In Their Own Words Leaders Talk about Leadership Focus
Leadership Focus is an online ministry development and credentialing program that is designed to equip and strengthen leaders in the Church of God. Through relational training with a missional perspective, Leadership Focus seeks to serve and support our leaders as they stretch and grow in their leadership skills, raise leadership lids, and develop effective resources and abilities in training and equipping their congregations for effective kingdom impact. Read and be inspired by these testimonies of impact from current Leadership Focus participants. For more information, contact your state administrator or call Jeannette Flynn, program manager, at 407-451-9886.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS TESTIMONY: BRENDA WHITE
Greetings to you my friends! I am excited to tell you about the sweet experience I’ve had with the Leadership Focus program. I began this journey approximately two years ago and it’s been full- speed ahead ever since. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit orchestrates our lives in ways that we are completely unaware of in the moment. Yet, in hindsight, it is clear that the events happened just the way God intended. So, let me tell you, this all started over a meal I had with a dear friend from church. I invited her to lunch one Sunday after service because I was intrigued by her role as minister in our congregation. I asked her how she became a minister, what inspired her to want to do so, and what process she had to complete. I hit her with one question after another; I could hear myself saying, “Self, maybe you should lighten up with all these questions,” but I just couldn’t stop. She was gracious to me and so patient. She answered every question with the gentlest of spirit.
That evening I read everything I could find on the Church of God website about the ordination process and my spirit was full with the idea that I had been called to ministry. I remember asking the Lord, “Is this what I should do?” and it seemed like before I could finish the thought, the answer had come: “Yes, daughter, this is your next journey.” For days I pondered if this was the right thing for me, and I kept feeling an impression in my heart that this is indeed right and a righteous pursuit for me. I knew the next step was to talk with my pastor about my interest, or rather, what I now believe to be my calling. My pastor was elated that I had come to him because the Spirit was prompting him to talk to me about ministry, as well. See how God worked that out?! My pastor immediately made a phone call and things were underway. I was informed that I’d have to successfully complete six modules, submit to a psychological assessment, read a stack of books, write fourteen theological statements, then defend those statements to the ordination board. The thought of all that made me a little weak in the knees. I wondered what I had gotten myself into! The Lord didn’t leave me in despair; he comforted me with these words: “Do not fear for I am with you…I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is 41:10).
Soon, Module 1 began; it was all about my call and my shape for ministry. I was fully invested, so I breezed right through the assignments.
Module 2 covered church life cycles and my role as leader in the church. Uh oh…things just got real—real in the sense that this was an area I knew nothing about and a true learning experience was about to happen. Never had I considered the life cycle of the church and I struggled to see myself as a leader. I had always seen myself as an obedient follower. This module challenged my thoughts about myself and what God would have me do for the kingdom.
Module 3 covered character and boundaries. I was challenged to consider my personal code of ethics and what boundaries I would put in place for myself as a minister. I thought I had sufficient boundaries; once I gave voice to them, I realized there was room for improvement. Additional tasks for Module 3 and Module 4 was to begin working on my theological statements. I had to write out what I believe about various doctrinal subjects. The first few statements covered the essentials of the faith and I was able to share my position with confidence. The true test came when I had to write about the kingdom of God and end times events. You see, I was confident I knew what I believed and why I believed it. I boldly presented my ideas and the module coach just as boldly challenged me to take a closer look and really consider what it is I say I believe. I had to consider if what I believe actually lined up with the doctrine of Scripture or if it lined up with the doctrine of man. This is the atmosphere that stimulates the greatest amount of growth for me—when it gets heated and I am pressed to change. I had to wrestle with the ideas that I held near and dear to me. I had nursed and rehearsed those ideas over time but only to a limited degree.
Module 4 is almost complete and I am amazed to see all that the Lord has done. Leadership Focus has provided a rich environment to discuss old and new ideas among brothers and sister who love God and who will love me as I mature in him. Ahh, to be loved…it’s such a sweet aroma!
LEADERSHIP FOCUS TESTIMONY: RICK KOHL
In 2014, I began the Leadership Focus process as a youth pastor, placed in a cluster with ministers in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Côte d’Ivoire. As I browsed the content for our first module, I was more than a little reluctant to begin; I had just finished at the Anderson University School of Theology and the content felt very repetitive of my time in seminary, and I was not crazy about the idea of meeting online rather than in person. With the first couple meetings under our belts, my fears were laid to rest as our group bonded and supported each other in prayer and encouragement. There are three things that Leadership Focus does well that fed into this life-giving, soul-feeding, empowering experience.
First, Leadership Focus recruits the best of the best to be our coaches through the process. We had the blessing of being coached by experienced ministers from Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, and Florida. Rather than being limited by geographical boundaries, I received wisdom and leading from ministers across the movement, with wide ministry experience, who desire to pour into the next wave of minsters. My coaches not only took time out of their schedules and away from their families for our meetings, but also checked up on us, gave us detailed feedback on assignments we completed, and showed a genuine interest in our well-being as people, not just as ministers. Through the coaches I was not just connected to ministers across the nation, I was also given access to men and women with the wisdom and experience to help me build a healthy foundation for ministry.
Second, Leadership Focus employs a wide variety of resources to guide us through our learning experience. I am thankful that our assignments were not just busy-work; what we read, what we wrote, and the content of our meetings had a real impact on my ministry. From the personality profiles that gave me a deeper understanding of who I am and how I am wired, to writing my theological statements, to having national leaders and missionaries join our meetings, the work we did continued to deepen my foundation for a healthy ministry both now and in the future.
Finally, Leadership Focus develops relationships. One of my concerns as I began the Leadership Focus process was the online meetings. I was concerned that there would not be ample opportunity to build relationships with my cluster-mates; this was far from the truth. I am not sure how clusters are put together, but I am thankful for my group. Our wide ministry experience, our varying context, and even the varying ways in which we serve the church added such depth to our conversations. The genuineness and passion from my cluster-friends as we shared struggles and victories, as we celebrated a baby being born, mourned the loss of loved one, and as they walked with me through a tough season of transition and waiting, was incredible. Today, our cluster still stays in touch through e-mail and Skype calls as we continue to share in life and ministry together.
Leadership Focus, more than I ever could have imagined, helped me lay a firm foundation for healthy, relationship-oriented, life-giving ministry by connecting me with people and resources across this movement I would have never encountered otherwise.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS TESTIMONY: HENRY CALDWELL
I have benefited greatly from the Leadership Focus training program! I thank God for this kind of ministry training within the Church of God. I am a local pastor who has been eager to learn everything I can to be an effective minister/pastor to my congregation and the community I serve. This ministry calling is an awesome task that I do not take lightly, as it affects souls at stake.
Leadership Focus has helped me be more self-aware, and understand the needs of others in the church and my community. I have learned more about how every person’s individual spiritual, emotional and personality needs affect their behavior and responses. I know it seems simple, but it is an easy mark to miss in the business of any day. Understanding these dynamics has changed my leadership and helped to make me more effective in accomplishing the goals of leadership before me.
Leadership Focus has really been a blessing to me in establishing and affirming a missional approach to my life and ministry. I have been blessed so greatly as I have been challenged to be Christ-focused and Christ-centric in everything I do 24/7. The more I can know and understand those I minister to, the more effective I can be in ministering to them.
I have learned so much from my cluster members’ testimonies and the coaches’ input and feedback. Our readings and assignments have been inspirational, encouraging and helpful, but the cluster meetings are where I feel like I really get to unpack, discuss, and grow in understanding deeply and implement what we are learning. For me, this journey has been life changing in understanding what it means to be an effective kingdom leader. I am still learning and Leadership Focus has helped me want to be a lifelong learner.
We are living in an ever-changing world of social changes and upheavals of societal norms. The church is needed now, more than ever, to be a positive influence in our society. The Church of God cannot lose its focus of purpose and mission; reaching and leading others to Christ, with the love of God burning in hearts.
The challenge has been and still is how we minister effectively in this day and time, without giving in to the latest political correctness that missed the truth of God’s Word. Thank God Leadership Focus training helps to think about and address many of these issues. Leadership Focus reminds us that our mission from the Lord has not changed—we are to make disciples in all nations. We must be equipped, encouraged, and empowered by his word and his Spirit to make a difference in this world.
I have learned more about how God shapes the hearts of his people to be used by him in a way that challenges and encourages us to go where the Lord will sends; embrace wisdom to do what is required; and step up in boldness to proclaim the truth of the Word that will set people free. I have learned that the fear of failure should never hold you back from doing what God has called you to do. In the words of Frances Chan, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things that do not matter.”
I will say unequivocally that Leadership Focus has made a positive impact and significant difference in my ministry as I respond to God’s call on my life.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS TESTIMONY: RICHARD SMITH
I started in a place where I was not necessarily wanted. People cried on the first Sunday I was the official pastor of the church and, to be quite honest, I wish things were different so I did not have to pastor this church. It wasn’t that the people did not like me, or that I didn’t like them, but I came in to pastor after the founding pastor, Rev. Dr. Marc Farmer, died from cancer in a way that felt quite sudden to many of us. He was a mentor to me, and I was asked to consider applying for the position. After a lot of prayer and counsel, I accepted the invitation, went through the process, and became the pastor of what was then called Oakland Mills Church of God in Columbia, Maryland.
While I was already ordained by another organization, I wanted to learn more about what it meant to pastor in the Church of God and learn her history. After talking with some other leaders, I agreed to try out the training process called Leadership Focus. I’m glad I did. I had been a part of my former organization for about fourteen years and teaching God’s Word for seven of those years by the time of this assignment. I was planting a church at the time and thought I had been given the necessary tools to successfully carry out the assignment of pastoring. However, within the first two modules of Leadership Focus, I learned more than I had in all the training I had received before and recognized more about myself than I had ever realized. I was able to grow exponentially and understand the areas of my life and ministry wherein I needed to work.
It was a refreshing and revitalizing experience not only from what I learned from the coaches, readings, and assignments, but I was also truly blessed by the fellowship of my cohort members. Hearing from women and men of God was extremely beneficial to my overall growth. Additionally, I feel that I have co-laborers in the ministry now on whom I can call to help me in ministering to those who are losing a loved one, leading worship, forming a vibrant prayer ministry, and a host of other things due to the diverse gifts that were evident in the group.
Very few people will enter into the position of lead pastor in a Church of God congregation the way I did, however, regardless of how we enter or where we are in our walks, I feel that Leadership Focus provided the tools and history that I desperately needed to move forward in what God called me to do. I am glad that I did take on this assignment, and as the pastor of what we currently call The Movement Church, I know that I have the ability to lead others more effectively as we continue the love movement that Jesus started. The movement continues!