For the past 12 years the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky have offered the Church Leadership Institute (CLI) to its region to help their churches train lay leaders. Last Saturday another seven students of the program graduated with dozens of family and church friends in attendance.
CLI is divided into two tracks. Track One consists of eight courses, each consisting of four classes each, that teaches intros to both the Old and New Testament, Theology, Church and Baptist History, and various other subjects we believe will be helpful to church leaders. Those who complete this track receive a Certificate in Church Leadership.
If a student wants to continue his or her studies Track Two offers five additional courses that teaches about pastoral care, preaching, leading worship, and more leadership. These graduates earn a Diploma in Pastoral Ministry.
Most of our students are already lay leaders in their churches who want to learn more and grow in their leadership. A few enter the program as bivocational pastors in our churches who have not had a formal ministerial education. Some feel called to bivocational ministry while they are in the program. We now have several CLI graduates pastoring churches in the region.
When we first began all our classes were held on the campus of Franklin College. Each class met on Saturdays for six hours. When our fall term began this year we were at five different sites in the region making it even more accessible for students to attend. However, it has been amazing to see people willing to spend hours on the road to attend classes. We had one carpool of students who drove over two hours each way to attend CLI. One recent graduate drove down from Michigan while another comes from Ohio. Each of them has said that their CLI experience was so rich they would do it again.
At the recent graduation each of the graduates were given a few minutes to share what CLI has meant to them. Most spoke of instructors who challenged them and taught them how to think and make their faith their own. They spoke of the friendships they made with fellow students. Some admitted their fear of returning to a classroom after being out of that environment for years, but also how much they had learned and grown from the experience. Several wished there were even more classes they could take.
Our CLI has undergone several changes since it began. As mentioned earlier, all our classes met at one site until just a couple of years ago. CLI was just open to members of our American Baptist churches, but we have since opened it up to anyone regardless of denomination or church affiliation who wants to attend. Originally, we just offered Track One, but as students began to complete that program they were asking for more so we added the second track. We are currently looking at additional ways to improve CLI, but one thing has not changed and that is its purpose. We want to train and develop the leadership serving in our churches. This includes both the lay and pastoral leadership.
Most students enroll for the entire program, but some are only interested in specific classes. We offer a course for youth ministers that some want to take but are not currently interested in the entire program. A pastor may feel that a refresher course in preaching might be helpful and would enroll in just that one course. Our American Baptist polity course is one way for persons seeking ordination to complete the polity requirement so they enroll in that course.
If you live in Indiana or a surrounding state and are interested in learning more about CLI you can check it out on our region website, www.abc-indiana.org, or contact me. You do not have to be an American Baptist to enroll in CLI. If you live elsewhere and wish you could be involved in a training program like this, check with your judicatory leaders. Many of them have similar programs that you may not know about. If you are called to church leadership, either as a layperson or minister, you need to sharpen the gifts God has given you, and CLI is a great resource to help you do that.