Growth. It is one of the seven indicators that something is alive. We grow physically and we grow spiritually. One of my commitments to myself and the people that I lead is that I will continue to grow personally and professionally.
But how do you do that? Do you read everything you can get your hands on, whether new or used? Yes. Do you travel all over the continent to hear every speaker at every conference? Do you sign up for a Master’s or Doctorate program at a seminary where they have residence requirements, not to mention tuition and other costs? Now we’re talking about time, finance and location factors that a great majority of pastors cannot work within. At least, I can’t.
This summer I was invited to take part in an incredible program from the Willow Creek Association: the Leadership Institute for Transformation (LIFT). If your situation is like mine where you want to grow, are looking for something timely and relevant, but you have limited resources (or even if you have lots of time and finances), LIFT may be just what you need.
LIFT courses are seven week courses with almost all of your content made available to you online. (I say almost because I did notice that one of the Fall courses requires a book purchase.) Each week you download reading assignments that could be a relevant blog post or the chapter of a bestselling book. There is usually a video to watch and reflect on. In the Shaping Culture course, we also had two interactive live sessions where we watched the videos together online and were able to chat, asking questions and commenting on the material. (This was one of my favorite days!)
We are also encouraged to dialog throughout the course through the discussion forums. A few topics of discussion are suggested and we can share our thoughts and interact with others on the forum. You can sign up to be notified with each post or receive a daily summary of the forum activity.
The only catch to this valuable element of the course is participation. If you are not part of the discussion, you will not receive anything out of it. It is nice to know who is learning what you are learning, what they took from the material, how it applies to their situation, and even to simply receive encouragement from one another as we are open and honest about what that situation looks and feels like.
My course ended two weeks ago, but I feel like I am still in it. The material was so relevant to my needs as a pastor and leader that I chew on it often. Since participants are encourage to share material with their teams in order to maximize the impact on the organization, I have started putting together clippings, resources and questionnaires for our leadership team to work through over the months to come.
When we were asked what our take-away from the course might be, I made the following comments:
I had a hunch that this was [an issue] in our church. I did not really know how to describe it or have a solid idea of where to get started. Especially through the printed materials I now have a vocabulary that can articulate the concepts and issues to our team…This is exactly what I needed and it is going to make the journey forward a lot easier.
The next set of courses begin September 17. On the LIFT website you can find out which courses are available, including who you will be receiving material from and if you need to purchase any other materials. Don’t wait; check it out today. It may be exactly what you are looking for, and maybe more than you hoped for.
I took the Shaping Culture course. If you would like to see what I else I had to say about the course or are interested in what I might have learned, read these posts: Shaping Culture: Values & Vision and Shaping Culture: Digging the Right “Well”.