Growing and sustaining church leaders

February 2, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 3
Karen Martens Zimmerly |

Indeed the body does not consist of one member, but of many (I Corinthians 12:14).

Mennonite Church Canada has identified the challenge of growing leaders for the church as one of our main priorities. To find out what kind of leadership development is needed in a world that continues to grow more diverse and complex, we’re engaging in conversations across the church.

So what are we learning?

To thrive in this unsettled reality, the church needs visionary leaders who can inspire existing congregations as well as new ministries to enter into God’s mission in a changing landscape. Amidst all the commotion, we also need leaders with a non-anxious presence, renewed and sustained by God’s vision for the world.

To meet today’s demands for leadership, we are calling on every member of the body to bring their gifts to a partnership for pastoral formation and training.

Congregational life and active ministry hone and mature a pastor’s leadership skills. We need to encourage and equip local congregations to recognize and embrace their role in forming pastors, but also in their ongoing responsibility to identify and nurture new leaders with a diversity of gifts for new ministry opportunities.

But local congregations cannot carry the burden of leadership development alone.

We also need the gifts that our schools bring, to offer sustained, in-depth training and formation shaped by ongoing research and scholarship. School environments have the unique opportunity to provide a communal setting for peer relationships, networking and support that continues into the ministry setting.

Not everyone has access to the pastoral training our post-secondary schools offer, but technologies are now available to help us make training more accessible across cultural diversities, geographical locations and personal realities. We need to think creatively about how we can offer pastoral training at a number of educational levels to form and sustain pastors for their calling. But this is not a responsibility that the schools can carry alone.

In a world where change is normative, systems of ongoing and regular support, resourcing, re-tooling and spiritual renewal are vital. Our area churches play a key role in providing these services and creating new initiatives for support.

 As the national church, MC Canada recognizes its responsibility to create and facilitate a new vision for leadership development. The vision taking shape has partners who are in conversation with each other, sharing gifts and experiences, and together creating more collaborative, flexible and diverse paths for leadership development.

While we do not know what the future will hold, we do know that the One who has called us to be the body of Christ is the One who will sustain us and walk with us.

We invite you to come to the MC Canada assembly this summer at the University of Waterloo, Ont., to hear more about the strategic plan for pastoral leadership development.

Karen Martens Zimmerly is Mennonite Church Canada’s denominational minister and director of leadership development.

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