Timothy J. Kloppenborg, Eric Sundrup
Parish Student Strategic Planning Collaboration
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola guides a retreatant through a deep, transformational encounter with God. The core principles (context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation) that are part of this experience have been outlined in the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm that guides instruction in Jesuit education institutions. Most importantly, these core components must be understood as a dynamic process. They are not a prescription or a recipe. The best way to help students grasp this reality is to encourage them to design and experience this process first hand. The dynamics of the exercises and the principles they embody are best encountered when the classroom leads out to the world and then the world leads back to the classroom. By pairing our on-campus diocesan parish and business school, we help transform both for the better. Local parishes seek transformation through the organizational and operational expertise of our Jesuit business schools and Jesuit business schools seek to form students who are motivated by Ignatian principles so that they can become agents of change in business throughout the world. Three years of meetings and surveys yielded thousands of ideas for updating our 20 year old mission statement. One student team in 2019 worked with the parish advisory committee and others to tie the many ideas into one statement with supporting background. This was communicated throughout the parish. The students and the advisory committee members worked together, learning from each other. The mission statement was then used to guide the parish ministries through a SWOT analysis exercise with over 100 parishioners facilitated by parish staff. Then an ad hoc committee of 12 carefully selected individuals who collectively represent all of the parish interests started to strategically decide on the highest priorities for the parish for the next five years. First they decided on six criteria by which each potential initiative will be prioritized – four criteria from the Jesuit Universal Apostolic Preferences, one from our mission and one based on practicality. The representatives consulted with their ministries and are currently proposing initiatives. The committee will prioritize among these proposals. The higher priority initiatives will be resourced and chartered. A second student team in 2020 is working in parallel with this group of 12 decision-makers to identify all of the parish stakeholders and what each cares about. The students are developing a communications plan to ensure everyone understands both the process and the necessity to focus parish resources (staff, parishioners, money, space, etc.). We are already experiencing the fruits of transformation on both sides of the collaboration. Students are learning to incorporate new values into project planning and implementation and the parish is adapting antiquated organization structures to become more dynamic in our service and outreach. This collaboration also demonstrates that this model is an ongoing and cyclical process. We will use the results of these projects as the starting points for more projects in the future, deepening the already mutually beneficial relationship between the business school and the parish.