By Chris Backert; Ecclesia Director & Organizational Architect
The Changing Nature of Leadership Development in Emerging Networks
In many established associations, there have been programs put in place for leadership development among both congregations and clergy. As with several of these other practices, leadership development was carried out through the centralized office of the denomination, either at the regional or national level. In contrast, emerging church networks will focus on leadership development as a key aspect of their agenda.
However, leadership development will be carried out through mentoring relationships and leadership-training events put together through the shared work of the network. Acts 29 has the most developed system for this ongoing equipping and leadership training of any network at the moment.
As with all the prior practices, leadership development will be distributed instead of centralized. Network leaders can work with pastors and key laity in the congregation to construct development plans that access the resources of the persons involved in the association community. For instance, in addition to providing training for leadership development, the new network will highlight particular churches that are carrying out this task effectively. Those seeking to learn and develop will be encouraged to engage in conversation with practitioners that are involved in successful ministry in a comparative context. This approach builds community and can develop a culture of generosity, reciprocity, and mutual equipping. The network can serve the churches in its community by developing lists of strengths and areas of expertise from among the leadership of the network. As will hold true in the area of resource development, the best practices for ministry in this new era will be developed from those working on the ground.
Leadership Development within the Ecclesia Network
Within Ecclesia, this continues to be an area for our growth and development. As the regional activity of our network is bolstered, we expect that more and more of these opportunities will begin to take place. In addition, we are looking at piloting a few learning communities over the next two years that will allow churches in a region to work together with members of their congregations toward some shared development. Also, an increasing number of congregations within Ecclesia are developing residency or apprenticeship programs. The Renew Community outside of Philadelphia, the District Church in Washington D.C., and Imago Dei in Richmond, VA all have active residency opportunities. Lastly, we are working at increasing the visibility of all of our congregations to one another by highlighting regular stories of their work throughout the year. This will provide a better vantage point for network members to know who they can look toward related to their experience and expertise. Hopefully, with greater connectivity among all members of Ecclesia, we will see signs of the natural and organic growth we are all experiencing as we are on this journey together.