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InDepth – Discussion on Seminary Education

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

The phrase “to uproot and tear down” could be unsettling the first time someone reads it, especially when applied to one’s life within an organization. If you find yourself “un-settled” by my use of this verse (from Jeremiah 1:10) within this context that may actually be a good thing! It means that you are paying...
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To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant (Jeremiah 1:10)

Every decision at a seminary is based upon certain assumptions about finances and economics. Every decision at a seminary has implications for finances and the larger economic context. This is not to say that our financial and economic models are the most important aspect of what we do; I affirm the mission of discipleship as...
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Shifting Benchmarks & Decision-Making: From External to Internal Markers, Part 3

As I conclude this brief series about internal metrics and establishing benchmarks, here are a few things I know about our emerging Dashboard: Our final version needs to directly connect to our unique mission and strategy This Dashboard 2.0 is an opportunity to keep everyone’s focus of attention on what’s most important to Winebrenner Seminary...
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Shifting Benchmarks: From External to Internal Markers, Part 2

This post continues exploring a shift from external to internal markers and benchmarks. For those who read our Shifting Tuition posts (you can access the first in the series by clicking here) you are aware that Winebrenner Seminary is making a shift toward a recurrent/subscription payment model. During our most recent Quarterly Planning meeting we...
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Shifting Benchmarks & Decision-Making: From External to Internal Markers

When envisioning the future of an organization, leaders often begin with some ideal or framework to guide decisions. These “mental models” (a term used by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline) are based upon certain assumptions about how the world works. For example, I was recently in a meeting of denominational leaders when the topic...
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Shifting Tuition: From Market to Mission-Based Tuition, Part III

Winebrenner Theological Seminary exists to equip leaders for service in God’s kingdom. We are prioritizing collaborative relationships, contextual education, and creating communities of learners in an effort to fulfill our mission during 2018-2023. This short series focused on Shifting Tuition explores how a recurrent, or subscription, approach to tuition pricing is a mission-based strategy that...
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Shifting Tuition: From Market to Mission-Based Pricing, Part 2

All decisions and initiatives at Winebrenner Theological Seminary emerge from our unique mission and strategic priorities. Tuition pricing is no different. In last week’s post I outlined the first two phases of our shift from what I would term market-based tuition to a mission-based approach (you can read that post by clicking here). The following...
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Shifting Tuition: From Market to Mission-Based Pricing

If you ask 10 seminary leaders to describe the process they used to arrive at their current tuition pricing structure you will receive at least 10 different answers.  Unfortunately, if you catch someone in an honest moment, you may even receive a few who respond “I don’t really know.” One of the common refrains you’ll...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: In Conclusion…

The InDepth blog is written for two primary audiences. First, there are those internal to Winebrenner Seminary who can read this and step back and reflect upon where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are heading as an organization. This “internal” audience includes Board members, faculty, administration, students, alumni, and members of the...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Reorganizing for Stewardship of our Resources

The other day I was in an online forum for seminary leaders hosted by the In Trust Center for Theological Schools. During that conversation someone made the great point that while so much course work at seminaries explore God’s creativity and abundance, our operational models and activities often are built upon the assumption that there...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Stewarding our Resources

At Winebrenner, COVID-19 has certainly served as an accelerator. Many ideas we’ve talked about in the past are moving ahead more rapidly than they would have without COVID-19. At the same time, Winebrenner’s foundational relationships have not decreased or taken a back seat as a result of COVID-19. Our relationships with our donors are a...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Reimagining Enrollment Management

Over the past few months this series has described multiple ways in which theological education could be more effectively delivered to those who are sensing God’s call. A challenge with a systemic problem is that while the “problem” may look similar across various schools the solutions and responses will be unique due to specific mission...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner:  A Path Toward Financial Sustainability

The “operating system” that I’ve been developing over the past few posts exists within the larger context of a theological education system that includes certain assumptions about the economics of higher education. Jumping to the conclusion, the current economic assumptions that many seminaries are built upon is unsustainable over the long-term (this belief has been...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Re-organizing for Educational Programs & Course Development

When thinking about various aspects of theological education we can generalize and identify many of the inherited structures, designs, and delivery methods, as “traditional” approaches. To illustrate, every few years many program and schools evaluate the overall academic program and determine something like “tuition is too high” so they may either hold tuition prices or...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Educational Programs & Course Development

Recently, I was invited into a meeting about curricular redesign when I suggested that our philosophy of education may actually be more important than the way we deliver our education. I followed this statement by suggesting that we consider more flexibility and customizability for students. The response and challenge to what I proposed in that...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Reorganizing for Strategic Planning

As a seminary, we need to be intentional about learning all we can about the “industry” of theological education. Too often educational organizations tend to define their environment and context according to how they want them to be as opposed to the way things really are.  One of the steps we are taking to avoid...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Strategic Planning

Over the past few posts we’ve explored how our mission guides our overall purpose and approach to how we carry out our day to day activities.  There are so many ways in which we can go about “equipping leaders for service in God’s kingdom” that it’s helpful to prioritize some activities over others.  Those priorities...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Reorganizing for Mission

Our language reveals much about how we think about lives and ministries. For example, over the past few months I have been retraining myself to use the term “organization” as opposed to “institution” to describe Winebrenner Seminary. Organization shares a root with words like organism and organic–words that evoke images of dynamic change and development....
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Mission

Winebrenner Theological Seminary sits at the intersection of theological higher education and the Church. We have both a commitment to quality educational practice as well as the discipleship ministry of the church. My belief is that our unique mission allows us to provide a fresh expression of a theological seminary in 2020 and beyond. Winebrenner’s...
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God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: We Repent

Throughout the New Testament, many times when Jesus talks about the kingdom he first says to repent. As Matthew 4:17 tells us “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Within Christian circles today there are renewed conversations about the kingdom but not nearly as many...
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Collaboration: Models & Next Steps

As I mentioned in my previous post, I serve on a Board for a university in Haiti. As part of my role on that Board, I was tasked with researching collaborative models between different seminaries and universities. The following provides a summary of what I found most helpful for collaborative partners. First, it is possible...
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Collaboration: Questions to Consider

Over the past year or so I’ve had a variety of conversations with those who are actively engaged in collaboration, others who are seeking collaboration, and some who are just curious about how seminaries and other organizations can work together for kingdom purposes. In addition to my role as President at Winebrenner I also serve...
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Collaboration: Shared Services

In June, Winebrenner Seminary’s president, Dr. Brent Sleasman, led a webinar for the In Trust Center for Theological Schools, exploring some of the challenges for seminaries that identify as “free-standing.” Like many seminaries, Winebrenner has identified “Collaborative Relationships” as a strategic priority. The session (link below) invites conversation about an alternative to merging with or...
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Surprised, Not Unprepared: Moving Courses Online

Winebrenner Theological Seminary offered its first online course in the early 2000’s (interestingly, in the summer of 2004, I taught a hybrid online/in person course at Winebrenner which was the second online course offering). In the summer of 2018, Winebrenner received permission to offer the Master of Arts of Practical Theology (MAPT) fully online. As...
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Surprised, Not Unprepared: Lowering Operational Expenses

Since the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020, I have been saying that while we are surprised, we’re not unprepared to deal with this moment. Over the next few weeks I will share some specifics that allow me to say we’re not caught unprepared. This week, I’m focusing on the steps we’ve taken over the...
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Why Winebrenner is Accepting the CARES Act Funds

On Thursday, May 1, I received an email with the subject line “READ THIS” (all in capital letters suggesting that this was an important message).  Like many other schools of our size, Winebrenner Theological Seminary was just becoming aware that our name is on a list of schools eligible to receive funds from the US...
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From Pipelines to Platforms: Where do we go from here?

Over the few weeks I shared some thoughts about how we conceptualize and engage in collaborative relationships.  Primarily, we’ve explored shifting our primary metaphor from pipelines to platforms.  A great resource to think more deeply about platforms is Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You. The...
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From Pipelines to Platforms: Examining Bachelor’s Equivalency

During a recent conversation with the President of another seminary, we discussed which strategy is the better choice during this unique moment in higher education: expand/revise curricular offerings or expand the pool of prospective students. My conversation partner’s school is expanding the curricular offerings by introducing a new graduate program focused on “faith and leadership...
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From Pipelines to Platforms: Key to Collaboration

Winebrenner Seminary’s current Strategic Plan highlights collaborative relationships as one of three strategic priorities for 2018-2023. This internal commitment combined with the external challenges facing higher education in our current climate serve as an invitation to rethink how we seek alignment with our educational partners. As we consider our collaborative partnerships, it’s helpful to consider whether these are progressing...
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From Pipelines to Platforms: Shifting the Metaphor

A little over a year ago we launched this blog as a way to provide insight and analysis into where we are, where we are heading, and how we’ll get there.  Although anyone is welcome to read, most entries have been written for collaborative partners (both current and potential), faculty, staff, administration, Board members, as well as...
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Pursuing Our Mission Amid COVID-19: Announcements

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). While our circumstances can change on a daily basis, His nature and His care for us remain. Here at Winebrenner Seminary, we do not waver in our mission to equip leaders for service in God’s kingdom. At the same time, we are adjusting to the...
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Creativity Precedes Innovation: Where Do We Go From Here?

If creativity truly precedes innovation, then it’s worth asking “Where is creative energy being invested today?” as a way to predict where the next innovation could emerge. Here are three brief highlights to provide insight into where creative energy is being focused right now at Winebrenner: Bachelor Equivalency In our ongoing efforts to reach the...
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Creativity Precedes Innovation: The Rhythm of Creativity and Innovation

Over the past few days I’ve received several emails offering to “help” Winebrenner Seminary in light of the Coronavirus (for Winebrenner’s response to COVID-19 click here).  These emails are from organizations that I’ve never heard of and who likely purchased my email address with no prior knowledge of our seminary.  While I fully appreciate the adage...
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Creativity Precedes Innovation: From Chaos to Creativity

This past week I was talking to a pastor who feels strongly that a loosely affiliated “network” is a better way to organize like-minded churches than a denominational structure. Of the many reasons for this viewpoint, the one that resonated most with me is his belief that a network of churches allows for more flexibility...
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Creativity Precedes Innovation: An Introduction

Several years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Danielle Strickland, author of A Beautiful Mess, speak about the importance of chaos.  Prior to the creation account in Genesis, chaos was present.  In addition to various biblical accounts, she witnessed this cycle of creation emerging from chaos in her own life, both organizationally and personally....
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Highlighting Collaboration: Voice of the Gospel Ministry, Kenya

I write this entry from Embu, Kenya, while sitting in a class on leadership taught by Pastor Dale Miller, Winebrenner graduate and pastor in the Eastern Region of the Churches of God, General Conference (CGGC). Other courses include a study of the book of James (taught by Winebrenner graduate, Tom Myers), OT Wisdom Literature, Finance,...
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Highlighting Collaboration: Great Lakes CGGC & Marion Correctional Institution

For the past several years Winebrenner Seminary has been offering classes with inmates at Marion Correctional Institution. The first cohort has completed the program and graduated from Winebrenner with a pastoral training certificate. Five of the candidates requested credentials to continue their ministry. Dr. Earl Mills and members of the Pastoral Life Commission of the...
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Highlighting Collaboration: Kingwood Church of God & the Allegheny Region Foundation

During the fall 2019 trimester, Winebrenner Seminary entered into a partnership with the Kingwood Church of God, in southwestern Pennsylvania, to offer a course in Ministerial Person taught by Dr. John Nissley. The project was made possible through the generosity of the Allegheny Region Foundation and the Kingwood Church of God. Several weeks ago, I...
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The “Domino Effect” of Student Debt

In an earlier generation, it would seem that the formula for responsible financial decision making was simple:                                       An organization provides honest information                          +   ...
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