Living Restorative Practices and Supporting Communities
Current student Jonathan Shenk is serving his community as a small business owner and a Presbyterian minister. His education at the IIRP is helping inform his practices in both roles, which he will continue to develop and carry out after graduation. Through creating a sense of belonging for his employees and providing opportunities for new entrepreneurs, Jonathan embodies the principles of living restoratively each day.
Q: What brought you to the IIRP?
A: As a small business owner, I am incorporating restorative practices among the 15 employees at Greenleaf Painters. And as a Presbyterian minister, I am interested in developing restorative response alternatives to intractable conflicts within communities. Some years ago, I was expressing to a colleague my enthusiasm for restorative justice, and he told me about the IIRP. My ongoing coursework through the IIRP has bolstered my contributions both to my business and in my community ministry involvements.
Q: Please tell us about your restorative work now and what makes you passionate about it.
A: I have been incorporating fair process into my painting business. When making decisions that affect people in the company, I reach out first to get their input. I have also introduced circle check-ins. When I stop by one of our work sites, I will often pull the crew aside (typically 2-6 people at a site) for a 10–15-minute check-in. As we stand there in a circle I will ask, how are you doing? What is something you enjoyed doing as a child? What is on your mind? This proactive bonding time with their boss and one another has strengthened the social ties among crew mates and improved morale within the company.
I love having an opportunity to positively influence the company I lead. I have been planting tiny seeds and watching them sprout forth and blossom.
In my capacity as a Presbyterian minister and community leader, I am involved in the Trenton Microloan Collaborative which offers zero interest loans or pro bono business services to formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs. This is a joint effort between two congregations. I am passionate about working within a faith community which is invested in its local economy and doing tangible things to make a difference in the lives of people who are frequently relegated to the sidelines of our civic life.
Q: What would you like to see in this restorative work in the future?
A: At Greenleaf Painters I would like to see the circle check-ins evolve to the point where the managers and crew members take turns facilitating them, so it is not dependent on me. I am curious to see in which ways our company culture will continue to strengthen as it deepens into restorative practices.
In my community involvement as a Presbyterian minister, I would like to help develop a community-based organization which serves as a resource for conflict resolution in schools, houses of worship, and the community at large. We could train volunteers as restorative response facilitators who could help resolve conflicts and even proactively prevent them from happening in the first place.