This past Saturday at New Creation Church of God in Flint Township, we experienced God’s favor as we launched our Academy of Servant Leaders. Just under 90 people gathered to share together in learning, fellowship, great food, and great sharing by Rev. Karl Vaters. Overwhelmingly, the reviews were very positive for the event and for Karl Vaters sharing with us. The four sessions were clearly shared with great illustrations and personal stories of his ministry experiences in small churches for over 40 years.
Understanding the somewhat short notice (just 7 weeks), and the busyness oof May, several of you may have wanted to attend with your key leaders, but were unable. Thankfully, Karl Vaters gave us permission to film the sessions and make them available to our assembly. The links to the videos and his slides are provided for you as well as on our website under the Academy of Servant Leaders. I hope that you will take the time to watch the videos and take in the presentation materials. They are excellent. This was a great first session of what will hopefully be a growing and transforming ministry of The Church of God in Michigan for several years.
I also want to take the time to thank Pastor Mark Staton, his wife Jessica, and the wonderful ministers, staff, and servant leaders of New Creation Church of God. Their hospitality and service were excellent. They are such a blessing to us and the Body of Christ.
In the love of Jesus Christ,
Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor
Many of you have heard me share about the Academy of Servant Leaders (ASL) on multiple occasions. For years, the Institute for Servant Leadership (ISL), a multi-state equipping ministry for church leaders, held training sessions twice per year in Michigan. Many of our congregational leaders participated over the years. In 2019, ISL ended, but the need to support one another in equipping leaders is still significant today.
The Church of God in Michigan will be rolling out the Academy of Servant Leaders this year. Over the next several years, 3 Tracks will be made available to you our pastors, key congregational leaders, Credentials Candidates, and those sensing a call to vocational ministry. The first of those tracks is targeted to Pastors and Key Leaders in our congregations, whether they are Trustees, Board Members, or Elders. The sessions will be held 3 times per year over 2 years, with a great deal of information and workshop opportunities for our key church leadership teams. Information such as:
This Leadership track will kick off on Saturday, May 20, from 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. with a special guest speaker, Rev. Karl Vaters, nationally known speaker and author. The Kickoff Event will take place at the New Creation Church of God in Flint, MI. The cost of the event, as with all the Track 1 sessions, will be $25 per person, or $125 per congregation with up to 8 people attending. This is primarily to cover the cost of the speaker, a continental breakfast, and lunch. We are hoping to see all our pastors and key leaders join us for this exciting kickoff. We hope it will forge a partnership between us that will help develop stronger congregations and leaders for years to come. Track 2 and Track 3 will roll out later this year, as will information on the second session of Track 1 to take place in September. Please register by Friday, May 12, so that we may have an accurate count to New Creation Church of God and the caterers for the kickoff event. Information on Karl Vaters and his ministry, including the books he has written are included below. Please utilize the link for registration to this exciting event.
Blessings to you,
Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor
Karl Vaters is the author of four books.
The Church Recovery Guide: How Your Congregation Can Adapt and Thrive after a Crisis,
100 Days to a Healthier Church: A Step-By-Step Guide for Pastors and Leadership Teams,
Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250
The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us
Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com.
His heart is to help pastors of small churches (up to 90 percent of us) find the resources to lead well, and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church – something virtually every pastor will spend at least some of their ministry years doing. He also believes that big and small churches can and should work together more often – to the benefit and blessing of everyone.
Karl also hosts a bi-weekly podcast, The Church Lobby: Conversations on Faith & Ministry (Formerly, Can This Work in a Small Church?). Episodes feature in-depth interviews with a leaders about the topics that concern pastors, especially those who minister in a small church context.
Karl has written for many publications, including ChristianityToday.com, Outreach magazine, Church Law & Tax, and more.
Karl has been in pastoral ministry for over 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 30 years with his wife, Shelley. They have three children and two grandkids.
Over several years, The Church of God in Michigan participated in a multi-state ministry, the Institute for Servant Leadership (ISL). Through those excellent sessions, several hundred leaders progressed through a certified training and workshop process, taking place twice per year with assignments throughout the process. Initially the ministry was targeted at lay leadership in our congregations. Over time, it incorporated exponential leadership training and Church of God Doctrine as a supplement to the Credentialing Process. Over time, the attendance at the ISL events decreased, and the program was ended in Michigan, Ohio, and Western Pennsylvania.
ISL was a great ministry for many years, but as with many ministries, they run their course and end and/or are replaced. There were some inherent challenges with ISL. Namely the cost for the average person in our churches to participate over an 18 month to two-year process. The events took place on a Friday and a Saturday, necessitating for many at least a day off from work to attend. The sessions also required for many a hotel stay, some meals, travel expenses, and tuition for the sessions. Yet, it was a very effective and needed leadership development vehicle for many in our congregations. The need for a quality leadership development and training ministry in the state is still present today, and perhaps even more so given the leadership challenges many of our congregations face. The need to develop younger leaders in our congregations to serve in key leadership roles is becoming urgent, especially as our leaders age, and the need to reach younger generations grows greater.
Regardless of the age of our congregational makeup, the ministerial, practical, and legal aspects of congregational life and ministry are consistent and complex. Hence, we are introducing the Academy of Servant Leaders (ASL) to provide substantive leadership development opportunities for our pastors and key leaders across our congregations. We are also looking to partner with our Credentials Committee to provide support with Church of God Doctrine for candidates who are pursuing vocational credentialing and ministry within the Church of God. There is also a need for developing a pipeline of future pastoral candidates in The Church of God in Michigan and across our movement. We will develop a track that will help people recognize and respond to a call to ministry.
The initial design of the Academy of Servant Leaders will target three groups of leaders with three leadership development tracks.
I. Track 1 will focus on Pastors and Key Board Leaders, Elders, and Trustees in our congregations.
II. Track 2 will focus on Ministerial Candidates who are pursuing vocational credentialing within the Church of God.
III. Track 3 will focus on people, including youth, who sense that God may be calling them into vocational ministry as a pastor, minister, or chaplain.
The design for each track will focus on affordable, one-half-day sessions on a Saturday, combining both in-person and online formats. The in-person sessions will be in May and September. The online sessions will be in January. The in-person sessions will make it possible for most people across the state to attend without having overnight stay. The tracks will be on a rotation that will run slightly over two years and repeat. New leaders will be able to join at any time and complete the rotation to receive all the training. Resources will be shared, recommended, and utilized in workshop format throughout the tracks. The emphasis will be on sharing quality information and practical team-based workshops, facilitated by proven leaders. The cost of each session will be $25 per person. For Track 1, which will launch on May 20, 2023, we want to encourage pastors to come with their leaders. We will offer the sessions at $125 per church up to 8 attendees.
Track 1: Pastors & Key Leaders Essentials
To quote a well-documented statement from John Maxwell, a noted facilitator and author on Leadership Development, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” In our congregations, leaders are in several places, pastors, boards, trustees, ministry teams, and small groups. Key leadership in our congregations make significant ministry, practical, and legal decisions frequently. In many cases these decisions are far more complex than perhaps we realize, and regularly congregations face challenges and issues that can derail or curtail ministry. We will partner with our pastors and congregational leaders to provide training and tools that will facilitate their leadership efforts to pursue excellence in how they serve. Over seven sessions, we will cover a range of topics that will encompass much of what pastors and their key leadership teams deal with in their ministry service. A brief description of these sessions is below.
For the Kickoff session of Track 1 of ASL, Rev. Karl Vaters, highly respected Author and Teaching Pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Orange County, CA, shared with us at New Creation Church of God in Flint Township, MI. He shared on his efforts of ministry in small churches (under 250 members, which is over 95% of our state’s congregations). This doesn’t mean that what he shared is not pertinent for all of our congregations, rather he shared some very keen insights on vision, mission, structure, and functioning in ministry from his 40+ years of experience.
Module 1: Sharing Vision, Mission, Structure, and Function
The Lord has always given vision to His people, beginning with Adam and Eve. God’s vision for the Church is certainly in line with that. The Lord Jesus Christ gave several powerful vision statements to the Church, like the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-40). There are several others. These statements provide a foundation for the mission, structure, and function of the Church. The Lord has a distinct way of revealing vision to His pastors and key leadership that inspires passion and directs how congregations should serve to make disciples in the communities in which they are planted.
Module 1 will provide significant information to our pastors and key leaders, and provide workshop tools to help these groups review, refine, and if necessary define vision, mission, structure, and function together. This will provide a framework for a true sense of partnership and ownership of what the Lord is revealing for each congregation to work through in ministry long-term. This will be a key opportunity for our congregational leaders to examine how they are working through these important areas now, and how they can refine them to be most effective going forward. It will provide avenues for inspiring their congregations to own the vision and mission that God has given them, in partnership with their leaders.
Module 2: Managing Expectations, Evaluations, and Rules of Engagement
Many of the situations that cause the biggest conflicts in our congregations, and which lead to pastoral and leadership transitions, happen because of unfulfilled expectations. Everyone has expectations of our congregations, our pastors, and our leaders. The challenge is that they are often not clearly understood, agreed upon, and documented. They are just expected. Pastors deal with this most significantly, and it can lead to mental and physical health issues, as well as burnout and transition to another ministry or leaving ministry altogether.
This module will focus on the clear stating of the expectations of congregational leaders for their pastors, as well as the pastors’ expectations of congregational leaders and the members of the congregation. Resources will be provided that will encourage clearly developing these expectations and agreeing upon them in writing as a part of an agreement between pastors and their congregation. This will provide a practical opportunity for pastors and their key leadership to build upon the partnership that they have in leading the congregation. It will also provide a way for pastors and leaders to evaluate how effective they have been in fulfilling the vision, mission, structure, and function of the congregation. While guidance will be given in terms of compensation for pastoral leadership, the hope is that our key leaders will utilize it as a way of working together to be most effective in the ministry as partners. In addition, it is crucial that pastors, leaders, and the congregation have clearly defined rules of engagement that govern how people interact with one another in the church and carry out its vision and mission. We will provide guidance for the development and functioning of how we engage each other in the course of ministries of the congregation.
Module 3: Pastors & Governing Board Roles & Responsibilities
Building upon the strategies and expectations of the previous two modules, it is important that pastors and their key leaders (Elders, Councils, Boards, and/or Trustees) have a clearly defined sense of roles and responsibilities that deal with the governance of the congregation. These areas are very important for the proper functioning of the congregation. We will share the process of governance that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each, and how they work together and hold each other accountable for their successful completion.
This recommended model of governance goes beyond the legal documents which will be the focus of Module 4 (bylaws, policies, and practices). It focuses on how leaders can empower their pastors to lead the congregation in accomplishing the vision and mission they’ve been given by God, while providing boundaries that insure integrity and accountability. It will help provide foundation for the proper functioning of the systems and logistics of the congregation. Following this session, pastors and their leaders will have some helpful tools to refine their governance structures to provide strong systems throughout future leadership efforts and transitions.
Module 4: Bylaws, Policies, Practices, and Financial Accountability
Every congregation is required by law to have a set of bylaws that describe the structure, legal representation of the congregation, and so much more. Many churches have updated and/or totally revised their bylaws in recent years. Some haven’t and perhaps are operating with a set of bylaws that might be over 50 years old. There have been many things that have happened in the courts and the culture that necessitate bylaws that protect the congregation and its assets. During this module, we will help pastors and their key leaders to review their current bylaws and lay the foundation for updating them to be current in today’s increasingly hostile culture.
In addition to current bylaws, congregations need to have clearly written and periodically reviewed and updated policies. Policies are important because they define how the day to day functions of the congregation are to work, and they are important in giving specifics to things in the bylaws of the congregation. They need to be written and clearly shared with the congregation so that people will know what can and can’t be done in and through the congregation. We will provide policy templates that cover nearly every aspect of church life, so that pastors and their key leaders can develop a policy manual for the congregation.
Along with bylaws and policies, there are practices that help to keep the daily functioning of the congregation operating as smoothly as possible. These are things that aren’t necessarily documented like bylaws and policies, but they are a key part of congregational functioning. They are purposefully flexible so that as things change and new ideas and ministries emerge, ministry can develop and solidify. Financial accountability is also a crucial aspect of church functioning. It is essential legally, and it helps in the encouragement of the membership for good stewardship and giving. We will provide guidance for insuring that our congregations are aware of the financial requirements of a congregation and the legal reporting requirements. We will also provide information on potential partners that can help our congregations pursue excellence in the financial areas of the congregational life.
Module 5: Legal Issues & Court Decisions Affecting the Church
Every year for decades there are court decisions, tax issues, and other legal issues that affect congregations. Decisions are made that have severe consequences and present destructive landmines to our congregations if they are not considered and properly handled. Many of these are a part of Module 4, and may make it into our bylaws and policies. Yet, there are new court decisions and laws passed that affect us beyond our bylaws and policies. We will have an attorney share with our pastors and key leaders the most current and significant court decisions and issues that we must be prepared to handle. We will also expose our leaders to resources, like ECFA and Law and Tax Guidance, to which our congregations can subscribe that will keep them up to date on issues and tax concerns as they happen.
Module 6: Developing a Conflict Resolution Process That Works
One of the realities of people coming together to do ministry, or anything in life, is that there will be conflict. People work together from different backgrounds, education levels, social and economic differences, etc. There is bound to be conflicts and disagreements, both small and large. This is not necessarily a bad thing if handled properly. Properly managed conflict provides a great growth opportunity for pastors, leadership, and the congregation to grow together. Poorly managed conflict always leads to painful fallout and problems for our congregations. It is clearly known that the worse time to develop a process for dealing with conflict is when it has already happened. It is difficult enough for angry and hurt people to come together to resolve conflicts. When there is no clearly developed process within the congregation to resolve it, with trusted people, it will be nearly impossible to handle without significant fallout. Many pastors and leaders have been to conflict resolution seminars, but they rarely have put in place a process for their congregation.
In this module, We will provide a clear definition of conflict within the congregation, including its sources and its impact. We will provide a recommendation for developing a team of trained and trusted conflict resolution first responders that can help to deal with conflict when it first happens within the congregation. We will also provide resources that can help to share this with the congregation so that they will trust the process developed and provide help for pastors in resolving conflict before it does harm to the congregation.
Module 7: Developing a Succession Plan
Every pastor will eventually either retire, leave the church, or move out of ministry at some point in time. In addition, every position in the leadership of the church will transition, usually far more frequently than the pastors. Every congregation needs to be prepared for leadership transition at every level, including a clear plan for it. It is far more than a statement in the bylaws on how to replace a pastor or the term limits of leadership within the congregation. The leaders of the congregation, both pastors and key leaders, need to always be helping the congregation prepare for transition. There are so many issues that this impacts, like development of people that have the gifts, call, and passion to be in leadership, both as vocational ministers and church leadership. In this module, we will provide some resources and guidance to help pastors and leaders recognize people with leadership and perhaps pastoral leadership potential. We will seek to help them develop mentoring relationships so that when transition happens people are prepared to step into leadership without a lengthy ramp up process. We will help them develop a succession plan for the congregation that will consider the challenges of changing times and culture so that the congregation is prepared. This is really significant when it comes to pastoral succession. Far too many of our congregations are not prepared for this and are unduly stressed when it happens. This is in both the ministry and in compensation. We will look to resource our leaders to be ready to lead the congregation effectively through this.
The cost of the event, as with all the Track 1 sessions, will be $25 per person, or $125 per congregation with up to 8 people attending.