Sponsored through a generous grant from the Ervil A. & Ronald E. Thiel Charitable Trust
The Pastoral Development Program concentrates on the training, development and resource needs of up to 12 ABC and interdenominational pastors over a 12-month period. It was initiated by Chancellor Dr. Kevin C. Eichner in 2011 with the express mission "To strengthen the skills, knowledge, spiritual formation, personal behavior patterns, and relationships which will enable pastors to be more effective and more fulfilled in their ministry for Christ's purposes."
The year-long, cohort style programming concentrates on leadership skills, business education, faith-based psychology, and individualized mentoring for current pastors. It consists of two-day training sessions each quarter on campus in Ottawa, Kansas, with church-site mentoring and self-discovery activities provided in the intervening months. On-site consultation and interaction at the pastor's home church can include congregational training opportunities and/or work with local church leaders.
During and following the development programming, pastors can access additional resources and support here.
In the summer of 2011, Chancellor Kevin Eichner proposed a Pastoral Training Program to Rev. John Williams, American Baptist Executive Minister for the Central Region, which promulgated the express mission "To strengthen the skills, knowledge, spiritual formation, personal behavior patterns, and relationships which will enable pastors to be more effective and more fulfilled in their ministry for Christ's purposes." Interaction, surveys and discussions were then facilitated with pastors at the ABC Regional Gathering and Ottawa University's Pastors and Laity Conference. Through these and other discussions, some common themes were discerned around which general program components were proposed:
- Pastors are looking for training opportunities to help them better motivate church members, make greater community impact and target their own development, but they have limited funds and minimal time availability. Training should be low or no cost to allow equal opportunity to large/small and rural/city pastor participants. It also should be intense when on campus and offer virtual and "at church" components.
- Pastors often feel isolated, and they look for opportunities that serve as a forum for sharing experiences, learning from those who have faced similar challenges, and recognizing and reinforcing other pastors' work. Time and opportunity needs to be scheduled for open-forum and peer sharing. Seasoned pastors should be recruited to participate in class dialogue and act as mentors for the program participants.
- Much of the leadership challenge for pastors is managing and leading non-paid volunteers. This requires more emotional intelligence, conflict management skills and a greater ability to motivate and inspire people simply managing paid staff. Focus must be given to common personality types, leadership tools and conflict management strategies. Materials should be tailored to specific challenges which arise in faith-based situations.
- A common view of mission is to "save souls and transform people's lives," but this is negatively impacted by worries about the financial bottom line. Although they recognize that the financial health of the church and ministries is a requirement, many pastors feel uncomfortable with the secularity of the "business side of things." Training on business-related elements would be appreciated, but to be well received, it must be clearly faith-based and foster servant leadership principles.
- The spiritual side must be deeply incorporated into any truly meaningful training experience. Essential spiritual elements, i.e. prayer to open a session, praying for each other's specific needs, and the integration of leadership elements with scriptural references, are crucial to participant comfort and program success.
Overall, pastors reported they face the difficult task of leading and motivating a wide variety of volunteer leaders, and while they feel well trained in theology, they often feel inadequate as leaders. This tied in with a national poll of pastors, which showed that having the personal leadership confidence to withstand negative pressures helps to buffer against loss of overall confidence, personal de-motivation and feelings of burn-out. There was also a necessary business aspect of church leadership that pastors indicated an inadequacy to properly handle. So while they know there is a comfortable basis in Jesus' teachings about money matters, they often feel squeamish in dealing directly with this financial or business component of the church.
In response, Chancellor Eichner began teaching a cohort of 12 pastors, selected primarily through nominations received from the American Baptist Central Region office but open to multiple denominations. Lasting 10 months and concentrating on the need of those currently in active service, the pastoral development program is offered at no charge to pastors or their churches. On-campus training targets leadership skills, business education, faith-based psychology, and individualized mentoring. On-site consultation and interaction at the pastor's home church includes individualized assessments and church-specific recommendations. Pastors are from ABC and other churches throughout Kansas, as well as Arkansas and South Dakota. Programming will eventually extend into neighboring ABC regions.
The 2012-13 ministry team was comprised of Chancellor Kevin C. Eichner ’73, Life Trustee Dr. Roger Fredrikson ’42, Rev. Warren Smith ’66, Religion Professor Dr. Richard Menninger, and Fredrikson Center Managing Director Dr. John Holzhuter.
The next cohort is scheduled to start August 2023.