Years ago, Lisa and I had a foster daughter named Laura. She was six years of age when she moved into our home. She was spunky, energetic and always spoke her mind. For about two years, we were her family until she returned to her biological mother. One evening during dinner, Lisa and I were engaged in a conversation. Apparently, Laura had been listening to our conversations for several months, and she interrupted with an empahtic, “Leeeeeeeeeeeeadership! That’s all you guys ever talk about.”
Having a new child in the house made us realize that we did tend to talk about leadership a great deal.
I believe the local church rises and falls on leadership. Both the pastor and the people are responsible for growing their leadership effectiveness. It takes two to tango, it also take two to make a healthy congregation. The world that we live in today demands leadership.
While I do agree with St. Paul, that there are individuals who possess a unique gift of leadership, as there are those who have the many other gifts of the Spirit – teaching, hospitality, generosity, prayer, etc (See Romans 12:3-8) I have also become convinced that leadership is more learned than gifted. Plus, every leader can always be growing in his or her leadership skills.
Leadership can be taught, and it can be learned. In other words, we have a responsibility to be investing in people and developing their leadership potential. On and off over the years, and now four years running, Lisa and I have attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It is one of the best investments we make every year in our continuing education. The program is simulcast all over the world, and there are several sites in New England.
In two days, we are exposed to some great thinking in the area of leadership as speakers from the business, government, non-profit and church sectors outline a series of real world learnings. Years ago we were inspired by an African-American speaker who had moved to Detroit to serve a congregation in the poorest zip code in that down trodden city. His emphasis on faith in action was one of the inspirations for our own faith in action movement at St. Andrew, and later lead to our Do What Matters service projects in Springfield in 2011.
Each year I will hear someone speaking on an area that assists me in my ministry - perhaps it's in the area of recruiting volunteers, or leading a balanced life or planning or time management. The benefits are worth the cost of the event.
Now some of you may wonder what is a Lutheran pastor now bishop doing at an evangelical leadership conference? Isn’t their theology different than ours? What if someone says something that isn’t doctrinally sound? Is there a danger of being influenced in some way that may distract us from our Lutheran identity?
I’ve got a multitude of responses to these questions and concerns, but you don’t want to be reading this all day. So briefly. 1. Hello! This is what our theological education is designed to do. Namely, help us engage, discern and make intelligent decisions. Have I ever heard something at these conferences that raises an eyebrow? Of course. I always operate on the assumption that we are smart people and can think for ourselves. 2. The Lutheran faith has much to offer both the world and the whole spectrum of the Christian church. But, we have to stop living in this Lutheran ghetto, where we think "our way is the only way and the right way." We can learn from others, and vice versa. I attended both Union Theological Seminary in New York City, as well as Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. These two seminaries represent either end of the intellectual seminary education in America today. I benefitted from the diversity of perspective, and had to clarify my place as a Lutheran in both settings. THat was a challenge, it was a fun challenge.
I’ve learned about prayer and spirituality from Episcopalians and Roman Catholics. I’ve learned about family systems from a Jewish rabbi. I’ve discovered new understandings in public speaking from secular marketing people. I’ve been shaped in my views of human sexuality by people older and younger than I. I’ve come to understand my position of privilege in this world from people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Why can’t we learn about leadership from fellow Christians?
It’s a chunk of change to attend but probably the best dollars you’ll spend on continuing education this year, and by the way, this is not just for pastors. If you are in the business world, there is great stuff for you as well.
More information at this link here