call on our organization.

  • Brent C. Sleasman, PhD, President