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Participation grows in AMBS Church Leadership Center programs

Mary E. Klassen

October 31, 2012

Participants in Journey: A Conference-based Leadership Development Program work on spiritual timelines at the fall weekend learning event in September. These events involve both mentors and mentees, including (left to right) Keith Kingsley, Shawn Lange, Tyrone Taylor, Jane Roeschley, Melika Hershberger, Doug Zehr, Brian Miller, Reneda Miller.
Photo by SaeJin Lee

Participants in Journey: A Conference-based Leadership Development Program work on spiritual timelines at the fall weekend learning event in September. These events involve both mentors and mentees, including (left to right) Keith Kingsley, Shawn Lange, Tyrone Taylor, Jane Roeschley, Melika Hershberger, Doug Zehr, Brian Miller, Reneda Miller. Photo by SaeJin Lee

The number of participants in Church Leadership Center programs at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary increased significantly in the 2011-2012 school year, up 24 percent to 949.

The count of 949 participants in Church Leadership Center programs during the 2011-2012 year includes each time someone joined in a program and counts 60 pastor-mentors and pastor-instructors who participated, 41 involvements of AMBS faculty members, and 61 volunteers who contributed time. In comparison, total participation in the same categories for the 2010–2011 year was 764.

This growth in involvement reflects AMBS’s goal to provide resources for life-long ministry, Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, said. “These programs extend the benefits of AMBS leadership development far beyond the graduate teaching our faculty do in classrooms. We are grateful that last year nearly 1,000 people joined in AMBS programs that benefit each person and also the congregations where they are involved.”

Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, who coordinates the Church Leadership Center programs, emphasizes that these programs benefit many different kinds of ministry, and range from webinars to three-year education programs.

Longenecker said, “Wherever you are in your ministry, if you are just exploring theological education and ministry, or if you are a seminary student, or if you are looking for enrichment for long-term ministry, there is always another small step you can take. There is always something more you can do to strengthen your skills or understanding, and Church Leadership Center programs offer this through an Anabaptist lens.”

For example, a small step might be participating in a webinar, such as a session on The Naked Anabaptist with Stuart Murray or a session on Revelation with Nelson Kraybill. A bigger step would be enrolling in Pastoral Studies Distance Education, a five-unit undergraduate program that includes not only instructors but also a mentor in the student’s home congregation.

The result can be a new insight or perspective, or it might be a life-changing experience that leads to new forms of ministry. One participant started in Journey: A Conference-based Leadership Development Program, then came to Pastors Week and worship planning workshops. Now this fall she is enrolled in the spiritual guidance program, an eight-month program that develops skills for one-on-one spiritual guidance ministry.

“What we’re doing in Church Leadership Center is to make it easier for people to take one more step,” Longenecker said. “Joining in Church Leadership Center programs does not always require a big commitment but it always provides high quality instruction.”

A new program beginning this winter is Anabaptist Short Courses. These are non-credit online courses that last only six weeks and do not involve enrolling in a master’s program at the seminary. The cost is significantly less than taking a regular seminary course and the time commitment also is less. Content, however, is similar to what is offered in regular seminary classes.

Another program in a testing phase is the Preaching Seminar. Allan Rudy-Froese, AMBS assistant professor of Christian proclamation, is meeting with participants in two on-campus sessions, one in October and one prior to Pastors Week in January. In between, participants meet by interactive web conference. When this year’s seminar is over, Longenecker, Rudy-Froese and participants will assess the value of the hybrid approach.