Summit focuses on equipping churches to cultivate leaders

NST will use summit discussions to formulate action plans

Pastor Fred Leonard leads NST Leadership Summit participants in "mapping" the path someone takes to becoming a USMB pastoral staff member or mission worker.

The USMB National Strategy Team hosted 33 people from a variety of USMB ministries and local congregations for a one-day Leadership Development Summit held Aug. 30, 2017, at the MB Foundation headquarters in Hillsboro, Kansas.

The intention of the summit was to focus on assisting local U.S. Mennonite Brethren congregations in their own leadership development initiatives, although at times conversations also delved into calling and training pastors. At one point early in the day, Don Morris, USMB national director who moderated the summit, asked the group to keep their focus on assisting local churches while acknowledging that the two are connected.

“I tried to make it clear that today was about developing leadership in the local church,” Morris said. “But that leads to pastoral development too.”

Discussions were lively and by the end of the day the walls of the meeting area were covered with large sheets of paper used to record what was said.

“Although there were many varying ideas expressed, I felt the day was filled with unity and support for one another,” writes Don Morris, USMB national director, in an email to all participants following the summit. “I believe it’s a good start toward enhancing our leadership development in our churches and conference…. The National Strategy Team (NST) will review the notes from the event and will begin putting together some action plans based on our conversations and feedback at the summit.”

The eight-member NST has said its intention is to consult with various leaders and resource people as they brainstorm and develop strategic plans around the three USMB core commitments of church multiplication and evangelism, intentional disciple-making and leadership development.

The August summit was the largest gathering the NST has hosted since it was formed in late 2016. Earlier this year, the NST invited three pastors—two Hispanic and one Slavic—to talk about serving an ethnically diverse constituency.

In preparation for the Leadership Summit, participants were asked to read two books: Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck and Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear.

Morris began the summit by leading a group discussion reflecting on selected quotes from the resource books, followed by table discussions on the elements of leadership development as illustrated in a video clip from a football game.

Following this general discussion, Morris shifted the conversation to creating a “culture of sending” within the USMB family.

Prior to the event, each participating ministry was asked to provide a one-page strategic plan for how their organization or ministry could “help develop leaders for vital local church ministry.” Morris invited a representative from each ministry present to give a very brief comment regarding their report.

Rhonda Dueck, back left, director of the Micah Project of North Fresno Church in Fresno, Calif., describes the internship program she directs.

Noting the abundance of resources available, Morris asked, “How can we bring all of these together and help each other? There is a lot going on in the MB world, but there are still some silos on the prairie. How can we bring it together?”

These questions introduced the next discussion topic, which was to pinpoint gaps and “broken parts” in U.S. Mennonite Brethren leadership development and to identify specific ideas for developing a culture of sending in local churches.

Discussions around these questions followed the same format. Participants initially brainstormed as table groups and then someone from each table listed for the entire group the high points of their discussion. These lists were recorded on sheets of paper that were then posted around the room.

While the morning discussions tended to be general, the afternoon conversations focused specifically on the strengths and weaknesses found in current USMB leadership development strategies.

In the first afternoon session, attendees identified specific ways in which the ministries represented at the summit could better work together. The ministries were grouped by category: districts, cross-cultural missions and church planting, schools, para-church ministries, pastors and the national conference. Participants gave feedback and ideas for what each group needed from the others. For example, attendees agreed that internships are one avenue for developing leaders that could be better coordinated among all the groups.

In the last session led by Fred Leonard, a pastor from Fresno, California, attendees mapped out a strategy for calling, supporting and training pastoral staff for USMB congregations. The “map” followed a person from elementary school, to high school and college and concluded with pastoral ministry and identified experiences and attitudes that contribute to cultivating a leader.

Leonard then led participants in identifying ways in which each person in the local church can be discipled as they answer God’s call that his followers be “on mission” in their everyday lives. Like with the previous topics, ideas and issues raised were recorded on large sheets of paper. The posted lists as well as minutes of the summit will be used by the NST to develop a strategy.

In addition to Morris, NST members are the five district ministers (Rick Eshbaugh of the Central District Conference, Aaron Hernandez of the LAMB Conference, Terry Hunt of the North Carolina District Conference, Gary Wall of the Pacific District Conference and Tim Sullivan of the Southern District Conference) Jon Wiebe of MB Foundation and Randy Friesen of MB Mission.

Leadership Development Summit participants were:

  • Jana Hildebrandt representing the USMB Board of Faith and Life;
  • Rick Eshbaugh and Daniel Rodriguez of the Central District Conference;
  • Connie Faber of the Christian Leader;
  • Wendell Loewen and Leah Remboldt of Faith Front;
  • Brent Warkentin and John Oelze of First MB Church in Wichita, Kansas;
  • Brian Ross representing Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, California;
  • Valerie Rempel representing Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California;
  • Fred Leonard and Tony Petersen of Mountain View Church in Fresno, California;
  • Bob Davis, Stephen Humber and Galen Wiest of MB Mission;
  • Rhonda Dueck of the Micah Project, Fresno, California;
  • Kyle Goings and Russ Claassen of the National Youth Commission;
  • Terry Hunt of the North Carolina District Conference;
  • Gary Wall of the Pacific District Conference;
  • Xavier Pina of the Pacific District Hispanic Council;
  • Tim Sullivan of the Southern District Conference;
  • Jules Glanzer and Tom Shaw of Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas;
  • Ed Boschman and Chandelle Claassen for USMB LEAD Coaching
  • Marv Schellenberg for the USMB Leadersip Board;
  • Donna Sullivan for the U.S. Conference; and
  • Al Ewert of World Impact and The Urban Ministry Institute.

MB Foundation hosted the summit and Tabor College provided dinner.


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