by Andy Breckwoldt
If you step back and look at St. John the Divine, our mission is around connecting people to Jesus because we know that, in that process, their lives will be changed for good. Among other things, it turns out that Jesus was, in essence, the greatest leadership role model of all time. He raised up disciples and founded a movement that continues to impact the course of history, two thousand years later.
For us, leadership development is about following Jesus’ model for the purpose of raising up Christian servant leaders in the mold of the disciples. We believe leadership is influence and everyone is a leader. Everyone has influence in some way, whether it's in their work, their family, at school, in ministry, or simply through serving others. We really feel our leadership initiative is for everybody.
St. John the Divine's leadership initiative began a few years ago when the church started looking at leveraging our unique capabilities and strengths. One of the things we saw was that we had an amazing depth of capability in fairly senior-level leaders in this church, both staff and lay leaders. The intent of the leadership program was to harness that strength to serve our members and our community.
Our single biggest leadership program event is the Global Leadership Summit. It's an event that brings together a world-class faculty of leaders and live-streams their presentations to 500 sites in North America. We set up a large screen in the Hall Life Center and create a very immersive experience. About half of our participants are from the local community, so we're really serving the community significantly as well as our parish. We'll be bringing the Summit back on campus this August and also offering it as a virtual experience. The Global Leadership Summit is a wonderful opportunity to serve and participate. We're taking registrations and we'll be looking for lots of volunteers!
Leadership Foundations is a 10-week course we created here at St. John the Divine that is designed to develop the participants’ leadership capabilities, based on a biblical perspective of servant leadership with Jesus as the model. We pulled together some really talented leaders from St. John the Divine who contributed the best things we had seen in our business careers and in our faith journeys and put them into this course. It's a very rigorous course, but we've had some really amazing feedback. After last year's course, a 50-something African-American woman, who is a pastor in our local community. came up to me and told me that it had changed her life.
Last fall we had the unique experience of going virtual with the course. That enabled one of our local community partners, the Mission of Yahweh, to send their entire team. This team serves 120 women and children that they've taken off the streets of Houston at any given time and puts them on a course to housing and jobs. The feedback from them was that it changed and impacted them personally. It's good to be able to impact them such in a way that they will be able to do what they do a whole lot better.
Our community partners have an incredible appetite for this leadership development. They don't have a lot of access to leadership development training and experiences, and what they can get from St. John the Divine is not only valuable but Christian-based, which is very unique. We surveyed a range of our community partners, and virtually all of them are interested in sending people to this course. We expect to be running multiple courses a year, both in-person and virtually.
We just wrapped up a special program for our young professionals (young people in their 20’s & 30’s) called Find Your Purpose. We took some material from our leadership course, modified it a bit, and added a bit to create a program to help these young people better understand their gifts, their strengths, and their talents, and to build on that sense of purpose in the context of what God is doing in the world.
We wanted to do something that would help them and encourage them, but really be useful to them in deciding what kind of direction they want to go. About 30 young professionals participated and the feedback was tremendous. It was really encouraging for them to be with their peers and talk through things and then to have a few others that are more experienced in the conversation to help guide them.
We’ve also had a mentoring program for our young professionals for several years. This is the time period in your life when you're really searching and discovering what direction you're going to go with your life. And this is whole-life mentoring. It's relationships, a spiritual journey, and a professional journey. Any young professional that is interested will be matched with a mentor. We probably have about 15 pairs at any given time.
We have some really good programs that are having an impact but honestly, I think we're just scratching the surface. I think that as Leigh leads us into our church's future, we're sort of stepping up and out and into the community in a big way. I encourage people to participate in the programs.