Today is a special day in our region. Our Church Leadership Institute (CLI) will be graduating six new students from our program. Some of these are already serving as bivocational pastors in some of our churches while others are lay leaders in their respective churches. Each of them have earned either the Certificate in Church Leadership or the Diploma in Pastoral Ministries depending on whether they have completed the two year or three year program. These individuals have worked hard giving up four Saturdays for each course they completed. For most, this has been a three or four year process. Some had well over an hour's drive each way to the classes that are taught on the campus of Franklin College here in Indiana. They were challenged by instructors who have the education and experience to teach the courses they led. Each of these individuals have the right to feel good about their accomplishment.
At every CLI graduation I am amazed at the students who are graduating and their stories. Some have driven three hours each way to attend classes. Some needed financial assistance to complete their studies and found sources of funds that enabled them to do that. Many of them speak of the sacrifices of their family members who allowed them to give up their Saturdays to attend classes. A few began their studies desiring to learn more about the Bible and church leadership so they could return to their churches and be more effective leaders only to feel a call of God on their lives to pastoral ministry. Every graduate has a story to tell.
Why do these individuals enroll in CLI? Each of them take seriously the call upon every Christian's life to be a disciple. These are individuals who want to go deeper with God than many of our church members. They sense a call of God on their lives to serve as leaders, either pastoral or lay, in their churches, and they want to be as prepared as possible. We offer a depth of instruction that is deeper than most churches can provide, and this is what they want. They want to be stretched in their faith, and I believe every class does that.
In my opinion, our Church Leadership Institute is one of the best ministries our region has offered our churches in some time. It is a way for our region to partner with our churches in the area of discipleship and growing healthy leaders. If I was pastoring a church again I would want every leader and potential leader in my church to be enrolled in CLI. I would challenge my church to pay at least part of their tuition as an investment in the future of our church.
We are about to make some significant changes in our Church Leadership Institute. Up until now we have only made it available to our American Baptist churches here in Indiana, but we are now opening it up to anyone regardless of denomination. Currently, we still only offer it through a classroom setting at Franklin College, but we are exploring some other options. If you are within driving distance of Franklin College (and we currently have a student driving down from Michigan!) and would like to know more about how the Church Leadership Institute can help you grow as a disciple and a leader in your church, please contact me or check our website at www.abc-indiana.org and look up the Church Leadership Institute.