Tag Archives: LEADership Ministers

Lifting Up the Gifts of Others

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Randy Heacock particularly enjoys helping congregations think through their communications processes. “Many congregations tend to do a lot of informal communication, which can privilege the inner, familiar circles and unintentionally leave a lot of people out,” he reflects.  “It is lifegiving to help congregations better understand what they’re trying to accomplish and to communicate more effectively.” 

Randy serves as a leadership minister for Bally, Rocky Ridge, Towamencin and Wellspring congregations. In this role, he seeks to accompany and encourage not only the congregation’s pastors, but the congregation as a whole. He occasionally speaks in these congregations and meets bimonthly with their pastors and annually with church leadership.

“I enjoy watching congregations own their decisions, lean into them, and try to be faithful to what God is calling them to do,” Randy says. Recently he has been an observer and cheerleader to Tim Moyer at Bally as the church seeks to move to from a membership-driven to a “centered set” approach to church life. 

As a leadership minister he also seeks to be available to the congregation during times of transition, such as with Towamencin, where he serves on a search committee looking for a new lead pastor. Accompanying congregations through transition includes being available during times of crisis or loss.

“In December 2018, [Pastor] Mike Meneses passed away, and that was an intense time of walking alongside Mike as well as the Wellspring congregation,” Randy reflects. 

Randy became a leadership minister in January 2017. He had served as lead pastor of Doylestown congregation since 2001 and was drawn to the leadership minister position as an opportunity to share what he has learned with other pastors, as well as to bring back to Doylestown what he learns from other congregations.

Previously, Randy served in ministry with the United Methodist Church (UMC). “The faith I was raised with was more intellectual and theological, and I found myself attracted to the more relational approach of the Mennonite Church, as well as the call to love our enemies and those different from us.” 

Randy and wife Nancy

His time with the UMC still influences the way that he sees leadership. “As pastors we do have authority and we shouldn’t be afraid to exercise it. At times the servant leadership model in the Mennonite church has made us shy away from the responsibility we have to exercise that authority for the good of the community.”  

In 2000, Randy had a “gap year” between pastorates, something that he recommends for every pastor. Through a year working in a chime factory, Randy developed a deep appreciation of entrepreneurs and small business owners who treat their employees respectfully and carry the stress of providing jobs and creating a successful business.  

The experience prompted him to identify ways to lift up the gifts of small business owners. “We have not known well in the church how to engage entrepreneurs and their creativity. We are risk-averse and afraid of failure in the church, and that tends to choke out entrepreneurs. Businesses move on from failure much better than churches,” he reflects.

More broadly, working outside of ministry has helped remind Randy of what daily life looks like for most churchgoers, and how to better serve them. “As pastors we focus too much on what happens in church. Church is a small piece of what people do. We should instead focus on how to help people connect their experience in church with how they engage in the world.” 

Randy also emphasizes the importance of pastors having a life outside of work. “I think it’s vital for pastors to have circles outside of their church to be themselves and have fun. It’s not healthy to be too identified to your work,” Randy encourages. 

For Randy, this looks like playing trivia weekly at a local establishment with a group of friends, hiking, being outdoors, and fixing things. Notably, he finds regularly waxing his car enjoyable and relaxing. 

Grateful for a Sad Surprise

By Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister

When Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister, invited me to consider being a LEADership Minister, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  I have a LEADership minister and I have been in the conference long enough to remember the early conversations of the role of a LEADership Minister.  However, one of my first interactions, a phone call from an elder of a congregation I now serve as a LEADership Minster, caught me by surprise.  Steve never warned me of such a call, nor was it listed in the memo of understanding I signed.  I attended the training on mandatory reporting; Barbie Fischer, Conference Communication Manager, provided some guidelines for communication protocol so that confidentiality is maintained.  I was ready to go, so I thought.

An elder called and began with the following statement, “Randy, I need to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness.”  He went on to explain how he had heard something about me that he allowed to shape his opinion of me.   When my name came up at their elders meeting, he raised some questions based on what he had heard about me.  The other elders challenged him to speak to me directly rather than to rely on what he had heard.  Hence, he began with an apology for not speaking to me first.  His sincere apology and request for forgiveness provided a solid foundation for us to discuss his questions.   I believe we both ended the conversation grateful for the interaction.

Though grateful, I soon felt a sense of sadness regarding this conversation.  Sad, because it made me realize how rarely I have been involved in communication with other believers in which a person requested to be forgiven.  In 30 years of pastoral leadership, I can only recall one other time when a person asked for my forgiveness.  I wondered why this is so rare in the church that proclaims that reconciliation is the center of our work.   At the same time, I have witnessed men with whom I have played basketball with for 15 years apologize to one another on a far more regular basis.   Why is it more common for these men, many of whom do not share a faith commitment, to readily apologize to one another?

While I could provide some possible answers, I prefer to let us think on this for ourselves.  I do know the positive outcome of one elder’s apology.   I was deeply moved and our relationship enhanced by his phone call.  It also challenged me to consider what stops me from freely seeking the forgiveness of another.  I am grateful for this sad surprise.   I pray we all may grow and experience the fruit of forgiveness in our relationships as the norm rather than the exception.

Luke 17:4, “”And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Transition brings Interim LEADership Ministers

As the Conference is in a time of transition, it provides an opportunity for reflection and strategic planning for the coming years. With that, the new Executive Minister, Steve Kriss, and the Conference Executive Committee have provided a six-month transitional period that included bringing on three contracted LEADership Ministers, one of whom will also serve as Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing.

On January 1, 2017, the Conference welcomed Emily Ralph Servant, Randy Heacock, and Wayne Nitzsche into the role of Interim LEADership Minister. Emily will also serve as the Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing. Their willingness to serve in these interim roles ensures that all conference congregations have a dedicated Conference Minister available to serve them. In addition, with Emily stepping in as Interim Director of Congregational Resourcing the Conference can expect continued equipping events available to all Conference members and some geared toward credentialed leaders.

“Interim times are valuable for reconsidering and rethinking staffing configurations,” says Steve Kriss, Conference Executive Minister. “With the departures of Ertell and Jenifer, we have an unusual opportunity to reimagine how to lead and serve at the Conference level.  While I don’t anticipate changing our model of LEADership Ministry for accompaniment alongside pastors and congregations, this team of interim LEADership Ministers for six months will provide excellent space while also offering clear contacts for Conference ministry.  Emily, Randy and Wayne are skilled leaders who have conference level experience.  I’m grateful for their availability and willingness to serve in this time of change.  I’m grateful too for the flexibility and trust we have found with our congregations in the willingness to embrace each of them in the interim role.   As a conference we have a healthy pool of gifted and capable leaders; Emily, Randy and Wayne are evidence of this in their responsiveness to our invitations to serve together.”

Emily has been credentialed with the Conference since 2010, and a member of the conference since her youth.  She has served as a worship leader at Bally Mennonite Church, led worship and taught Sunday School while a member at Salford, and conducted interim ministry work with Swamp and Indonesian Light. She also spent time serving Sunnyside congregation in Lancaster, PA. Emily will also serve a number of Congregations as LEADership Minister while working to provide meaningful equipping events over the next six months.

Looking toward this new role, Emily states, “There is a special spirit in Franconia Conference that feels different from other contexts in which I’ve ministered, one that continues to draw me back!  I love the way that we celebrate diversity, passionately partner in different types of mission, and support one another in difficult times.  I’m so pleased to minister again as part of the staff during this time of transition, walking alongside some really gifted pastors and congregations!”

Randy Heacock steps in to his role as Interim LEADership Minister while continuing as pastor at Doylestown Mennonite Church. Randy was ordained in 1991 through Virginia Conference transferring to Franconia Conference in 2001 when he accepted the position at Doylestown. Randy has a wealth of pastoral experience spanning the last 35 years and has also served on the Virginia Conference Nurture Committee and as Chairperson of the Virginia Peace Committee. He has been noted for his steady presence and ability to walk with congregations through difficult times, holding space with patience as the Spirit moves making discernment possible.

In regards to his new role as Interim LEADership Minister, Randy says, “I am excited for the opportunity to walk alongside other church leaders as they pursue a Kingdom vision.”

Wayne Nitzsche currently serves as pastor at Perkasie Mennonite Church. He will continue in that role as he joins the Interim LEADership Ministry team. Wayne has been a member of Franconia Conference since accepting the role at Perkasie in 2008. Originally, Wayne was ordained in 1989 through Ohio Conference where he would serve as Regional Pastor for 12 years. Throughout his career, Wayne has served in a number of ministry roles including time under Mennonite Board of Missions, now known as Mennonite Mission Network. Wayne has been noted as having exceptional listening skills and truly strives to model Jesus in his everyday life. He will be working in these next six months with three congregations who face transitions themselves.

Wayne states, “God is with all our congregations. Perhaps God’s presence is most keenly experienced in times of pastoral transition. I look forward to walking with Alpha, Bally and Taftsville through their transition. I’m sure I will be enriched by the ways the Spirit is at work in these congregations. I hope to draw on twelve years of conference ministry experience in Ohio Conference, along with present pastoral perspectives from my pastorate at Perkasie Mennonite.”

We welcome these three to their new roles and are grateful for their answer to serve in this capacaity.

To learn more about the new Interim LEADership Ministers check out their full bios at: http://mennoniteconferencex.org/directory/staff/

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.









Neighbors and coffee make kairos in chaos

by Sharon Williams

A pretty marvelous thing happens around this time of the year: It snows, and cabin fever-weary neighbors find each other on the sidewalks and streets, shovels in hand. They talk together and share a common battle with the elements. They laugh, and play with the kids and the dogs in the snow. But then the snow goes away (yes, it always does) and everyone gets back to their isolated, hustle-bustle routines.

After about a year of living in a new neighborhood, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, Franconia Conference LEADership minister and minister of transitional ministries, realized that she really didn’t know her neighbors. She tried prayer walking. Occasionally she would deliberately stop and talk with people. Then she decided to invite some of the women with young children for coffee once a week. It was quickly dubbed “coffee and chaos.”

Participants share coffee at their weekly "coffee and chaos" gatherings.
Participants share coffee at their weekly “coffee and chaos” gatherings.

Always curious about how other people experience God, Jenifer began to gently ask questions. She discovered that most of her neighbors were unchurched. She began to watch for kairos moments—when God’s time meets our time and the Holy Spirit moves. “So, where do you see God in the chaos of your life?” she asked. Now when coffee and chaos meets, women often start conversations with, “I had a Kairos moment!”

People continued to come to for coffee and chaos. They started a book club, using mostly secular titles, but always sharing requests and simple prayers together. Souderton Mennonite Church provided child care so the meetings were not quite so, well, chaotic.

As people learned to know each other, they began to host gatherings for the whole neighborhood. They celebrate Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day) on January 6 with rosca, a special sweet bread cake that has a baby Jesus hidden in it. Other events include a salad party and a summer solstice ice cream party. Each event has a faith aspect built into it.

Children also participate in "coffee and chaos"--or at least the chaos. Childcare is provided.
Children also participate in “coffee and chaos”–or at least the chaos. Childcare is provided.

One of Jenifer’s favorite celebrations is the back-to-school barbeque. Every household in the neighborhood, whether they have school-age children or not, is invited to eat and play yard games. During the meal, the adults write blessings for the children and youth, and post them on the garage door. At the end of the meal, the blessings are read, and they pray together. “We want the children to understand that we love all of them, Jesus is with them, and that they can come to us anytime,” Jenifer explains.

More recently, a small group, who named itself Kairos Community, has begun meeting for worship twice a month in Jenifer’s home on Sunday evenings. They tell a story from the Bible in a way that adults and children can understand. They talk about how this scripture is meaningful/relevant to their lives, share prayer requests, pray together, and enjoy a simple soup meal.

“It’s exciting to journey with people at various stages in their journeys with Jesus,” says Jenifer. “I’m inspired by what I learn from them. People who wouldn’t be friends under normal circumstances are learning to care for each other.”

As one neighbor told a friend, “Things have changed around here for the better.”

Leadership is emerging from among the neighbors. Some of the women have worked with Jenifer to co-lead presentations for churches that are interested in starting similar ministries in their neighborhoods. One of the men has a vision for a soccer ministry with children. Their experience has been featured on Fresh Expressions, a ministry in the United Kingdom that “seeks to transform communities and individuals through championing and resourcing new ways of being church.”

Interested to learn more about reaching out to in your neighbors with the love of Jesus? Jenifer’s neighbors would be happy to encourage you. Bring coffee, join the chaos, and watch for the God moments.

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.

“Where in the world?”: a glimpse into the work of a conference minister

by Sharon Williams

In the early 90s, a popular children’s television game show called “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was broadcast on PBS. The show was based on a series of computer games designed to help viewers sharpen their geography skills.

In Franconia Conference, you could ask a similar question—“Where in the world is Steve Kriss?”—and in the process, learn many wonderful things about people and congregations of Franconia Conference. You’ll need a map of the east coast of the United States to trace Steve’s travels; geographical stretch, in Steve’s case, is an understatement.

Steve preaches often with the congregations the he serves alongside as LEADership minister. On February 22,  Steve preached twice in South Philly with Adrian Suryajaya who interpreted into Indonesian, first at Philadelphia Praise Center then at Indonesian Light Church. The congregations are about a half mile apart but reach different communities due to worship style and cultural backgrounds. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.
Steve preaches often with the congregations the he serves alongside as LEADership minister. On February 22, Steve preached twice in South Philly with Adrian Suryajaya who interpreted into Indonesian, first at Philadelphia Praise Center then at Indonesian Light Church. The congregations are about a half mile apart but reach different communities due to worship style and cultural backgrounds. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Steve carries LEADership minister responsibilities for 12 congregations, located as far north as Vermont and as far south as Georgia. Currently, four of the congregations are in pastoral search processes, and another is working on a pastoral review. Steve’s goal is to nurture healthy relationships with all the congregations he walks alongside.

Next, watch for the locations of new congregations. Steve is often involved with helping them to launch their ministries and build connections in the conference and denomination.

“It’s a privilege to walk with them. I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm they bring to God’s work,” Steve says. Right now, Steve works with three new congregations emerging in South Philly.

Some of the congregations Steve works with are in the same area, such as the Lehigh Valley trio of Whitehall Mennonite Church, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church.

“Networking, creativity, and thinking outside the box are some of Steve’s greatest gifts,” says Rose Bender, pastor of the Whitehall congregation. “He’s always asking, ‘What might God be doing here? ‘How can we dream God’s vision?’ He sees the big picture and helps us make vital connections. Each conference staff person has a niche and expertise to offer us. These are the things our congregation appreciates about our relationship with Steve.”

At the new conference center on the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Steve serves with the conference board’s ministerial committee as its staff person. This group guides the licensing and ordaining processes for new ministers and cares for credential transfers when ministers move in and out of the conference. The committee also provides continuing education for credentialed leaders. In this role, Steve also provides coordination among the LEADership ministers.

On the road again, Steve preaches usually twice a month around the conference, and handles all manner of inquiries about congregational leadership.

If you watch closely, you might find young adults and new pastors “on location” with Steve. Mentoring is an important part of cultivating leaders for the church. You will find him teaching in a classroom for Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s satellite classrooms in Philadelphia, Norristown, or Souderton. Sometimes his many travels double as field trips.

Look behind the scenes, too. As director of the conference’s communication team, Steve’s travels around the conference inform the planning and writing for Intersectings (the conference e-zine), Intersections (the newsletter), the conference’s website and other communication tools. The goal is to help make connections in the conference, and raise awareness of what is happening conference-wide.

In any given week, Steve may be found in enough places to highlight in a half-hour game show from Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania to Bridgewater Corners, Vermont or Sky Cafe in South Philly. But these travels mean more than that; they’re part of cultivating God’s dream in all of the places the people of Franconia conference live, work and worship.

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.

Conference group prays, crochets

by Jenifer Eriksen Morales

The first Sunday Michelle came to worship with Kairos Community, she reached into her bag and pulled out a beautiful purple hand crocheted shawl. “I hope it’s ok if I wear this,” Michelle said as she draped it over her shoulders. “I use it all the time,” she added. “It helps me feel close to God; like I’m wrapped in God’s warm beautiful love.”

I recognized the prayer shawl. Michelle and her family had a difficult year. In December I invited her to join me in attending Souderton Mennonite Church’s longest night service for those experiencing loss and pain. During that service, Michelle received anointing, prayer, and the shawl from pastors Sandy Drescher-Lehman and Tami Good. As Michelle gathered for worship in our “home church” that evening, I felt incredibly grateful to the women in Souderton Mennonite’s prayer shawl ministry who blessed my friend by gifting their time and hands to lovingly and prayerfully crochet these shawls, a source of art, beauty and comfort. I wondered if the creators had any idea how many lives and hearts they warm.

Michelle and her niece, Sage, read the Bible wrapped in God’s love together at a recent Kairos Community gathering.
Michelle and her niece, Sage, read the Bible wrapped in God’s love together at a recent Kairos Community gathering.

I never learned to sew. My grandmothers tried to teach me to knit and crochet. Those lessons didn’t go well. But even someone with clumsy hands can admire the quilts, wall hangings, embroidery and wide assortment of cloth items produced by Mennonite women and a few men. Quilting and sewing is a colorful piece of our rich heritage. Although not a part of my personal experience, I feel a sense of loss when, in my work with congregations, I hear that quilting and sewing circles are declining in number. I understand the core of these gatherings to have been a time of fellowship, community building, prayer and ministry. Items made were donated to those in need, given as gifts by the congregation or sold at auction to raise money for mission and ministry. Yet, recently I have come to realize the Spirit is knitting something new but perhaps not all that different into being.

I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Tiana Martinez, a member of Methacton Mennonite Church. Tiana was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia. Crossroads provides safe and educational space for children and youth, but also has a food assistance program and a thriving prison ministry, which has given birth to a new congregation, Christ Centered Church, attended by many ex-offenders and their families. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015, thus launching “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered if others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Plans are being made for participants to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.

Tiana’s email opened my eyes. I realized there are a number of people across Franconia Conference who knit and crochet. Some congregations have an established and growing knit/crochet ministry, where people gather together to crochet blankets, prayer shawls, hats and scarves. The soft, warm, brilliantly colored items are donated to those in need or given as gifts from the congregation to newborns, people in the hospital or as lap blankets for the elderly. In fact, Souderton Mennonite gifted me with a prayer shawl for my ordination. Often, the teams of people who create these gifts spend time praying together in advance for those who will receive them. Though the products are different, it seems to me, the crochet/knit ministries and sewing circles share the same core values of ministry, prayer, and fellowship.

A funny thing happened when I told some people in a congregation about Tiana’s ministry. A woman piped up, “I don’t knit or crochet, but I can quilt and knot, would that be helpful?” Of course!

This cold winter and especially as March comes in like a lion, I am inspired by those across Franconia Conference who are quietly wrapping people in God’s warm, comforting, beautiful love, “one stitch at a time.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, Tiana Martinez invites individuals and congregations to help share God’s love “One Stitch at a Time” by crocheting or knitting afghans or donating any color 4-ply yarn. For more information please contact Tiana: tmartinez65@gmail.com.

Jenifer Eriksen Morales is the minister of transitional ministries and LEADership minister with Franconia Mennonite Conference.  

On the road with LEADership ministers

by Sharon Williams

Aldo_CA2014What comes to mind when you imagine Franconia Conference LEADership ministers and the work they do? You may be surprised to know that the new conference office at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School is probably not the place to find them, although a phone call there will certainly get you connected.

Steve Kriss, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, Aldo Siahaan, John Bender, Noel Santiago, and Ertell Whigham are always on the go. Each one connects with anywhere from three to 12 congregations in Vermont, northern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They give much time and energy to congregations in transition and emerging congregations. An estimated 50 percent of conference congregations are in the midst of transition and/or growth.

Pastoral leadership is a common transition. Some congregations choose to work with an intentional interim pastor who stands in the gap and prepares the congregation to receive a new pastor. The LEAD ministers provide guidance for both search processes, and support elders and lay leaders in managing the congregation’s current and future priorities.

Jenifer Eriksen Morales, minister of transitional ministries, also works with other Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) conferences on the east coast to train intentional interim pastors, and serves on the MCUSA task force for interim pastoral ministries.

Emerging and growing congregations are another focus. These congregations are high maintenance, but in a very good way. LEAD ministers help to address staffing needs, work with pastors who are new to the Anabaptist faith, and build relationships—in essence, anything that propels the missional vision forward.

The work of the LEAD ministers sometimes crisscrosses when their congregations work together. The Lehigh Valley youth ministry partnership is shared by the Whitehall, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel congregations and led by Danilo Sanchez. Vietnamese Gospel Church in Allentown and Philadelphia Praise Center are partnering in a joint worship and outreach ministry with the Vietnamese community in south Philly. The LEAD ministers must also nurture their relationships with each other so their collaborations are fluid and fruitful.

Last summer, Aldo Siahaan and Steve Kriss received a “Macedonia call” (Acts 16:9-10). Could they meet with a Mara (Burmese) church during their visit with Georgia Praise Center leaders? This congregation in Atlanta is part of a network of Mara churches in Indianapolis, Indiana, Baltimore, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The network is reaching out to Mennonite conferences on the east coast for assistance in establishing pastoral leadership. The exploratory relationship has many possibilities.

“As an immigrant pastor myself, it’s exciting to walk with the Mara Christians, to see them reach their destiny as a people, a church in this country,” says Aldo. “If they choose to join Mennonite Church USA, how will we receive each other and grow in ministry together?”

Each LEAD minister offers her or his unique gifts to their congregations. Noel enjoys helping pastors, elders and lay leaders experience the values and practices of intercessory prayer. Jenifer weaves in a missional focus with unchurched neighbors, adapted from the Kairos in Chaos ministry she’s involved with in Souderton. Aldo enjoys a natural affinity with the Mara church through their similar languages of Indonesian and Malay. Steve and Ertell always bring best practices of intercultural competencies to the mix.

Looking for your congregation’s LEAD minister? She or he may be in a meeting, consulting with pastors or elders in a coffee shop, or in a car on the way to your church.

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 the minister of worship.

New LEADership Ministers join Franconia Conference staff

by Sheldon C. Good

Aldo Siahaan
Aldo Siahaan

Experienced Mennonite pastors John Bender and Aldo Siahaan have joined the Franconia Conference team of LEADership Ministers, bringing experience in church planting, intercultural leadership, and congregational pastoral work.   Each will serve alongside several congregations yet to be decided and will work from home bases in southeastern Pennsylvania’s largest cities while continuing pastoral ministry assignments.

Aldo Siahaan, based in Philadelphia, helped start Philadelphia Praise Center in 2005. The congregation joined Franconia Conference in 2006, and Siahaan became credentialed as lead pastor in 2007.

Siahaan’s other ministry experience includes being a board member of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast, teaching a summer cross-cultural course at Messiah College, and being a member of the Indonesian Pastoral Network.

Siahaan hopes that in his role as a LEADership minister he can both “be a blessing” to others and “learn more about leadership in a broader way.”

John Bender
John Bender

John Bender, based in Allentown, Pa., is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He and his wife, Marilyn Handrich Bender, started Raleigh (N.C.) Mennonite Church, where they co-pastored for 18 years. For the past nine years, John pastored Pittsburgh Mennonite Church.

In July 2013 the Benders moved to Allentown, Pa., where John is the part-time director of Ripple Community, Inc., a ministry of the RIPPLE congregation. He is also interim associate pastor of the Franconia congregation.

Bender served in a number of leadership capacities with Virginia Mennonite Conference and Allegheny Mennonite Conference and has close to 30 years of pastoral ministry experience.

“I care deeply about pastors and churches and helping them to pursue healthy relationships together, and I hope I can be a resource to pastors and a guide along the way,” Bender said.

Both Bender and Siahaan bring fresh perspectives and proven track records as they join the team of LEADership ministers resourcing congregations in mission and ministry, said Ertell Whigham, Franconia’s executive minister.  “We feel that both John and Aldo bring a variety of gifts and experience that will help us to provide the support congregations need while enabling us to continue the intercultural work that we have stated as one of our conference’s values.”

LEAD is the conference’s platform for oversight, designed to Lead, Equip, And Disciple both lay and credentialed leadership as they guide congregations. A congregation’s LEAD team is comprised of a LEADership minister, the pastor, the chair of the congregation’s governing body (when relevant), and a LEAD advisor from beyond the congregation.  LEADership ministers serve as the primary point of contact between congregations and Franconia Conference.