Church leaders say MC USA farther along in leadership development goal
Stutzman: We have a long way to go to meet the needs of the church. Kraybill: Coordinated strategy at denomination-wide level is lacking.by Anna Groff
Leadership development was one of four main priorities established by Mennonite Church USA delegates when the denomination was formed in 2001. Anna Groff asked six leaders to assess progress toward this goal.—Editor
J. Nelson Kraybill: Mennonite Church USA is farther along than it was six years ago in leadership development because many different entities are taking initiative—but we lack a coordinated denominational plan that would make these efforts most effective.
Congregations, conferences, and educational institutions play a new or expanded role in leadership development by designing programs that shoulder-tap people who may become pastors, missionaries, teachers, or administrators. Walnut Creek Mennonite Church in Ohio, for example, runs a "Who's Next?" program to equip leaders from within the congregation. Colleges and seminaries collaborate to run the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP), a summer internship for college students. The Center for Anabaptist Leadership in Pasadena trains scores of leaders from multiple ethnic groups.
The fastest growing program at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) is the Church Leadership Center, which offers non-degree and continuing education courses. Regional Mennonite conferences plan their own events or programs for calling and equipping. Conference ministers from the United States and Canada are developing a list of "core competencies" for pastoral leadership that will give guidance for the multiple tracks of pastoral training now emerging.
What has been lacking amidst this ferment is a coordinated strategy on a denomination-wide level to make Anabaptist leadership development an urgent priority. Our missional agenda will have us galloping off in many different directions if we do not have shared theology and coordinated leadership formation.
Mennonite seminaries and pastoral training programs struggle because they are buried several layers down into the denominational structure along with dozens of other educational institutions. Schools that specifically prepare men and women to lead the church invest a lot in recruiting and educating, but structurally are far from the strategic decision-making processes of the denomination. That gap is costly for the life and mission of the church, and the denomination must do better in the decade ahead.
J. Nelson Kraybill is President of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.
Ervin Stutzman: If the number of grants received by church educational institutions is any measure of success on this goal, we have come a long way toward meeting the denominational goal. Both seminaries and a number of our Mennonite colleges have received Lilly grants geared to leadership development. The grants enabled us to explore issues of theological vocation and to encourage students to consider pastoral ministry. Eastern Mennonite Seminary developed an emphasis on “Culture of Call” which was expanded by other colleges and the leadership office of Mennonite Church USA. We encouraged “shoulder-tapping” and other means of challenging young leaders to consider a Christian vocation, including pastoral ministry. AMBS received a grant that helped them engage in conversations with a network of pastors, conduct research on the traits of excellent pastors, and provide leadership training in the Spanish language.
Another tentative sign of progress toward the goal is the interest expressed by young adults in the governance and leadership of the church. The biennial convention planners have made space for young adults to participate in delegate sessions, which is gratifying for me to see.
Again, Mennonite Church USA has attempted to bring some semblance of focus to the diverse programs that provide leadership training. A task force recently outlined six different areas in which to measure competency in leadership. Rather than prescribing ways that programs should train leaders, the group described outcomes to help training programs discern what growing leaders need to prepare them for more effective ministry.
In spite of all the work Mennonite Church USA has done to conceptualize leadership and call out new leaders, I’m not sure that many new leaders have been developed on the congregational level. I sense that we have a long ways to go to meet the needs of the church or the goals that we set for ourselves.
Ervin Stutzman is the dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Harrisonburg, Va.
Nancy Kauffmann, conference regional minister, Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference
I believe that Mennonite Church USA is farther along in its goal of leadership development than it was six years ago. A church wide initiative, “Cultivating the Call helped to raise the awareness of the need for leadership development through articles, the development of a resource packet, use of the Call Wall at General Assemblies to encourage people to name individuals who had leadership potential. It also encouraged conversations between conferences, congregations and schools to think together about leadership development.
There are more options for calling forth, nurturing and training people for leadership. Youth and young adults can explore leadership through such programs as the Ministry, Service and Camp Inquiry Programs, AMBS’ Explore and EMS’s LEAP.
There are more conference and seminary partnership programs for leadership training such as STEP (Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference and EMS) and The Journey Program and the Pastoral Care Series (AMBS, Central District and Indiana-Michigan Conference).
More conferences, congregations and some agencies like MMA are offering leadership training grants. There are other leadership training resources offered on the Mennonite Church USA website as well as on a number of conference Web sites.
More congregations are taking their role seriously to encourage people to respond to God’s call on their life to ministry and then nurturing and supporting them in their journey. Some congregations are creating internships for various leadership roles.
At the last Conference Ministers Meeting, a list of core skills and competencies for pastoral ministry was accepted. The list is a useful tool for conferences and schools alike to shape leadership training.
But leadership development has to be an ongoing goal of the church. The church will continue to have leadership needs. God will continue to give many gifts to the church through people. It is and will be the challenge for the wider church, conferences, congregations to work together to be good stewards of those God-given gifts.
Jane Roeschley, associate pastor for worship and lay ministries, Mennonite Church of Normal, Ill.
My response is from three vantage points: as a relatively new member of the AMBS Board, as a congregational pastor and as a parent.
From my vantage points I think the leadership development of MCUSA remains strong, but, regrettably, primarily for persons/congregations/institutions with access to resources. There remain glaring inequities among congregations. Congregations of color and/or non-European memberships continue to need stronger access to financial resources and opportunities for leadership developement.
As an AMBS moard member it is exciting to hear reports about:
• the enrollment increases at seminary (with a particular spike this year in twenty-somethings enrollment)
• the !Explore Program (Lily funded) that provides high school youth an experience designed to encourage the development of their gifts in leadership, expose them to the world of theological ideas, and foster in them a call to vocation in the church
• the Engaging Pastors Program (also Lily funded) which helps AMBS and the Mennonite Church learn how to better prepare, support and sustain pastors.
As grant funding concludes for two of these key leadership development programs, it remains to be seen whether or not (in lean financial times) the wider church can fully sustain them. We hope funds come forth from congregations and individuals to do so.
As a congregational pastor I am thrilled by the increasing young adult presence and contribution to conversations at conventions. The intentional cultivation of a corps of young adult delegates at the last 3 conventions has noticably enlarged the young adult engagement. I hear and observe great things in that inspiring sector of the church!
As a parent, two of my teenage children have participated in collaborations between congregations/area conferences and the denomination in short term leadership development programs. The MIP still going strong after 20 years, gives college students a summer experience in a congregation to discover and test leadership potentials. One of my daughters spent a very rewarding summer at Madison (Wisc.) Mennonite in this program. At the high school level, Indiana-Michigan and Central District conferences sponsored a year-long LEAD NOW leadership exploration experience in which one of my daughters participated. Programs like !Explore, LEAD NOW, and Ministry Inquiry cultivate leadership potentials in young persons for sharing in local congregations whether or not they ever formally assume a pastoral leadership role.
Gay Brunt Miller, director of collaborative ministries, Franconia Mennonite Conference
I believe that we are beginning to see some of the fruits of our commitment toward becoming a missional church though I also believe that we have a long way to go. But here is some of what I’m thinking, hearing, and believing:
• I am seeing and hearing signs that lead me to believe that our seminaries are trying to adjust their curriculum and focus more in the direction of equipping new leaders for more outwardly-focused missional ministry rather than taking care of “our own.”
• I believe that the heart of the restructuring work currently being led by the Executive Board is meant to free more capacity in our system and to enhance our missional journey. I hope it does not get bogged down by the weight of those who will resist any change.
• I believe that we need to think strategically about the kinds of services our congregations and their leaders need to help them on their missional journeys and (continue to) retool our focus to listen and learn what they actually need and not just what we think they need. Is it possible to set aside “what is” enough to dream about “what might be”?
• At the same time, we make sure that we are hearing and learning from and responding to those that are moving in the direction we want others to move and not be reactive to placate those who are happy remaining inwardly focused.
• I hope that our leaders have the stamina needed for the long haul and to withstand all the drag that a system can exert as it seeks to maintain status quo and equilibrium. Are they receiving resources, coaching, and encouragement beyond themselves so that they do not lose heart and can stay focused on the big picture and a bigger vision?
• I am thrilled that we are beginning to sit up and take notice of what our racial/ethnic leaders are saying. They are some of our best practitioners. How can we make sure that we really listen to them and don’t assume that we already know what they are trying to say?
• Is there more that we can do to make space for the voices of women among us? Are we being intentional about nurturing and making space for more women and for younger women … space that has integrity and is more than balancing numbers? Are we truly encouraging women to use their gifts—giving them the space and encouragement to speak and to be truly heard?
• Are we serious enough about wanting to include and encourage the voices of women and racial/ethnic persons so that we are willing to include them, engage them, and take the time to draw out their voices in venues where they may not be accustomed to speaking? (Being intercultural is not always efficient.)
• I’m still not sure how to encourage congregations that don’t “get” what it means to be missional. I know, however, that it changes the character of a congregation when you have new believers in your midst—people who make a first time commitment to Christ and whose lives are truly changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Walking with a new believer through Holy Week … who can’t wait to come back the next night to find out how the next part of the story goes … that’s the stuff that changes the way even the most mature Christians read their Bibles! I wish that for every one of our congregations! Do we tell enough of those stories in our periodicals?
• Franconia Conference has over 30 people currently in some track toward ministry. If these (mostly young) people receive appropriate tools, space, and encouragement, this can begin to significantly reshape our congregations for the future.
Marco Güete, associate conference minister, Western District Conference
For the past eight years, I have been serving as the Western District Conference (WDC) associate conference minister for Texas churches. There are sixteen congregations, five of them are European-American the other eleven are Hispanic-American. In the European-American tradition congregations call professional pastors and tend to expect him or her to accept a pastorate and to be competent performing certain tasks such as officiating at communion, weddings, child dedications and preaching, teaching, etc. The leadership of the pastor has been understood in different ways. Pastoral leadership gives particular attention to competence, relationships, and credibility. The pastor is a person called by God and the people to be their spiritual guide.
In the Hispanic-American tradition (in formation) the same pastoral tasks are expected. The difference is that the European-Americans have college or seminary theological training and are well educated about the Church’s traditions before they receive a call from a church, while the Hispanic-Americans receive firstly the call to serve as pastor or church planter and later seek the theological training.
European-American pastors seek spiritual formation attending continuing education programs offered by Mennonite seminaries, seminars and workshops offered by the conference or the denomination. Hispanic-American pastors that are not proficient in the English language attend the annual continuing education offered by the Anabaptist Biblical Institute or seminars and workshops offered by the conference. Those that are bilingual benefit from both programs. Due to the fact that the majority of the Hispanic-American pastors and church planters are bivocational, continuing education and others, types of training are happening locally.
Because today so many Hispanic-American and European-American pastors in Texas churches serve the church in a ministry vocation as their sole means of financial support, bi-vocational ministers could be treated as second-class servants. This should not be the case! Dual career ministry is not a new or second-class option. Through the centuries, God called and used people in ministry who supported themselves financially through other professions. Pastors in Texas become bi-vocational ministers because God has called them to use that strategy for reaching and serving people who might otherwise not be served.
Mennonite Church USA is farther along in it goal of leadership development than it was six years ago. Theological institutions like EMS, AMBS and Mennonite Education Agency are farther along with the Mennonite Church USA in its goal of leadership development. The program LEAP365 from EMS is very effective tool working with the young generation of our church leaders.
Stories of Satisfaction
A church planters’ retreat combined with an intensive 30 hours IBA course on Introduction to the Anabaptist Theology has taken place once or twice a year in Texas with a large participation of about 32, from both church planters and the institute students.
Cultivating a Call Retreat once a year for pastors and church planters is significant in the formation of the pastors. In this case I played a roll in the programming and details of the Cultivating a Call Retreats that happened in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and others places. The one of the topic for the retreat was: “Peace and Justice in the Christian Home,” violence prevention, gender equality, and one other. The resource persons in this particular case were Mennonite Mission Network missionaries assigned to Ecuador.
The Anabaptist Biblical Seminary (Seminario), a pilot certificate program from AMBS-Great Plains extension offered in Dallas, is at present a key source of formation in the Spanish Language for some of the Hispanic-American pastors. The Seminario and the Institute are the alternative education for local formation of the Hispanic-American pastors fulfilling the minimal education requirements of WDC.
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- Church leaders say MC USA farther along in leadership development goal
- Mennos in the News: Mission worker indicted
- Program leads young adults to ministry
- Web exclusive: Mission irony
- Resistance brings more progress than expected
- One complaint sparks 400 calls and emails
- Amsterdam Mennonite 400 years old
- Germantown has 300-year anniversary
- Franconia recognizes 'shifting contexts'
- Israeli settlers attack Palestinian shepherds
- Mennonite Church USA Equipping now online
- Where is God taking us?
- Breaking down the walls of us and them
- Who's having a quarterlife crisis?
- U.S. and Canadian Mennos need each other
- Not politics as usual
- The morning after the election
- Convention theme uses unique word
- We are not all middle class and comfortable
- What good news?
- What good news? II
- Mixed emotions about evangelism
- Correction to attribution
- We cannot make peace with evil
Leadership Development: Church members with leadership gifts are called, trained and nurtured in Anabaptist theology and practice in order to fulfill the church’s missional vocation. (Exodus 18:13-23; Ephesians 4:7-16; Article 15, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)