I do not have to tell you that we are living in times of radical and fast-paced change in our understanding of what it means to do and be church. In our conference, increasing numbers of congregations are turning to part-time and bi-vocational pastors and relying more and more heavily on the ministry of the laity to faithfully be the church in today’s context. The farther I go in my DMin studies in Creative Leadership the more convinced I am that nurturing vibrant, spiritually-alive and theologically-grounded leadership is one of the most important and necessary functions for the current and future well-being of the church.
Leadership development and how best to approach this in a deeper and more comprehensive way in our conference has been a frequent topic of conversation among the conference staff and board of directors over the last few years. Therefore, it seemed like an answer to our prayers when Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister in the Minnesota Conference, reached out in the fall of 2016 to inquire about our willingness to work with them to build a leadership development program. As the conversation unfolded, Franz, Shari, the Boards of Directors in both conferences, and I decided to take a chance and work collaboratively on the development of a program that would be based on the best elements of what our Lay Academy offers but that would also have the capacity and the possibility to serve both conferences now and into the future.
We have developed a joint team with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences whose charge is to guide and nurture this idea into being. The team chose the name The Damascus Project after studying the story of Paul’s transformational experience on the road to Damascus. As we pondered Paul’s transformation, his blindness and return to sight we became convinced that God is calling us to see with fresh eyes when it comes to equipping leaders for service in God’s church and our world.
As it stands now, the primary focus of The Damascus project will be to provide innovative challenge and response learning opportunities rooted in the UCC’s Marks for Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministry. The long-term vision is to provide lay people as well as licensed and ordained clergy in both conferences with courses that will bring the theological, spiritual and scriptural, and historical richness of the Christian tradition into conversation with the real-life ministry situations and contemporary concerns of our culture and times. In this way we plan to equip leaders to transform lives and communities through the power of God’s love and the wisdom of the gospel for our world.
We look forward to sharing more information about this exciting project as it unfolds and hope that you will support this effort with your prayers. Please note that the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy will continue to function as it has faithfully and well for the last 24 years.
I welcome any and all questions about this emerging possibility. I can be contacted via email or at 608-846-7880. Stay tuned for the announcement of the exciting course offerings of The Damascus Project in mid-2018.
Greetings in the Spirit of our God who is Creator, Christ and Wisdom for the ages!
For some time now I have wanted to initiate a conversation about pastoral leadership, with the idea that we all have insight, ideas and resources to share. One of our intentional focus areas is Clergy and Congregational Leadership Development. Below is a series of posts in which I lift up key strategies to prompt conversation among us about the importance of understanding the pastoral role through the lens of organizational leadership.
We have chronicled these weekly writings on our blog site, with hopes that many of you will engage in reflections and responses so that that we might collectively curate ideas about effective ministerial leadership.
Strategies – The Basics
Strategies – Shedding Old Structures
Strategies – Mission and Money Go Together!, August 18, 2016
Strategies – Authenticity is Essential, August 11, 2016
Strategies – Process Process Process, August 4, 2016
Strategies – Strategies – Learning to Juggle, July 28, 2016
Strategies – Touch Points, July 21, 2016
Strategies – The Shepherds Staff, July 14, 2016
Strategies – Navigating Change, July 7, 2016
Strategies – Good Governance, June 30, 2016
If you would like to share your congregation’s leadership development ideas, successes or resources with others, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.