From the President: What is the best way to educate leaders for the future church?
Hold this question with me for a moment: What is the best way to educate leaders for the future church?
I promise I’ll get back to that question. For the moment, though, I want to share with you that we are currently exploring several exciting partnerships at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). One is with an area group that fights food scarcity. We’re in conversation about the possibility of renovating and re-opening the Refectory to function as a “community kitchen” that trains people for work in the hospitality industry and to serve as a restaurant that will be open to the LTSP community and those from our surrounding neighborhoods. Another is with a local interfaith hospitality network to rehab a couple of our empty apartment buildings to serve as low-income housing for folks trying to get back on their feet. Yet another conversation is with a woman’s shelter about providing safe and affordable short-term housing in a home we own that is currently vacant. Yet still one more potential partnership is developing with a counseling service connected to an area college that wants to offer their services at a sliding-scale to folks in our local community and to our seminarians.
I will say upfront that each of these conversations is in the early stages of development and so none are guaranteed. More than that, I can say for sure that not all of them will come to fruition. But some will, generating additional revenue for the seminary and, more importantly, helping us reach out to the local community with the services and support of the church. These are tangible ways LTSP is partnering with church and community organizations to meet the concrete and substantial needs of God’s children in our neighborhoods with the love of Christ.
But here’s the really cool thing about these budding partnerships: each of them was developed, nurtured, and supported with the involvement of our students! That’s right — some of these programs were suggested by students as part of a public theology class, as told in the MAPL “Guppy Tank” story in this issue of PS Portions, while others have been guided or supported by student input, while others still will provide students with the opportunity to understand how the sponsoring organization works and giving them hands-on experience at developing significant partnerships and running effective organizations.
So back to the initial question: What is the best way to educate leaders for the future church? Answer: invite them into leadership opportunities early and often so that they can gain essential real-world experience and develop the tools to reflect theologically and critically on their experiences.
You don’t teach a child to read or to ride a bike by reading books about the development of the alphabet or the mechanics of two-wheeled vehicles. And you don’t teach someone to be a public leader only by reading about public leadership in a textbook. Instead, you teach someone to lead by inviting him or her into leadership roles.
That’s what we’re about at LTSP these days. It can be a scary proposition at times, as emerging leaders will inevitably make mistakes. But guess what? Mistakes can be your best friend when learning a complex skill in a changed and changing context.
If you know someone interested in learning to lead by leading, or someone with the faith and gifts to exercise leadership in a church that is constantly on the move, or someone committed to living their faith in the world, I’d urge you to send them in our direction to consider pursuing either the Master of Divinity or Master of Arts in Public Leadership. The church needs good leaders. And we aim to provide them. Thank you for your prayers, recommendations, and financial support to achieve this critical goal.
Yours in Christ,