A Lasting Impact

A Lasting Impact

Guest Author: Melody McSparran

As the college football season gets underway, it is the time of year when many proclaim their zeal for their beloved alma mater. Winning or losing, we all hold a deep attachment to the schools that have shaped us during pivotal times of our lives. But there may be an educational institution you have never attended and may not even think about that has deeply impacted you.

All of the Christ Community pastoral residents and many of our pastors have received their theological training from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS,) and therefore, those of us who sit in the worship centers of Christ Community and hear their sermons have also been significantly shaped by this institution.

In my 26 years at Christ Community, I know my life has been profoundly shaped by the faithful teaching of Scripture by our pastors, but it wasn’t until I became a TEDS student and more recently a board member, that I began to appreciate the deep connection of our church with this seminary.

What is so special about TEDS and why do we hold it closely as a partner in the mission of our church? Ken Kantzer, a strategic leader who spearheaded the founding of TEDS in 1963, proclaimed that Trinity was the Evangelical Free Church of America’s “love gift” to the local and global church.

The roots of the school date to the late 1800’s when Scandinavian Christians immigrated to the American Midwest. They established “free” churches, meaning churches who were independent from government control, deeply committed to proclaiming the gospel, to Bible exposition and ongoing missionary efforts. The Scandinavians began to set up their own schools for pastoral training and eventually merged them in 1946 to form Trinity Seminary and Bible College on Chicago’s north side. Eventually the campus resettled in Bannockburn, a north Chicago suburb, where TEDS resides today.

By the 1960s, many seminaries had abandoned their evangelical commitments or were lacking the academic rigor needed to respond to the challenges of secular academia and a changing culture. Ken Kantzer believed that graduate level seminaries who were committed to Christian orthodoxy were crucial to shaping future pastors, who in turn, would provide their congregants with a biblical worldview and fortify the church to effectively address the culture. So they set out to hire some of the best biblical scholars in the world.

This blueprint for the future, created by TEDS early leaders, transformed the small denominational school into a major academic institution, serving the broader evangelical world. One of the early draws for students to TEDS that continues today, is that it hires professors from different evangelical backgrounds and traditions, and encourages robust debate and transformational learning.

Christ Community is blessed to be partnered with this amazing institution. And while it may not have a winning football team, we certainly have many reasons to be thankful for TEDS and the impact it has made on all of us!

Made To Flourish — Our National Mission

Since the inception of Christ Community, we have had a mission statement that has guided us. Our mission is to be a caring family of multiplying disciples influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ. At the heart of our local church mission is the catalytic multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. The advancement of this mission has been incredible to see as our multisite congregation continues to have a growing influence in our city and around the globe. While we have long desired to play a catalytic role around our nation, we have not had the strategic opportunity until Made to Flourish was birthed two years ago.

Even though Made to Flourish is still very much in its entrepreneurial stage, I am delighted how God is already blessing our new national mission in amazing ways. As I have the joy of interacting with members of our Christ Community church family, many share both their excitement about Made to Flourish as well as their desire to learn more about our new national mission.

Let me address five of the most common questions I am asked about Made to Flourish.

What Is the Mission of Made to Flourish?

The mission of Made to Flourish is to train and equip pastors in both spiritual wholeness and  pastoral effectiveness with a focus on whole-life discipleship that connects Sunday faith with Monday work. The heart of our mission is geared toward clergy renewal leading to congregational flourishing and broad cultural impact. Our mission is animated by a deep and unwavering conviction that the local church, as Christ designed it, is truly the hope of the world.

How Did Made to Flourish Begin?  

Made to Flourish was birthed as an institutional partnership between Christ Community and The Kern Family Foundation in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The Kern Family Foundation believed that Christ Community was uniquely positioned to give leadership to a national initiative geared to clergy and local church renewal. An extensive period of exploration by the leadership of both institutions occurred over a one-year period. A strong sense of God’s direction led to formalizing this partnership and launching a national pastors network in May 2015.

How Is Made to Flourish Organized and Funded?

Made to Flourish was created as a separate non-profit organization, with our national office being established in Kansas City. The board of directors includes both members of The Kern Family Foundation and Christ Community. I serve in a dual role both as the President of Made to Flourish and Senior Pastor of Christ Community. This means that 60% of my time is invested in my leadership role at Christ Community and 40% of my time is invested in my leadership role at Made to Flourish. Our Made to Flourish executive leadership team is comprised of Matt Rusten as the executive director, Kevin Harlan as the vice president of philanthropy, and myself as the president. Our initial funding has come from The Kern Family Foundation, but we are actively pursuing other funding sources that will expand our national reach and move us toward being self-sustaining in the long-term.

What Progress Has Been Made in Our First Two Years?

We presently have eight full-time staff members. Our national network is made up of 1,679 pastors, representing 1,403 different churches and organizations. We have city directors located in 19 cities and look to increase this number by five cities in 2018. Another major initiative will be pastoral residencies. Just as we have modeled at Christ Community, we hope to see a “teaching hospital” approach replicated in other venues. This takes a good deal of time to do well, but enthusiasm is building. In fact, we have just made out first grant to a church in Florida.

We are developing resources for both pastoral and congregational leadership by sponsoring webinars, seminars, virtual workshops, and more. We have written and posted an ebook, Discipleship with Monday in Mind. My latest book, The Economics of Neighborly Love, will be released in September 2017.

How Can I Help Advance Our Made to Flourish Mission?

As a member of the Christ Community family, you have already played a vital role in Made to Flourish as we have worked together to launch this new endeavor. Let me suggest a few ways you can continue to be involved.

First, be informed about what is happening with Made to Flourish.

Second, pray regularly for God’s protection and favor on our staff and the pastors in our network.

Third, be an ambassador of Made to Flourish. Tell others in your sphere of influence about Made to Flourish. Let other pastors and churches know about what God is doing through this movement.

Fourth, attend our national conference, Common Good 2017, which will be held in Kansas City on October 13. CG2017 will be simulcast in 18 cities (Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati/Dayton, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles, Madison, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Research Triangle, Richmond, Seattle, Twin Cities, Washington, D.C.). We will also host an additional Spanish speaking venue in Los Angeles.

I am grateful for you and for the good work we have been called to embrace with prayerful expectancy and wholehearted obedience. It is a joy serving with you.

How to Gain Experience Before You Step Behind the Pulpit

Examining the value of pastoral residencies.

Guest Author Cor Chmieleski
First published at EFCA Now, the blog of the Evangelical Free Church of America.

How many pastors in their first year of serving uttered the words, “They didn’t teach me that in seminary!”

Most of us.

The reality is that there is a gap in training between seminary and the pastorate. Dr. Phil Sell, director of placement at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, uses the profession of medicine as an analogy:

“If you’re in the medical world and you graduate, you don’t just go out and practice. You have to be part of a residency program where you’re functioning as a doctor but there’s still a safety net; you’re still in an instructional environment.”

Yet far too often in the church world, recent seminary graduates immediately step into demanding spiritual leadership.

Seminaries such as TIU do require hands-on ministry work, but they acknowledge that the ideal for their graduates is a stronger partnership between seminary and church.

Thankfully, more and more churches are providing a bridge to span the gap between classroom and pulpit: the pastoral residency. The chief goal of a residency is to gain valuable, hands-on experience leading in the church in preparation for future ministry. Additionally, the resident learns about the unique lifestyle demands that pastors experience.

“There’s nothing that substitutes for real-life apprenticeship in the context of real people in a real congregation,” affirms Kevin Harlan, senior pastor of congregational development at Christ Community Church in the Kansas City metro area, which has hosted 26 pastoral residents since 2005.

Dr. Phil Sell agrees. “This is a deep transition into forming a pastoral identity, where they’re thinking primarily as a pastor and not as a student. We think it may be a better launching pad for many than jumping directly into a church.”

Above: At Hope Community Church, interns and residents are trained for church ministry and leadership through the Leadership Development Institute. Photo by Cor Chmieleski. Top of page: Residents at Christ Community Church gather regularly with campus pastors and senior pastors to discuss the complexities of the local church. Photo by Jeannie Lucas.

Successful pastoral residencies unfold as residents immerse themselves into the church—doing meaningful ministry and not simply observing, but always within that safety net of other experienced pastors and staff. This might mean leading youth, teaching, planning services, counseling and preaching. The gifting and future goals of the resident, along with the needs of the church, will dictate where to best dedicate time and energy.

At the same time, the church must hold onto its resident(s) with open hands—being willing to invest deeply while knowing that a more mature, prepared person will emerge on the other end, and may leave for a permanent position elsewhere.

A final, vital aspect to any residency is mentorship—“where residents are given opportunities to reflect on and work through [their] experiences with seasoned leaders,” adds Kevin Harlan. So it is incumbent upon the senior pastor, or other elders and staff, to provide ongoing evaluation, reflection and training.

Churches vary in how they qualify residents in terms of title and pay. Some churches call residents “pastors,” while others deem the position as no more than entry level. Consequently, those who view residents as pastors will provide a full-time salary and benefits commensurate with other pastors. Those who don’t will find alternative ways to financially support the resident—through housing help, part-time pay or sharing a resident with another church.

The church is without rival in the development of a leader. Unfortunately, too many churches are relying on seminaries to do what seminaries were never designed to do: provide all the necessary hands-on experience. So it’s time that churches provide the necessary bridge for these pastoral residents. And if they should say, “They didn’t teach me that in seminary,” may they also say, “But I did learn it during my residency.”

Cor Chmieleski is senior associate pastor with Hope Community Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and director of Hope’s Leadership Development Institute—a two-year learning environment for those wanting to explore church ministry and leadership.

Considering a pastoral residency at your church? Contact the author for ideas/advice, based on his own church’s residency program, the Leadership Development Institute.

To read more along the lines of “they didn’t teach me that in seminary,” check out the spring 2017 issue of EFCA Today: “In the Wild: Lessons learned outside the seminary classroom.”