A proposal for church leader development

I’ve been reading Jay Voorhees’ excellent notes from his discussion with a table of others at the Tennessee Conference’s Leadership Summit event. In the third installment, he wrote about the discussion at his table around the question of what the conference could do to foster positive movement at local churches.

Among other things, Jay wrote this:

Although the group didn’t mention this, I also believe that within the Tennessee Annual Conference we need to direct resources toward having a staff member solely focused on leadership development, working with pastors and congregations to develop the means and vision to lead toward transformation.

The delivery of such training is a huge challenge. In my former district, the DS took the lead in organizing training events – with conference involvement I’m sure – to help respond to key needs for laity and clergy development. But I gather – this is my observation and not based on any conversations with those who know – that the events are often received at the local church level (particularly by the laity) as chores to do or be avoided.

Everyone says they want training and development, but not many people actually take to it with gusto when it is offered.

I wonder if the solution is not to make it more democratic but to make it more exclusive. What if conferences developed “special” developmental opportunities for “key” leaders. The training would be set up more like intensive college courses rather than drop-in afternoon workshops with lunch served. In other words, the effort would be to create valuable learning experiences but only for those who really want them. Indeed, you would intentionally offer less that demand to create a waiting list.

This would hold down costs and increase the perception that this is not some onerous conference training expectation, but rather special opportunity for those who really want it.

Yes, this would leave those who don’t want to grow and develop to flounder. But they are going to do that anyway. Motivation is one of the key determinants of learning. Rounding up clergy and laity and forcing them through a workshop they don’t want to be part of does not do much good.