The large group retreats are a key part of the Vital Leadership Academy experience. Below, are summaries of the 2016-17 retreats along with suggestions for next steps pastors can take in helping their VLA participants continue to grow as leaders.
Co-led by Susan Potter and Carolyn Sims, the purpose of the November retreat was two-fold. First, we helped participants identify their strengths using the StrengthsFinder 2.0 inventory. Second, we challenged participants to develop their ability to identify other people’s strengths. This skill is tremendously important in church leadership. Successful leaders know their people and help connect them to ministry roles that resonate with their gifts and passions. In addition, leaders build healthy ministry teams by identifying which strengths will help the team accomplish its goals and then recruiting team members with this in mind. In the closing worship service, Rev. Todd Pick used the illustration of butterflies to call us to remember the people who have shaped our lives.
How the pastor can connect: Ask your participant what his or her strengths are. If you’ve taken the StrengthsFinder inventory, you might consider sharing your own strengths. How can you best work together to help your church make disciples? Even if you haven’t done this particular inventory, you can still talk about how God uniquely gifts each person.
At the January retreat, Rev. Eric McKinney helped participants discover the power of planning. One of the central functions of church leadership is to help the congregation discern where God is calling it to go and to articulate steps for how to get there. Participants learned how to use three crucial questions: Who are we? Who is our neighbor? and What is God calling us to be and do? Rev. Wendi Bernau led a contemplative closing worship service where we sought to silence distractions in order to experience God in the quiet.
How the pastor can connect: Talk about your church’s mission and vision with your VLA participant/s. What do you sense God is calling your church to be and do? How does this vision influence how your church makes decisions?
The theme of the February retreat was “Develop.” Dr. Amber Esping, an educational psychologist at TCU, presented some helpful material about human motivation and how people process information. Insights into how people process information can help leaders more effectively convince others to try new strategies. Too often, churches get stuck in a rut and struggle to identify other ways to fulfill our shared mission to make disciples. By learning more about human motivation, leaders can also better help fellow congregants translate good ideas into action. People need to see how their efforts will contribute to something meaningful. In the closing worship service, Rev. Mike Ramsdell challenged us to consider where God is calling us in our next steps for leadership.
How the pastor can connect: Talk with your participant about your church’s vision and goals. Together you can identify barriers that might be holding your congregation back. Talk about a couple ways your participant can help lead your church or a segment of your church past these barriers.
For the final retreat, Dr. Clifton Howard led a session on conflict resolution. Conflict in any group is inevitable, and it is not inherently good or bad. There are, however, healthy and unhealthy ways to respond to conflict. Clifton described five different approaches to dealing with conflict and led the group through a series of practical scenarios. At the closing worship service, Bishop Mike Lowry reflected on the challenges facing churches and commissioned the group to help lead their churches in carrying out the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
How the pastor can connect: Talk with your participant about your experiences of leading amid conflict. What have you learned? Talk about conflicts currently present in your church. Strategize about healthy ways to respond to these conflicts. Invite your participant to assist you in your response.