As a pipeline transports water for a purpose—providing clean and reliable water to homes and businesses—USMB’s new Leadership Pipeline is designed to create a pool of future leaders from which Mennonite Brethren churches can draw.
It’s needed, says Russ Claassen, one of three new part-time Leadership Pipeline mobilizers, citing the calls he’s received from churches asking for names of youth pastor candidates.
“There’s just not a lot of people going into ministry right now from anywhere, and I think we definitely see that in our Mennonite Brethren churches,” Claassen says. “A lot of the new hires that we’ve had in USMB churches have come from outside the denomination. So, one of the goals is to raise up leaders that can then serve with our Mennonite Brethren churches, or anywhere.”
To help make these connections, USMB has hired Claassen and two other mobilizers to oversee the pipeline, with the goal of identifying and training a steady stream of interns interested in ministry in a mutually beneficial partnership with local MB churches.
In addition to Claassen, Kyle Goings and Heidi Quiring will serve as mobilizers. Working approximately 5 to 7 hours a week each, mobilizers will establish connections with churches and individuals interested in pursuing internships and facilitate training.
USMB national director Don Morris, USMB Youth and the USMB Leadership Board initially intended to hire one part-time leadership development mobilizer, then shifted the approach to seek multiple regional mobilizers.
More important than geographic location, however, became a shared interest and ability to network and connect, says Goings, who will serve as lead mobilizer.
“COVID-19 has changed how we connect and who we connect with,” Goings says. “Now it’s more of a common interest; it’s more of a shared experience connection than it is, ‘I’m in this region, I (am in) this state; therefore, I’m connected here.’ That’s why we threw out the regional part and said, ‘Let’s bring in people who are naturally networking, naturally can connect and (have) a passion for what we’re trying to do.’”
All three mobilizers bring established connections to the role.
Quiring, from Hillsboro, Kansas, serves part-time as a mission mobilizer with Multiply, the MB mission agency. When she heard about the open position, she says she thought the role would be a good fit with her current work.
“I really want to see our churches be more united and connected, and I think this is one way for that to happen,” says Quiring, who attends Ebenfeld MB Church, rural Hillsboro. “We all bring different giftings to the table.”
Meanwhile, Claassen, Southern District youth minister from Newton, Kansas, who is part of Koerner Heights Church, has worked closely with Goings and is already involved in national youth programming.
“I bring my Southern District connections, and I’ve worked with some national events,” Claassen says. “I think the LEAD Cohorts have helped provide some different connections as well.”
Goings, who is from Wichita, Kansas, chairs USMB Youth and served in the Central District for eight years. He is a member of the pastoral staff at Ridgepoint Church, Wichita.
“All of us are Mennonite Brethren people,” Goings says. “We already have established connections, but the best part is, not all of the connections are the same.”
Whether traveling to meet face to face, making phone calls, joining Zoom meetings or sending emails or Facebook messages, mobilizers will encourage churches to seek out students displaying leadership qualities.
“All of us have that desire to grow connections with people that we don’t know and churches that we’re not already connected with,” Claassen says. “I’m excited to see this grow and see how the pipeline can be part of a larger USMB network.”
Training future leaders
The pipeline will both identify and train future leaders, utilizing a new website, www.leaderpipeline.net, where churches can post openings for internships and potential interns can post profiles.
“I think we’ll find a lot more churches are open and available to start off with because churches are already established, and we already have networks with churches,” Goings says. “We don’t have an established pool (of) up-and-coming leaders, so the hardest part about our job as mobilizers is identifying leaders and helping others identify leaders and then getting them onto the pipeline.”
Once a part of the pipeline, interns will benefit from training on both the individual level and group level.
Interns will meet regularly with a supervisor at the local church, utilizing a 10-week training package provided by the mobilizers touching on topics such as spiritual development and expectations.
During weekly video calls, mobilizers will facilitate intentional leadership training specific to the area of ministry the intern has chosen, whether working with children, youth, worship, media or in another area. Interns will have the opportunity to hear from veterans and experts in certain fields, possibly in collaboration with MB institutions and ministries. Training will include identity and confirming one’s calling, battles faced and ministry essentials, including a crash course in ministering to new generations.
Mobilizers would like to explore ways to work together in mutually beneficial partnerships with MB institutions, including Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., Fresno Pacific University (FPU) and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, Calif., as well as Multiply, FaithFront and MB Foundation.
While the details are still in negotiation, both Tabor and FPU plan to offer scholarships for pipeline interns, Goings says, and possible funding for internships is available through MB Foundation’s LeadGen scholarship fund.
Goings also expressed a desire to explore overlap and assistance at the district level, including with the PDC NextGen Board.
Mobilizers would like to see 10 interns in summer 2022, although Goings says a more realistic expectation is three to five, adding they would like to see 20 church profiles created on the website regardless of whether that church has an immediate opening.
There are no age restriction for interns, but the target age is post-high school and college, with possible future expansion into residency programs.
“Our goal is for it to be the most effective it can be at identifying and raising up leaders and then plugging those leaders into places where they can serve,” Claassen says. “We hope it’s a benefit to the churches as well.”
For more information, listen to Episode 46 of USMB LEAD Pods in which host Matt Ehresman visits with Goings and Claassen about the pipeline.
Potential interns and churches wanting to create a profile for the pipeline should visit www.leaderpipeline.net to sign up.
Janae Rempel Shafer is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Shafer is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Shafer graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She and her husband, Austin, attend Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas.