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7/23/97 Key observer cites Golden Gate as leadership training model

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Nationally known church consultant and author Lyle Schaller has singled out Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary as the leading example of theological seminaries serving the leadership training needs of churches in the 21st century.
“As I talk to and work with denominational leaders — national leaders in a lot of other religious traditions — the majority of them are saying very clearly that our number one issue today is … leadership,” Schaller noted.
Speaking at the North American Missions Conference July 16 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center, Schaller doubted the ability of most theological seminaries to provide adequate training of effective leaders for churches in the future.
“The reasonable expectation today is not to expect theological seminaries to prepare people for (local church) ministry,” Schaller said. “They can help do that, but they can’t do it (all).”
However, he pointed to Golden Gate Seminary as being best positioned to train future church leaders because of its emphases on decentralized education and instruction by ministry practitioners.
“Golden Gate is probably the number one illustration of this, not simply in your (Southern Baptist) tradition, but in other traditions also,” Schaller said. “Golden Gate is committed … to the idea of decentralizing, (and) more particularly, classes will be taught by practitioners who meet the criteria for academic respectability.”
Golden Gate President William O. Crews said the California-based seminary’s priority on the local church drives the development of programs that equip people for leadership effectiveness.
“This affirmation of our work from such a well-respected observer of the church scene emerges from the essential value we place on our relationships with local churches,” said Crews. “Golden Gate Seminary was birthed in a church by the churches for the churches. We must always view ourselves and our programs as accountable to, available to and adaptable to the local church.
“All of us say we believe this, but the insincerity of our servanthood to local congregations is evident all too often in what we actually do as denominational entities,” Crews said. “We must insist on partnerships with local churches that are substantive, meaningful and strategic in serving their needs.”
Golden Gate is one of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the only SBC agency in the western United States. It operates regional campuses in Mill Valley and Brea, Calif.; Vancouver, Wash.; Phoenix; and Englewood, Colo.
“We are one seminary operating in several strategic mission centers of the West,” said Crews. “Our effort to deliver a quality, accredited seminary degree at a distance is based upon the following propositions:
— “Seminary training is most effective when it occurs within the context of a student’s ministry.
— “Information access is more important than information proximity.
— “Mentorship is most valuable in the spiritual environment that shaped a student rather than in the seminary classroom.”
The seminary’s board of trustees last year designated a category of faculty for pastors and other church leaders with academic qualifications and current ministry experience to teach courses on a regular basis, serve on faculty committees and participate in membership status on the faculty, while at the same time continuing their ministry in a local church. “Who better to teach a course on preaching, leadership or ministry development than a pastor who is doing just that week in and week out?” Crews said.
“Allowing students to be shaped for ministry by those in ministry builds relationships and accountability.”
Schaller told conference participants they should see leadership development as a key issue for “embracing the 21st century.”
Such a view is consistent with what Schaller called the proper roles for denominational agencies of resourcing congregations and challenging to accomplish what they think they can’t do.
Noting the context for leadership is vastly different from previous generations, Schaller urged denominational leaders to issue two other challenges to address leadership issues in the future:
— Identify the denomination’s best churches and place young people in different internship experiences to see “excellent models” of churches.
— Identify those in their junior high and early high school years who are the potential leaders of tomorrow and provide positive, formative experiences with churches.
“What I would see as one of the agendas for the Southern Baptist Convention in embracing the 21st century is that you become much more proactive than you are in recruiting training for leaders,” he said.
Schaller noted today’s established and well-known leaders will continue to have some influence with churches into the future, but it is the churches who provide positive leadership experiences for those who will lead churches generations ahead that will thrive in the 21st century.
“Challenge congregations to introduce (young people) to the church of the 21st century, and that will be your most effective way to build leadership for a new millennium,” he said.

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  • Cameron Crabtree