by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister

“Leadership is heart and soul work. You won’t exercise leadership unless you care for the common good.… The risks of leadership are too great.  Only when your heart and soul pull you toward the greater – common – good do the risks of leadership seem worth it.”  

– from For The Common Good: Participant Handbook, published by the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) in Wichita, KS.

I first read these sobering words while preparing for a KLC seminar I attended in August as a recipient of a Leadership Transformation scholarship through Western District Conference.  WDC is partnering with South Central Conference (SCC) in a grant from KLC, to provide training for pastors and congregational teams.

KLC invites participants to identify a leadership challenge that addresses the gap between the vision to which they aspire and current reality.  To exercise leadership is to mobilize others to work together to make progress toward the vision.  This requires adaptive work, not just technical solutions.  A technical challenge can be solved relatively quickly with the right expertise, appropriate tools and sufficient authority.   An adaptive challenge, on the other hand, cannot be “fixed” that efficiently.  It requires learning new ways of thinking and acting, shifting responsibility from “experts” to the people, distinguishing between what is expendable and what is essential, experimenting, clarifying values, and patiently taking the time necessary for this process.

With adaptive challenges in mind, the KLC teaches the following leadership principles:  Leadership is an activity – not a position. Anyone can lead, anytime.  It starts with you and must engage others.  Your purpose must be clear.  And it’s risky.

Indeed!  As I begin my new role as WDC Conference Minister, our congregations, conference and denomination face many adaptive challenges for which there is no “quick fix.” I am aware of the risks of exercising church leadership in the midst of change, complexity and conflict.  For that reason I am deeply grateful for all the encouragement that has come my way through prayers, e-mails, cards, facebook messages, and visits.  And I am even more grateful that people’s responses to the Conference Minister appointment are not just about me, but also reveal a deep love for the church and a common commitment to be part of God’s work in the world.   This makes the risk of leadership worthwhile!

In future Sprouts, I plan to reflect on each of four leadership competencies in which the KLC offers training:  Diagnosing the Situation, Managing Self, Intervening Skillfully, and Energizing Others.  How might these core aspects of leadership resonate with Biblical models and theological concepts at the heart of our common call to be a community of Jesus-followers?

I am also working with representatives from KLC, WDC and SCC to plan ongoing ways for pastors and congregational teams to connect with each other as we apply leadership principles and competencies relevant to our own ministry contexts and Anabaptist theology.   If you are interested in participating in an upcoming seminar, please contact me for more information.

Let us join together on the risky and transforming journey of faith!

Now to the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)