Friday, July 23, 2010

Formation panels as a process in leadership formation

If you arrived at Uniting College today, you would have seen a carpark full of cars and a steady stream of students coming and going.  Today is Formation panel day, when teams of 3-5 people gather around each   candidates processes for ordination. Practically the panel is carefully chosen to bring missional leaders, faculty academic advice and skills in adult education. The same panel meet with the same candidates three times over a year, in a process that might take up to five years and involve academic study, fieldwork and readiness to transition into first placements.

Formation panels, and the carpark full of cars, are a recent development for training here in South Australia and have been shaped by a number of theological beliefs that are worth naming.

First, that training for ministry is not intellectual, but deals with formation for discipleship, inviting the whole person into processes of integration. Thus a panel is a way of making intentional this belief and will be exploring with candidates anything from life to balance, relationships to academic study to fieldwork.

Second, that candidates are engaged in ministry with and among the church. Hence the church, and not solely the academy, should be involved in their formation. I love seeing that carpark full of cars, some people driving up to two hours, all people living in and among the demands and pressures of congregational life. This is the church at work, giving time and focus toward leadership formation.

Third, that each candidate has a unique calling. This is not about producing cookie cutter ministers, all following the same template. Rather time in Formation Panel is given to listen, listen, listen, and then seek to shape a unique programme around each student -  mixing study, fieldwork, supervision. Every programme is unique and is revisited in each and every Formation panel, wanting to be flexible to student growth and development.

It’s an exhausting, time-consuming, complex process. It is demanding for the panel and for the candidates. But it makes some important theological points about the formation of leaders for the church of tomorrow.

Posted by steve at 04:32 PM

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