It starts with a vision to equip the 'person in the pew'.
Church Leadership Center has its roots in the Commissioned Pastor program of the Reformed Church in America and as a result of an initiative by the Ralph and Cheryl Schregardus Foundation. It was the vision of the foundation to equip the ‘person in the pew’ to become effective leaders who would serve the local Church and engage the marketplace missionally.
The Commissioned Pastor program began with a decision of the 2002 Reformed Church General Synod to embrace the ministry designation of Commissioned Pastors. Competencies and guidelines were provisionally passed by the RCA General Synod and approved the following year. This document will use the designation of Commissioned Pastor and Preaching Elder interchangeably. The CLC program is structured to meet the core competencies as outline later on in this document.
In 2008 a proposal was developed by the Ralph and Cheryl Schregardus Foundation to create an approach for the ministry education of church lay leaders that would be consistent with and fulfill the requirements of the Commissioned Pastor program. The Foundation proposal also sought to extend it beyond the scope and reach of any one denomination or region and create a church revitalization ministry emphasizing the training of missional leaders and the development of missional strategies. The proposal resulted in the appointment of Dr. Burt Braunius as founding President of the Church Leadership Center, with Dr. Wayne Brouwer as curriculum developer.
By 2015, CLC was training participants in areas well beyond the Midwest with partners in several denominations and candidates in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Celebrating the success of many of their graduates serving as pastors, leaders, and ministry specialists in areas such a children’s ministry or planting churches, the CLC continued to serve the missional impulse of Christ.
In 2021, building upon the work of past leaders and a dedicated team, the CLC made a strategic decision to reimagine the ministry in response to a growing multicultural, multilingual, diverse community of individuals and churches within a growing global community. CLC reaffirmed its core mission of equipping the ‘person in the pew’ but realizing that ‘person’ has evolved to include a much broader mosaic of the church community. In order to reimagine CLC, Rev. Joseph Ocasio assumed the position of Executive Director to lead the ministry to continue its mission but broaden its reach globally. CLC will be adding Spanish programs, offering a catalogue of specialized ministry training, contextualizing the CLC experience, and building upon its distant learning models, student support, and coaching to assure that CLC graduates continue to impact the work of Jesus locally and globally in the church and the marketplace.
An OverviewChurch Leadership center
Church Leadership Center (CLC) is an (1) independent (2) non-profit (3) Christian (4) training ministry (5) assisting churches and (6) individuals to deepen core ministry (7) competencies and (8) expand the number of leaders who will build up the (9) Body of Christ and bring many to faith in the (10) mission of Jesus.
1. Independent: We were started by the vision of several devout Christians as an independent training organization for church leaders in partnership with several denominations, independent churches, and organizations.
2. Non-profit: We are a non-profit organization registered (501c3) with the United States government, able to receive charitable donations, and functioning with minimal administrative costs.
3. Christian: Our goal is to serve Jesus and his church. All we do emerges out of that commitment.
4. Training Ministry: We provide personalized, mentored training for those who are seeking to grow in leadership competencies for service in the church and its church-planting ministries. We address the training needs of those who are already participating in some form of meaningful ministry leadership within a congregational setting, and who are working with their larger church structures to seek leadership affirmations and credentialing possibilities. We are not a denominational seminary or an independent Bible college and do not ourselves provide credentialing or diplomas and degrees. Our goal is to provide foundational competencies for meaningful church leadership to those who are already in the processes of ministry leadership, assisting them to lead more effectively and possibly to achieve certain goals of credentialing within their ecclesiastical organizations. Our training process is personal, mentored, facilitated, outcome-oriented, cost-effective, and reasonably short:
- Individuals contact us seeking to grow in their ministry competencies for enhanced leadership effectiveness
- We develop with them and their supervisory bodies a meaningful training plan that involves between one and ten courses, most of which are either five or ten weekly sessions in length, based upon their current levels of experience and training, and the specific outcomes or leadership roles toward which they are aiming
- We connect each person to a mentor within their ecclesiastical setting, who will walk with this person throughout the time of their CLC training to provide guidance, feedback, encouragement, prayer, and helpful insights from years of ministry experience
- We bring students together in classes (usually ten or five weekly sessions) of about 5-7 (sometimes connected across distances electronically) with a live facilitator who will teach our quality course materials and guide students through discussions and assignments which can become permanent records in their portfolios, giving evidence of the learning that has taken place.
- We confirm the learning and achievements of each person to their congregations and larger ecclesiastical bodies, providing the foundation require for next steps in affirmations, recognitions, possible jobs and likely credentialing by those groups
5. Assisting Churches: Many congregations recognize the need for addition trained leaders beside seminary-educated pastors to provide support and direction in multi-faceted ministries. These congregations direct members and friends to CLC for foundational training in the key areas of ministry understandings and general skills. These churches are also important in the CLC process because they form the support communities of individuals who are receiving CLC training, and they provide opportunities for these individuals to engage in ministry leadership practices, while holding them accountable and possibly credentialing them for ministry leadership positions at the conclusion of their CLC training.
6. Individuals: Many individuals experience the call of Jesus to evangelize, nurture faith, and lead God’s people, but find themselves deeply invested in full-time occupations, family responsibilities, and other commitments that prevent them from going to seminaries or Bible colleges full-time. CLC training meets the needs of these people who have hearts of ministry passion and service, who are already volunteering as leaders in ministry settings, and/or seek necessary or additional learning to more fully equip them for better ministry leadership. CLC ministry training provides opportunities for these individuals to grow deeper in their leadership capacities while continuing in the dynamics of their current life situations. It also fosters one of the deep commitments of CLC, namely that those who study to gain ministry leadership competencies in this manner ought to be deeply integrated into a caring ministry setting. CLC training is not intended for isolated individuals who are merely seeking a diploma or a job.
7. Deepen Competencies: Our CLC training ministry is based on the biblical teachings that some are called by God to ministry leadership, and that these individuals need to be equipped with at least basic competencies to engage in such ministry leadership. CLC training focuses on the basics that are necessary for all who seek to lead God’s people, providing short but clear courses in:
- Bible knowledge and understanding, so that God’s redemptive work in our world is clearly understood
- Church history overviews that help students gain a better understanding of how Jesus’ people have traveled through cultures and circumstances, and have articulated the central elements of Christian faith in a changing world
- Theology, which takes the many elements of biblical teachings, and organizes them into a more comprehensive and integrated portrait of God’s work among us, and the flow of salvation that pulls us along in God’s grace
- “Standards,” “Confessions” or "Doctrinal Statements" of the church, by which various families or denominations of Jesus’ people have summarized the most crucial elements of Christian faith and practices that they hold as non-negotiables at the center of their communities.
8. Expand Number of Leaders: Jesus told his disciples that the fields were white for harvest, but that the laborers were few (Luke 10:2), and that we should pray for more workers in the mission of the church, and invest our own selves in this ministry as we are able. Our goal, through CLC activities, is to encourage and enable as many people as we can to speak to others about Jesus, call many to salvation, and provide competent leaders in the ministry of Jesus’ church.
9. Build Up The Body of Christ: At CLC we are focused very specifically on leadership as it comes to expression in Christian ministry. We are not a general leadership training organization, though we do make use of whatever good leadership training insights are being communicated in our world. But our focus is on Jesus’ church, and enhancing the leadership gifts of those who have been called to serve in and through it.
10. Bring many to faith in the mission of Jesus: Our constant encouragement and slant, in our CLC training, is for people to catch the fire and passion of Jesus for the lost and the last and the least in our world. We are not interested in training people to occupy static roles in maintenance ministry. We continually call those who engage in our training ministry to speak of their personal faith and to witness of God’s grace, and to challenge others to come to Jesus.