A Learning Community
When one is new to a leadership position within a Christian institution or multi-staff congregation, the learning curve is often steep. Leading at this level requires discernment rooted in Christian practices and tradition, as well as stewardship exercised through thoughtful management. Whatever previous experience one may have, new positions and responsibilities challenge leaders to develop their capacities in richer, fuller ways.
Foundations of Christian Leadership is a learning community that aims to help leaders cultivate the kinds of practices that are essential for transformative leadership within vibrant Christian institutions and congregations.
Up to 20 participants will meet twice in person and three times online over the course of four months to explore their gifts; grow in effective, strategic and theologically wise leadership; and examine what it means to be a Christian leader in a Christian organization. Faculty will include Craig Dykstra, former senior vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment Inc., and special guests such as Marlon Hall, pastor and Christian leader of the Awakenings Movement in Houston.
- Form a community rooted in Christian practices that will be mutually supportive over time.
- Explore the concepts of traditioned innovation, transformative leadership and vibrant institutions as a way of constructing a theological framework for Christian leadership.
- Hone administrative skills, including budgeting and human resources.
- Adopt practices of theological reflection and action about leadership and organizations.
- Assess institutional and individual strengths, capacities and limitations with attention paid to institutional sustainability.
The following are ideal candidates for the Foundations of Christian Leadership program:
- Individuals who have been in a leadership position in a Christian institution for fewer than five years, including those new to the work or with a recently expanded scope of responsibilities; or
- Lay people who have been called to serve on a congregational staff and are seeking to apply their outside experience to a church.
- Associate pastors who are members of multi-staff congregations.
If you have questions or concerns about the application process or would like assistance in determining whether you are eligible for the program, please contact the Leadership Education office at email@example.com with the subject line “Foundations of Christian Leadership.”
Dates & Cost
Foundations of Christian Leadership
Spring 2014 Foundations of Christian Leadership
Session I (residential) Feb. 10-13
Session II (residential) May 5-8
Application Deadline Dec. 3, 2013
Fall 2014 Foundations of Christian Leadership
Session I (residential) Sept. 8-11
Session II (residential) Dec. 8-11
Application Deadline July 8, 2014
Spring 2015 Foundations of Christian Leadership
Session I (residential) Jan. 26-29
Session II (residential) April 13-16
Application Deadline Dec. 1, 2014
Fall 2015 Foundations of Christian Leadership
Session I (residential) Sept. 14-17
Session II (residential) Dec. 7-10
Application Deadline July 14, 2015
All residential sessions will take place in Durham, N.C., and attendance at all sessions is mandatory.
The tuition for the program, which includes accommodations and meals, is $1,800 per person. A discounted tuition rate of $795 is available for institutional leaders who have been in their positions fewer than five years. Payment will be due after admissions decisions have been made. Transportation is the responsibility of the participant.
Limited scholarships for institutional leaders are available.
Craig Dykstra conducts research, writes, teaches and consults with current and future Christian leaders about ways in which religious institutions can flourish in their missions and ministries in the context of our rapidly changing society and culture.
He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Before coming to Duke he was senior vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment Inc., where he had served since 1989. Dykstra’s most recent scholarly work has focused on pastoral and ecclesial imagination, as well as Christian practices, as key concepts for thinking about what it means to live the Christian life, to organize the discipline of practical theology, and to re-envision the work of pastoral ministry.
He is co-editor with Dorothy Bass of “For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry.” His book, “Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices” was published in a second edition in 2005. He also contributed to and collaborated with Bass in the creation of “Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People.” Previously, Dykstra wrote a book on moral and religious education “Vision and Character,” and was co-editor of a book of essays on contemporary faith development theory.
In addition to serving Leadership Education, Dykstra is research professor of practical theology at Duke Divinity School.
Nancy James is a leadership development trainer who has developed dozens of customized learning experiences for corporations across the world. She has been associate dean for executive education at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and more recently has been a human resource executive for the United States Postal Service. She has been a member of the faculty of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) since 1995. At one time she managed CCL’s most popular program, Looking Glass Experience. Nancy holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Mississippi State University and an M.B.A. from the Fuqua School of Business. She is a Eucharistic minister and lector in her parish in Greensboro.
Nathan Kirkpatrick is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He served the Asbury-Longtown charge in Hamptonville, N.C., before joining the staff at Duke Divinity School. Kirkpatrick directs the Duke Course of Study in partnership with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, as well as leading Courage to Serve, the Institute of Preaching and other learning events for pastoral leaders. Kirkpatrick is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Divinity School.
David L. Odom joined Duke Divinity School in August 2007. He was the founder and president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C., which supports healthy communities of faith through consultation, leadership development, interim ministry training and vocational discernment. Odom, who was an adjunct professor at Wake Forest Divinity School, has extensive experience in program development and evaluation, staff and adjunct faculty development, and strategic organizational management. He also plays a leadership role in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is a graduate of Furman University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary.
Gretchen Ziegenhals is interested in the art of writing, teaching and learning. For 10 years, she was a consultant and writer for the Lexington Seminar, a project that assisted Protestant theological seminary faculties with such issues. For five years, she was an assistant editor at The Christian Century. After joining the staff at Leadership Education, she directed the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program and the Pastors and Scholars Studio, among other learning events. She currently directs Foundations of Christian Leadership and Denominational Leadership. Gretchen is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and Williams College.
Each session will include additional faculty presenters with expertise in theology and leadership development from Duke Divinity School, Duke University and other non-profit institutions. Each faculty person is chosen both because of his or her subject area expertise and familiarity with the church and Christian institutions.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919.613.5323.
Pre-Session Reading Assignments
The following readings prepare FOCL participants for residential Week I of the program, by introducing key concepts and issues related to Christian institutional leadership.
- Christian Leadership – As we have developed the Foundations process, we have been exploring the distinctiveness of Christian leadership. We will continue to explore this topic with you as we journey through FOCL.
- Vibrant Institutions – Thriving communities need vibrant institutions, because they allow practices to flourish. Institutions serve as the background of our lives, giving shape and form to who we are.
- Vibrant Institutions – Jones explains how vibrant institutions create spaces that shape and pattern human life and act as bearers of tradition.
- Why Institutions Matter – Drawing on Hugh Heclo’s “On Thinking Institutionally,” Jones argues that Christian wisdom illustrates our need for institutions to teach and train us.
- Traditioned innovation – One of the capacities we have been exploring is traditioned innovation. The first article is an introduction to the concept, with additional examples following.
- Traditioned Innovation – Christian leaders need not choose between tradition and innovation. A way of thinking that holds the two in tension is crucial to the ongoing vitality and growth of our institutions.
- Pentecost as Traditioned Innovation – The coming of the Holy Spirit is both a fulfillment of that which is old and a radical new beginning, writes New Testament scholar C. Kavin Rowe. (Kavin will be with us one evening in our first residential week.)
- Living Into a New Vision – Baptist University of the Americas has undergone painful changes to transform itself from a dying Bible institute to a high-quality, affordable institution of higher education for Latino Christian leaders in Texas.
- Reflections on scripture – As we think about Christian leadership, thriving communities and the practice of traditioned innovation, we will situate our work in the first 14 chapters of the Book of Acts. This chronicle of the earliest days of the church is a fruitful place for exploration.
- Please read Acts chapters 1-16.
- The Pattern of Life in Thriving Communities – our work as Christian leaders is to cultivate thriving communities that are foretastes of the kingdom of God. The Acts of the Apostles presses us to see six features that are the essence of the church, writes Rowe.
FOCL Reading Assignments – Week II
- Adaptive Leadership – Adaptive leadership mobilizes people and organizations during times of change. In the process, adaptive leaders help people identify what to discard, what to save, and what to invent in order to thrive. In the following interviews and reading, Harvard faculty Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky share insights on adaptive leadership.
- The nature of adaptive leadership – Knowing the difference between adaptive and technical challenges is one of the key tasks of leadership, says Heifetz.
- Pushing against the wind – Leadership is dangerous because people resist change, says Linsky. But leaders who care about their purpose should face that resistance.
- Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading – Please read this lively and compelling book by Heifetz and Linsky about the risks of offering real leadership; the kind that may challenge long-held beliefs and surface conflict. (We provide the book for you.)
- Improvisation – The ability to improvise is an important quality in being a transformative leader. Improvisation is not about being witty and clever, but rather about knowing your tradition, listening carefully, and responding to offers.
- Improvising leadership – Theatrical improvisation is an apt analogy for the Christian life and leadership, says theologian Sam Wells. Both are about trust, faithfulness and imagination.
- Tension gives it groove – Jazz improvisation offers a metaphor for resolving conflict not by eliminating it, but by using it to create something beautiful, says Episcopal priest Ross Kane.
- Integrative Thinking – Business strategist Roger Martin defines integrative thinking as the ability to hold two opposing ideas in our minds at once, and then reach a synthesis that contains elements of both but improves on each. Truly successful leaders try not to make ‘either-or’ decisions.
- It might be – Every new idea started out as an ‘it might be,’ says Martin. And great ideas are best found by design thinking, going beyond the limits of inductive and deductive logic.
- L. Gregory Jones: Christian institutions as cities – Cities have a vibrant core, permeable boundaries and strong networks. But many of today’s Christian institutions are more like corporations, tightly bounded and working alone.
- Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us – Ethicist Christine Pohl examines four core practices that sustain healthy communities and discusses the complications involved when we practice them. (We provide the book for you.)
- Reflections on scripture – We will continue to let the Book of Acts guide us in our work this week.
- Please read Acts chapters 17-28.
- C. Kavin Rowe: Incorporating disagreement is a mark of a thriving community – Rowe explains how the Jerusalem Council, in Acts 15, offers three indispensible elements to processing conflict in the life of the church.
The following material guides FOCL participants in writing the two-page narrative required for residential Week I of the program.
Narrative I Guidelines
What stories do you tell? Stories are powerful tools for individuals as well as for institutions: they reveal our values and assumptions, and depict their consequences in daily life. Our institutions are places of memory and imagination. As such, they are brimming with stories. These stories are typically filled with dilemmas and humor, traditions and forces of change, chaos and grace.
The Assignment: We invite you to write a 1-2-page narrative, which tells the story of one situation or scene in the life of your institution. (Note that this is not a case study, which is more didactic and controlled, but rather a story, which has a life of its own in the best sense of the storytelling tradition.) This story should embody your organization’s day-to-day existence—the particular successes and challenges, or the things that drive you up the wall. This story will become a building block for your week at FOCL. Your audience is the FOCL participants who will serve as supportive conversation partners or “holy friends,” throughout the week. Your story will not be shared outside of our circle of participants and staff.
The Purpose: The purpose of the narrative is two-fold:
- It provides an entry point into your particular leadership setting and your role in that setting for our conversations at Avila, so the narrative should focus on a question that serves as a window into a host of issues for you: personal, professional, institutional, and ecological.
- It helps you identify and articulate a situation, challenge, or turning point that you want to address in the life of your own institution.
The Form: Your story should have both a setting – a particular time and place, and a purpose – the reason you choose to tell this particular story. Dilemmas, confusion, changes, or quandaries provide the action for your story. The tension may be between characters or groups, or between conflicting values or traditions. Some stories have resolutions, but yours may not. You should start from a real event, but the narrative can be a fictionalized account. Let your imagination fill in the details! Include dialogue and a brief, catchy title.
Consider these story examples as you begin to brainstorm:
- An e-mail venting one man’s frustration about changes at his institution is mistakenly sent to the entire organization. The shame-faced writer receives a host of surprisingly grateful responses.
- The same day a young woman is promoted on the staff of a large organization, she discovers that two of the staff members she is to supervise have been locked in a battle of wills for several years.
- An organization’s leader calls you, his second-in-command, and announces that the organization will continue to offer only print publications, declaring that social media tools are a fad, not a trend.
Please send narratives to Mary Page at email@example.com. Please contact Gretchen Ziegenhals firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. We are glad to help you brainstorm or provide feedback during your writing process.
The following material guides FOCL participants in revising the narrative for residential Week II of the program.
Revising the narrative
In preparation for the second residential week of Foundations of Christian Leadership, we invite you to return to your original narrative and revise your text.
After experiencing the learning and conversations of Foundations Week I, the feedback in your peer groups, and time to reflect:
- Is there another way to tell this story? Is there another perspective from which the story could be told?
- Who or what is missing from the story?
- What do you need to change, to make this a story you could lead from?
- How or where can hope enter the story?
You need not address each of these questions in your rewrite; they are meant to offer you possible avenues back into the narrative. Select one of these suggestions or make other changes to your narrative that would make the story most helpful to you and your institutional setting. During Week II, you will have the opportunity to explain why you made the revisions you did.
Please explore the other menu items to learn more about this program.