Christian Faith Formation for Leadership Development
One of the key factors in vital, healthy congregations is an expanding number of lay persons prepared and engaged in leadership. A top priority of our UMC faith community right now focuses on considerably expanding the number of persons actively leading to assist others in going deeper in their relationship with God and inspiring them to lives of transformative love in the world. Christian disciples and leaders develop through actual opportunities to lead. This may sound obvious; however, it sheds light on the crucial difference between information and formation.
If we are going to engage persons in new avenues of Christian leadership they have never done before, it entails coming to know our group members well. Through quality relationships learners experience care and support, and teachers gain a greater awareness of the interests, gifts and graces that become natural entries into leadership for the learners. In addition, persons of any age feel less hesitant to serve when they receive the support they need to succeed in servant leadership. It hinges on our willingness to provide spiritual mentoring.
The movement to lifelong discipleship raises the bar for Christian faith formation, as well as how we view ourselves as teachers. It adds purpose and meaning to the teacher’s efforts. One effective, straight forward approach that I encountered early in my ministry came from J. David Stone, author of Catching the Rainbow: The Complete Youth Ministry Handbook. This approach continues to serve well both youth and adults. It parallels Jesus’ way of forming his disciples by inviting them to “Come, Follow Me.” This approach incorporates aspects of spiritual apprenticeship into Christian education as it focuses on learning by doing. Leadership becomes shared leadership. Here is a synopsis of Stone’s approach:
- I lead. Come and experience. At this stage, the person participates, observes, and benefits from being involved.
- I lead, and you assist. The teacher or leader, then, intentionally invites individuals to help lead in ways that coincide with their gifts and graces. They take on aspects of the leadership, but not the entire responsibility, which might be too intimidating or too much early on. The leader and learner work together, enabling the leader-in-training to grow in faith and ability through practice, encouragement, and reflection.
- You lead, and I assist. As skill, calling, and comfort increase, the roles shift. The leader-in-training takes the lead, and the mentor assists.
- You lead. The leader-in-training becomes the leader. The mentor moves on to nurture others for discipleship and leadership, while still maintaining supportive connection and inspiration.
For further consideration:
- How might you organize your teacher training and preparation to model this process?
- What intentional processes do you have or could you have that would move persons from participation to leadership in ways that flow from their unique God inspired abilities and interests?
iTeach is a toolbox of wisdom to develop, nurture, and encourage teachers, small group leaders, and pastors in their teaching ministry.