Taking LEAD to the next level: Conference ministry as discernment rooted in vision, mission, prayer

by Noel Santiago and Sharon Williams

Noel Santiago
Noel Santiago

Do you know what your congregation’s vision is? What does it mean? How do you pray for your congregation? How do we understand what God wants?

If you are a leader in your congregation, how does your congregation’s vision and mission impact how you lead? How do you pray for the other leaders?

Several years ago, Franconia Conference initiated a new phase of connectivity with congregations for the mentoring and resourcing of pastors. Our LEADership ministers, carefully chosen to offer a wide breadth of skills and expertise, are assigned to specific congregations, but  also available to any congregation needing specific assistance for a season. This model calls for a proactive posture of oversight that is vision-oriented.

Much has been learned from this fluid way of walking alongside of pastors. Noel Santiago is implementing an upgraded process he’s framed as LEAD 2.0.

The primary focus of LEAD 2.0 is preparing all leaders to define, embrace, and lead God’s vision and mission for their congregation.

LEAD 2.0 starts with a 24-hour retreat for pastors and elders. As they focus on the congregation’s vision and mission, they also give significant time to a ministry of prayer with each congregational leader. Particular attention is given to listening for what God is saying.

Noel, along with congregational pastors and elders each share about their experiences in the following Sunday’s worship. This helps to create a sense of ownership and accountability between the leaders and the congregation.

The new dimension of LEAD 2.0 is for the church council, worship leaders, Christian education leaders, youth leaders and others to experience a similar but shorter process. An elder, pastor and Noel facilitate a session with each group of leaders.

The congregation’s vision and mission is front and center. Each leader shares about how she or he understands it and carries out the vision in their respective ministry area. Leaders interact around these understandings. During a time of prayer, the group offers words of appreciation for each leader and asking in prayer what each leader needs to know.

“Watch, look, listen; when you see me working, join in” is an invitation from God that the Salem congregation has been attentive to for several years. LEAD 2.0 has given a new way to focus the congregation’s vision and mission with all the leaders. “It is waking us up to what God wants for us as part of God’s ‘church of Quakertown,’” says Bruce Eglinton-Woods, the congregation’s lead pastor. “This process has raised our awareness of the need to work together with other churches to share Jesus’ ministry of love and hope with our neighbors.”

Churches in the Quakertown area have organized a code blue homeless shelter, and are seeking ways to reach out to 50-60 homeless teenagers in their school district. Weed whacking in the town’s cemetery has become a way to build relationships with the community and with at-risk teens who join them to do required community service. They are looking for concrete ways to reach people struggling with related issues of addiction, human trafficking and poverty. The Salem congregation is an integral part of these ministries.

Salem is taking LEAD 2.0 one step further by offering a day for listening, discernment and prayer for everyone in the congregation. It will be a “review of the future,” not the past. As they pray and encourage each other, participants will watch, look, and listen for what God is doing and how they might be called to join in God’s work.

God is using LEAD 2.0 to stir a passion at Salem for people who do not know Jesus and need to be part of a faith community. “How can our hearts not be broken? Homeless kids should be able to turn to the church; they should know they can do that. We are also learning how to love one another and that we have love to share. It’s fun,” says Bruce.

LEAD 2.0 is still pretty new. But congregations are already experiencing positive interactions of encouragement, support, ownership and accountability happening between the various leadership groups. Lay leaders are more mindful of and empowered to speak into the vision. Together, they are  “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . . press[ing] on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV).

Noel Santiago is Franconia’s LEAD Minister for Spiritual Transformation. Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.