Strategic Recap, Part 5: From “Pursuing a degree” to personal growth and discipleship

Today’s post concludes this series focused on what we learned during the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan cycle that focused on collaborative relationships, contextual education, and developing communities of learners.

We’ve learned many things and this post focuses on the fifth one – following Clayton Christensen’s notion of “jobs to be done” (he writes about this in Competing with Luck) Winebrenner is discovering that more and more students are engaging Winebrenner for a specific purpose in their own life and don’t have as much interest in “pursuing a degree.” The key question for this item is asking what problem exists in the life of a Winebrenner student that Winebrenner helps solve?

While unexpected, we became aware of this as we listened to students during their initial admissions conversations as well as how they talked about their coursework in various classes. The lasting thread from the 2018-2023 plan is a significantly deeper understanding of collaboration and the value of working with partners to further our organizational mission.

Finally, there are four specific frameworks for thinking that help illustrate Winebrenner’s current approach to theological education:

  • Systems Thinking: reinforces that all aspects of Winebrenner are integrated and no one area exists as a silo or in isolation.  For example, a curricular decision needs to be considered in context of financial considerations such as the positive or negative impact upon opportunities for collaboration if the course is or isn’t approved.
  • Design Thinking: reinforces the “student centered” aspect of Winebrenner; the reality is that many seminaries talk about placing students at the center but Winebrenner is making an intentional effort to listen to students and better incorporate their experiences into planning.
  • Lean Thinking: reinforces an iterative approach to testing and experimentation. Understanding the entrepreneurial aspects of theological education assists in privileging “just in time” training and a timely approach to education as opposed to relying upon untested assumptions or an over-reliance on tradition.
  • Platform Thinking: reinforces the systems needed that permit scalable collaboration and partnership. While “collaboration” is often heard in conversations among seminaries it is elusive unless there is a shared conversation about how to position Winebrenner for large scale decentralized partnerships

Each of the above ways of thinking are necessary to position ourselves to be better listeners to our students.

Stay tuned for ways in which you can join our conversations about prioritizing our strategic initiatives in 2023-2028!

  • Brent C. Sleasman, President