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School of Congregational Leadership

School of Congregational Leadership

In 2016 I turned 60. It seemed like the ideal time to take my first sabbatical. I rested, rode my kayak and bike, binge-watched a TV series with my wife, fished, journaled, prayed, finished a book, and enjoyed being quiet for hours on end. I also worked with a professional coach to ask this question: What can my highest and best contribution be over the next ten years?

We brought this question to a number of respected friends and colleagues. Their counsel was clear and consistent:

Dream big. Aim for something you care deeply about and that feels impossible.

Consolidate. You have been casting seeds far and wide. Now concentrate and focus.

Partner wisely. Choose a few people you trust to work with most closely.

From this guidance, a plan emerged that we’re calling The School of Congregational Leadership.

SCL is a big dream: over the next decade, we hope to create at least a dozen centers or hubs of strength where vital innovative congregations are embodying and modeling a more just and generous Christian faith, engaging in meaningful lifelong spiritual formation rooted in a rich understanding of Jesus and the gospel, collaborating across denominations and with their counterparts from other religious traditions, seeking the common good by addressing critical issues in their region, and deploying gifted clergy as public theologians and moral leaders in their region and beyond.

It consolidates focus on local congregations, equipping leaders and congregations to collaborate in their region and beyond. And this plan puts me in partnership with Convergence, an organization started and led by Cameron Trimble, a young leader whose character and wisdom I trust.

In short, we hope to build an innovative new approach to Christian leadership development and congregational vitality with five unique characteristics:

Congregational Teams:
To build long-term congregational vitality, it is not enough to train a senior minister or even paid staff who will someday retire and move on. That’s why SCL will work with congregational teams the include senior pastoral staff along with key lay leadership.

Regional Focus:
Nineteenth-Century Christianity was rightly focused on small towns served by small congregations, but Twenty- First Century Christianity must focus on larger regions that include both one or more urban centers and their surrounding suburban and rural areas. By linking, thinking, and acting together, congregations who are part of SCL can build a shared regional ethos, a shared set of spiritual practices, and a shared missional strategy.

Multi-denominational Cohorts:
The problems and challenges faced in each region today cannot be solved by one denomination alone, nor can the problems faced within each denomination be solved by their denomination alone. As never before, we need a convergence of passionately committed Christians from diverse denominations who seek to embody a just and generous Christian faith together.

Global/Regional Vision:
Because every individual, faith community, and region is faced by the same global challenges (caring for the planet, eliminating poverty, working for peace, and fostering the well-being of all people) and by unique regional challenges, we must think and act both regionally and globally.

Passionate and Committed Leaders
As primary instructor, I’ll be joined by associate trainers and consultants who are personally and passionately committed to the goals of SCL. Together, we’ll seek to bring both historic resources and state-of-the art innovative thinking to each cohort.

The program will have seven components:
1. Leadership Symposiums: Congregational teams (consisting of the senior minister and up to five congregational leaders) will spend two days together twice a year in dynamic learning experiences with other teams in their region. Each weekend will include an open-to-all event to spread the influence. (Friday-Saturday)

2. Monthly Training Webinar: Each month, team members can participate in a monthly leadership webinar.

3. Annual Senior Ministers’ Retreat:
Senior ministers will receive additional training in a five-day leadership retreat in an enjoyable location.

4. Professional Coaching: Senior ministers will have a monthly coaching session with a professional coach who is part of the SCL.

5. On-Demand Resources: All teams will have access to on-demand resources.

6. Resource and Event Discounts: Participants will receive discounts for other Convergence events, courses, and resources.

7. A Written Regional Strategy: By the end of the first year, we will assist in the development of an ongoing regional strategy for ongoing training, communication, collaboration, and action among the cohort’s congregational teams, so that these twenty congregations can become a hub for ongoing spiritual growth and activism in their region and beyond.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact gregg@progressiverenewal.org.