Case Study Method: a management practice that has been working for me in forming parish leaders

 "What is one innovative church management practice that has been working for you in your ministry that you feel would benefit others working in the Church?" 

A significant portion of my ministry recently has been teaching, training, and forming leaders and managers in parish ministry. While ministry formation programs are full of theological reflection cases (for good reason!) these cases do not exist with the purpose of practicing "feeling" like a leader, solving problems, making tough decisions, and assessing stakeholder impacts. To innovate beyond typical theological reflection cases, I began using the case study teaching method common in business schools with ministry students, using student-developed cases, cases from the Association for Case Teaching (formerly hosted by the Yale Divinity School), my own cases, and carefully selected (for relevancy) nonprofit sector cases available for free from MIT Sloan and other business schools.

Because many of our volunteers and future leaders are nervous, hesitant, or lack the experience to lead/manage effectively at the parish level, role-playing and analyzing cases in a business school style created real drama, created real opportunities for them to experience moments of decision, to take risks, and to communicate their through processes.

I think this could be valuable in parish, diocese, and academic settings because using cases allows us to investigate best practices in leadership and management, without all of the emotional baggage that sometimes comes about when doing it "for real" in an actual, more complex, parish environment. Because information on teaching/facilitating using the Case Study Method and many cases are available free, online--this can grow to scale at minimal cost, and even be taken on among cohorts of parish leaders seeking self-development by regularly meeting (online synchronously in a live chat or asynchronously in a forum) to discuss.

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Wow Colleen, This sounds amazing.  Would you be willing to attach some of the case studies to this post for others to benefit from?  This is an excellent idea and one that is sorely needed in the realm of pastoral ministry!

So, for an overview on the method of facilitation, this website from HBS has lots of useful tips and generic questions that can fit many scenarios to help get the leaders/managers in ministry you're training engaged in the case:

This case comes (free!) from MIT Sloan and is applicable to most Catholic organizations. I've found it useful for creating a realistic "pressured" decision-making scenario, and ultimately for reflecting on the need for clarity in leadership teams: [browsing around the rest of the MIT Sloan site offers many other free cases] 

Yale's school of management also has a collection that are a bit more applicable for Catholic Charities and other diocese nonprofits (than individual parishes), located here:

This site (Association for Case Teaching) is where I've found the most (free) quality ministry cases: The vast majority are a bit dated and not customized to language familiar to Catholic students. What I do as the trainer, is take lots of these cases and make modifications to update them (i.e. adding social media communication details) and "Catholicize" them in terms of our ordained orders, common parish roles/responsibilities, and popular issues. 

I haven't found a one-stop-shop "case book" (like I often had to buy in graduate business classes) that is applicable for typical Catholic parish/diocese leaders...I suppose the need isn't there because (as the NLR more than knows!) seminary, deacon, and lay minister formation often gives limited attention to leadership/management development. If anyone out there is a publisher and wants to put something like this together for use on-the-job in parishes or in a formation setting, I'd be more than willing to help write and adapt based on what I've seen resonating with my students. 


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