While challenges and crises in church leadership are nothing new, their implications can be unpredictable and immensely pervasive in a rapidly changing world. Member churches around the communion are faced with manifold challenges, both external and internal. The changing situations and circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic for example, challenges and differences within and between churches have posed fundamental questions related to church identity and unity. “How can the church be church in the current situation?” and “How can the church promote being in communion?” These questions have challenged churches around the communion particularly since the beginning of 2019.
Issues of identity and self-understanding are closely related to leadership. Lutheran identity and theology should influence how churches are led, and on the other hand, leadership may facilitate how theological dimensions are realized.
The LWF wants to accompany and inspire leaders and people in leadership positions to openly discuss and reflect on questions around church identity and to deliberate on the meaning of being leaders in the Lutheran communion. In order to uphold unity, we want to challenge each other to critically explore how our shared values — dignity and justice, compassion and commitment, respect for diversity, inclusion and participation, transparency and accountability — are applied in church leadership. The leadership program aims to promote church identity in an inclusive communion and address issues related to power and participation. As a communion of churches, LWF strives for equal opportunities of women and men to access leadership positions in order to promote the meaningful participation of all to build the Body of Christ.
Changing circumstances also challenge leadership methods, skills and structures, and invite adaptability. Several member churches have expressed the need to rethink or adjust methodologies previously used by the church in relation to their members and church work. Many churches also see a need to reprioritize their ministries and find new ways of responding to people’s current needs.
In order to enable churches to develop and grow, it is necessary to build ministries that continuously adjust to changing circumstances. The ability to change and develop leadership is already present in the Bible, which showcases developing and changing leadership models in different contexts and eras.
Through its leadership program, the LWF invites church leaders and other people in leadership positions to challenge and revisit leadership methods, models and approaches that are used. The aim is not only to learn new skills and develop existing capacities but to also broaden our perspectives on how to lead and adapt to new forms of being church.
The Communion Office supports member church initiatives in leadership development. Rather than facilitating or granting financial support for a one-time training, the focus is on leadership development processes, which aim at long-term impact and sustainable changes. In all processes facilitated and accompanied by the LWF, emphasis is placed on the contextual needs and value of local ownership, engagement and capacity. The LWF encourages churches to take the initiative and contact the CO staff to share ideas related to leadership development processes. Such proposals can be supported as member church projects or an activity of the LWF leadership and institutional development program.
The LWF considers the accompaniment of leaders as a key priority. It is our joint calling to support each other, encourage each other and to build the Body of Christ together.
LWF’s leadership program brings leaders together and offers spaces for fellowship and accompaniment, mutual sharing and learning, and exchange of information, experiences and resources. By facilitating the establishment of networks, LWF wants to encourage leaders to be connected and support each other in their calling. The peer-based interventions and mentoring processes provide safe spaces for dialogue, whereby leaders can feel supported and empowered, and also address issues that are sensitive and truly concern and burden them.
The priority in mentoring processes is given to newly elected leaders, young leaders and women in leadership. If you are interested in the global mentoring group, kindly request more information.
The LWF Communion Office provides and develops resources, tools and training modules for leadership development in collaboration with the member churches. A new learning platform that is being developed on the LWF website will offer a compilation of all resources and materials structured by themes in a more accessible way.
We encourage member churches to contribute to LWF learning by sharing resources developed in their respective contexts. As always, we remain available for your ideas and initiatives.