“I wish my leadership had pulled me aside and told me, ‘You’re going to difficult places, and you don’t have all the resources you need. But focus on the resources you do have. Start by finding out the strengths and passions of the church,’” says Lamar, a managing director for Leadership Education. “Leaders can inspire. When you work with them, you can have an exponential effect.”
Hope Morgan Ward, United Methodist bishop of Mississippi and a 1978 Divinity School graduate, agrees. She is part of the Episcopal Leadership Forum, where she says she found support and guidance from her peers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and for her role as the first female leader of a denomination in Mississippi.
“This initiative will address the challenge the church faces wherever there is leadership that is passive, lethargic, depressed, sluggish,” Ward says. “Effective leaders are contagious. As more leaders are helped and strengthened, the vitality will overflow and the synergy will increase.”
The format of the bishops’ Episcopal Leadership Forum—part skills training, part theological reflection, part support group—is informing the development of several new programs. Foundations of Christian Leadership, for example, will be a year-long, four-session program for newly appointed Christian institutional leaders, such as bishops, and those who show promise for such positions.
A number of the Divinity School’s established lifelong learning programs will become part of Leadership Education, including the Reynolds Program, Courage to Serve, Institute of Preaching, Duke Youth Academy and Sustaining Pastoral Excellence.
Leadership Education also will develop customized programs and convene groups within and across denominations around issues facing the church, such as clergy health and well-being, pastor assessment, and debt management. An online newsmagazine for pastors and institutional leaders, expected to go live in late 2008, will share stories, research, best practices and other resources. Preliminary research has shown that pastors and other leaders want information about managing their staffs, growing as leaders, and taking better care of themselves and their congregations.
In developing their plans, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity directors are seeking partners in unexpected places—including Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Duke Corporate Education. In recent years, Jones and Virtue say, businesses have more systematically studied and invested in leadership training than churches.
Jones knows that some people in the church are skeptical about any connection between the congregational world and the corporate one. The initiative’s leaders are wrestling with the questions their approach raises: What does a theologically grounded leader look like? How can churches learn from business while staying true to their mission? What will success look like?