Over the past two years I have been involved with the SLI process at Grace Church through the Southwest District here in the Florida Conference. I have to admit that I was a little concerned that the experience might just be "another program" which would basically provide me with the same information about the same old thing. I also entered the SLI process a bit cautiously worried that the focus might simply be a re-packaging of the "church growth" materials we had been bombarded with over the past 15 years. I participated because I was invited and in turn found that my worries were cast away by the emphasis on developing spiritually healthy leaders seeking to love God, learn together and lead the church into the future.
Personally, I am a heroic, solo leader. If it doesn't seem like it is getting done I tend to do it myself. As the pastor of a new church launch in 1996 my heroic leadership style, through the early years, was producing good results. Over the last few years I was finding that the congregation needed more than a heroic leader and in turn I was growing frustrated, tired and burnt out. For me, SLI was a breath of fresh air - a Holy Spirit moment! The process helped me to reconnect with the important gifts of accountability, covenant partnerships, and opportunities to address the important process of team building, vision casting and equipping others in the church for leadership. Each of the sessions were an exploration of the process through which church communities might experience this fresh breath together. In other words, the actual program itself was not just an event the pastors grow through but through the sessions each participant is challenged to begin the process of revitalization in their own community setting. This process is bolstered by the accountability element, through which those experiencing the SLI experience are expected to bring back to the group reports of how they are implementing and practicing what they are learning on the home front.
My journey through the initial process and now through my continued participation is bearing fruit. At Cornerstone United Methodist Church, where I serve, we have a solid vision, mission and virtue statement. The whole church and all its teams have responded well by understanding how our mission actually provides us with the foundation through which we are active in ministry. The community has also reduced the number of administrative meetings by consolidating our administrative team and thus opening up more opportunities for ministry action teams to be born. We have been able to look at everything we do through the church and identify how each of these programs, ministries, missions and events work together to meet our mission. Loving, Learning and Leading has become for us the model through which we conduct our work together. The L3 model gives strength to developing spiritually healthy leaders, opportunities to learn new skills and equipping leaders to meet the needs of the church and the community we live in. By surrounding myself with teams and learning a few vital team developing skills I have been blessed with a fresh vision and energy for the church.
SLI has been a blessing. It is not what I expected and quickly exceeded my initial concerns as it provided a solid foundation for leadership that is both authentic and organic. There is still much to do and the process of "turning the ship around" takes time but it is turning! I highly recommend SLI and believe that it provides more than just "another program" for the church - it reconnects the church with its purpose and mission - making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace
Roy M. Terry IV, Pastor, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Naples, FL