Comments from the Conference Minister, April 2017

Heidi Regier Kreider

What do a leaky toilet and a congregational visioning process have in common?  They are both issues that we might face in a typical week at the WDC office!  The toilet down the hall is leaking, and needs to be fixed. Then a pastor calls asking for resources for a visioning process in her congregation.  Both are important needs that require response.

So, what is the difference between a leaky toilet and a congregational visioning process?  The leaky toilet is a technical challenge:  It can be fixed quickly by a skilled plumber with the right tools!  Congregational visioning is an adaptive challenge – a complex process involving many people with different perspectives working together for a common purpose. It requires leaders who listen to multiple viewpoints, face uncertainty and conflict, experiment, inspire hope and engage people effectively in the process.  There is no quick technical solution to the question of what direction God is leading a congregation.  Such discernment requires adaptive leadership.

Adaptive leadership training is the focus of the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita, KS.  For the third year in a row Western District Conference and South Central Mennonite Conference have jointly received a grant from KLC for leadership training.  In 2015 and 2016, approximately 45 WDC pastors and congregation members attended KLC programs, and so far in 2017, 20 people from WDC plan to attend training.

KLC defines leadership as “mobilizing others to do difficult work for the common good.” Its programs are based on five principles: Leadership is an activity, not a position; anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere; it starts with you and must engage others; your purpose must be clear; and it’s risky!  Through presentations, case studies, small group interaction and other activities, KLC programs equip people in four areas of leadership competency: Diagnosing the situation, energizing others, intervening skillfully, and managing yourself.  Each of these areas includes practices that provide creative and effective ways to offer leadership.  For example, “energizing others” requires us to listen to a variety of voices, work across factions of difference and disagreement, acknowledge the loss that people may feel, inspire a collective purpose, and create a trustworthy process.  To read more about KLC’s leadership competencies, see www.kansasleadershipcenter.org.

KLC’s wholistic approach to leadership can be applied to personal and family life, work, community involvement, and congregational ministry; it helps congregations and leaders more effectively meet the complex challenges, conflicts and opportunities we face in today’s world.  To support this, WDC is hosting monthly “leadership lunches” for people who are interested in discussing adaptive leadership.  Each session focuses on one leadership competency, with practical examples, scriptural examples and connections to Anabaptist theology and practice.

I invite you to join this conversation!  If you want to expand your leadership skills by attending a training program at KLC, contact WDC for more information.  Additional training spots from WDC’s 2017 grant are still available, but sessions are filling up fast!

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