It is common practice for organizations to have some sort of “strategic plan” – in fact, Winebrenner’s accreditation requires that we go through a shared strategic planning process. One of our steps in planning for 2023-2028 is to reflect upon our past few years and identify strengths and weaknesses of our plans for 2018-2023.
The 2018-2023 Strategic Plan provides three distinct items; however, what we discovered as we lived into this plan was that Collaborative Relationships was the glue that held the three together. We quickly realized that a key strategy for developing Contextualized Theological Education experiences, such as working with students in Haiti or Kenya, required collaborating with denominational leaders. Developing a unique Community of Learners, such as our work at the Marion Correctional Institution, required collaborating with organizational and state leaders.
In the coming weeks I’ll be providing some specific items we’ve learned during the 2018-2023, specific to our three strategic priorities of Collaborative Relationships, Contextualized Theological Education, and Community of Learners.
First, Winebrenner intentionally embraced an entrepreneurial approach to theological education which privileged:
- low fixed costs for physical space and full-time personnel
- creative curriculum that fits within the rhythm of life and ministry
- a recurrent monthly payment model that allows students to join any month.
(the last aspect of this – the ability to join monthly – is still aspirational)
These three items – low costs, creative curriculum, and recurrent (subscription) tuition – emerged as ways to contribute to the larger strategic priorities. Low fixed costs provide more flexibility when it comes to meeting financial obligations and allows for redirecting funds to other initiatives. A flexible curriculum that fits within the rhythm of life and ministry enhances conversations with collaborative partners about ways to invite Winebrenner into the life of partner organizations. Finally, the $300/month tuition which was introduced in 2020 provides a way to engage additional collaborative partners due to the low cost for educational services and courses.
If graduate enrollment is any indicator of the accomplishments of a strategic plan, Winebrenner’s plan has been extremely successful! Since the summer of 2019, Winebrenner graduate enrollment has grown from 49 to the mid-130’s (reaching the low 140’s in the fall of 2022). The 2023-2028 Strategic Plan is intended to build upon this momentum and continue to work with a strong and growing number of students.
Next week I’ll share another item that we’ve learned and ways in which it will help carry using into our future!
- Brent C. Sleasman, President