Usually, it takes place in Indianapolis, IN, but due to public health concerns, this year’s Academy was hosted on Zoom, with resources available on Teachable.
And that’s not all that was new for 2020.
LA was held from Tuesday, September 29 to Thursday, October 1, reducing the length of the event from five days to three.
In addition, group registration was introduced, allowing core teams to register. After all, church planting is a team sport, and all the players should get training. This enabled a record number of 83 registrants!
To accommodate such a large number of people, various breakout rooms were provided on Wednesday and Thursday morning, giving participants an opportunity to network in rooms for prayer, self-care, revitalization, and more.
Also new to the Academy was improving accessibility for non-English speakers, with Spanish translations provided by Rev. Selena Reyes, Pastor of Nueva Comunidad Christian Church and Korean translations provided by Rev. Young Lan Kim, Associate Regional Minister of the Pacific Southwest Region, as well as breakout rooms for members of North American Pacific/Asian Disciples (NAPAD) and Obra Hispana.
As for workshop content, New Church Ministry worked to address the latest drastic shifts in the Church in an effort to remain relevant and resourceful. This was evident in workshops such as “The Church After COVID: Four Crucial Pathways of Belonging for An Anxious Culture,” where author Tim Soerens explored alternatives to anxiety and pathways of possibility during this pivotal moment for the Church, and in “Fundraising 2.0,” where spiritual entrepreneur Carla Leon of the United Church of Canada covered ten ways of generating revenue in light of new giving patterns presented by Millennials and the Z Generation.
Tim and Carla were joined by other new guest speakers, including Rick Reisinger (DCEF President), Cynthia Newman (minister, investment principal, and co-owner of the Newman Group), Rev. Dr. Delesslyn Kennebrew (Regional Minister for Ministry Innovation in the Greater Kansas City Region), DeAmon Harges (founder of The Learning Tree), Rev. Dr. Ken Crawford (Transformation Pastor at Central Christian Church in Dallas), Rev. Lee Ivey (Disciples Minister and therapist at the CTS Counseling Center), Natalie Teague (Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel), Lisa Pilat (Church Manager and Bookkeeper), and Christiana Rice (Director at The Parish Collective).
Supplementing these voices with their art were Pastor YaNi Davis, who delivered two spoken word performances, and Rev. Chantilly Mers, who sang as she played her guitar.
While various aspects of New Church Ministry’s first virtual Leadership Academy were new, participants were still able to engage in what made events of years past work so well.
For example, both pre- and post-launch cohorts were empowered by track sessions tailored to their experiences. Participants learned from thought leaders in joint plenary sessions called DOCTalks. LEADLabs (Learn.Explore.Actuate.Discover.Laboratories) helped leaders imagine, ideate, and implement missional and sustainable concepts through interactive, practical trainings.
Previous guest speakers made an appearance, too. Fr. Lorenzo Lebrija, the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab for church growth and innovation at the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, returned with his workshop on idea formulation and Nadine Compton delivered another workshop on brand building. Terri Hord Owens closed out the third and final day with a Commissioning Service as she did last year, where she delivered a sermon.
In a meld of new and old, Terrell McTyer facilitated TechSoup, and a DOCTalk on Facebook Live featured Loren Richmond (pastor, entrepreneur, and disruptor), Lashaundra McCarty (owner of 3 C: Creative Communications & Consulting), and Katy Valentine (coach at katyvalentine.com and founder of the Creative Christian Spirituality, LLC), where they shared their 12 hacks for transforming a collective’s technology. Attendees were able to submit their questions in the Zoom meeting’s chat, or by leaving a comment on Facebook Live video. Both of these features enabled the plenary guests to answer in real time and reach participants far beyond Leadership Academy.
With dozens of participants and speakers as well as multiple platforms to juggle over the course of three days, Laura Ginn, New Church Ministry’s Services Support Assistant who coordinated logistics for the whole event, was witness to many of the conversations and transformative moments that took place. For her, New Church Ministry’s first virtual Leadership Academy
“allowed for a new approach of team and New Church Movement training to happen along with having people from coast to coast learn to grow new churches virtually and adapt in the age of COVID.”
In other words, this year’s Leadership Academy prepared its participants for Church, the new way.