Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Developing leaders for the church

The question is often asked, "Are leaders born or trained?"  The correct answer is "Yes!"  So far, I've not met a leader who had not been born, and most of them had received training of some kind.  No doubt there are some who were born to be leaders.  There's something in their DNA that just enables them to be a leader.  For others, leadership is more difficult, but even these people can often become a better leader with the proper training, and the right training will help the born leader be better as well.  The challenge for the local church is how to provide the training required that will develop the kinds of leaders our churches need.

In the region in which I serve, the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky, we developed the Church Leadership Institute (CLI) several years ago to provide training that would help raise the leadership level in our churches.  CLI consists of two tracks: a two-year program that leads to a Certificate in Church Leadership and a three-year track that earns the graduate a Diploma in Pastoral Ministry.  The two-year track requires that the graduate complete eight courses, and the three-year track requires an additional five courses for graduation.

Our original plan for CLI was to offer the two-year program to help develop the lay leaders who were serving in our churches.  As the first class neared the completion of the program they kept asking for more courses.  We then developed the third year track.  This program has been very successful in developing leaders in our churches, and we recently expanded the program from offering it at only one site to now making it available at three sites in Indiana.  We are currently exploring the possibility of adding two additional sites and looking at how it might grow even more in the future.

CLI has been successful in another way as well.  Some of our graduates are now serving as bivocational pastors in some of our smaller churches.  Many of their churches struggled for years with revolving-door pastorates and had been in decline.  Our CLI graduates have brought stability to these churches, and most of them have seen solid growth under the pastoral leadership of our CLI students.

CLI was never intended to replace a seminary education.  In fact, it was not originally designed to train pastoral leaders at all, but God has used this program to prepare some of those he has called to bivocational ministry in this region.

Across denominations, the numbers of bivocational ministers are growing, and most denominations expect that number to continue to climb.  The challenge facing each of us is how do we train these folks God is calling to this ministry.  Some will find ways to attend seminary, but many will not.  If we want trained bivocational ministers, denominations and judicatories are going to have to provide that training.  Some already offer such training programs, but many do not.  Those that do not need to take a long look at what this is going to cost them long-term if they have increasing numbers of churches being served by untrained pastors.

While we are training bivocational ministers we must not forget the importance of developing our lay leadership as well.  That has been one of the strengths of our program: it offers training for both lay and pastoral leadership.  We believe that if the leadership level is raised in our churches it makes it possible for our churches to enjoy more productive ministries.  I encourage our churches to view CLI as a training partner to help them develop the leadership their churches need.

Has God called you to leadership in a local church?  It doesn't matter if it is a pastoral role or a lay leadership position, that call to serve is also a call to prepare.  If you serve in Indiana or Kentucky you are invited to enroll in our CLI program regardless of your denominational affiliation.  If you serve outside our region, I encourage you to contact your state convention or district office and ask if they offer leadership development programs.  You may be a born leader, but you will become an even more effective one if you are also a trained leader.

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