What is one of the most important challenges for the Church looking forward? Some say it is ensuring that competent, trained leadership remains accessible to congregations of every size and location amid dwindling resources.
In the Minnesota Conference UCC today, 65 of our congregations have either ordained or licensed part-time pastors. That’s fully 50% of our congregations that can no longer afford full-time pastoral leadership, and that number is likely to increase. At the same time, a growing number of people who feel a call to ministry cannot entertain a traditional path of seminary education and training for a variety of reasons. The combination of these factors and much more is creating a mounting concern about the future leadership capacity of our Church.
The Conference Board of Directors has approved a new effort to address these challenges and concerns. In recent month, it authorized resources to develop a program that “will grow lay leadership capacity across the Conference, provide for multiple paths to ministry, and equip the church for the future.”
Reverend Vicki Wunsch has been hired by the Minnesota Conference to serve as our new Director of Leadership Development. This part-time position will guide our new efforts in this arena, including working with the Wisconsin Conference to develop a new, joint lay leadership development program and preparing for the Conference to host a multi-church Young Adult Service Community.
Vicki’s breadth of work experience will serve her well in this new Conference position. She has worked in non-profit organizations and churches for nearly 20 years. Her experience includes working as a national trainer to help churches become welcoming to the LGBT community, training congregations on faith-based community organizing, engaging faith communities and training clergy in supporting families effected by violence, and curriculum development. She has most recently provided pastoral care and grief support at Fairview Hospitals chemical dependency services. Vicki received her Master’s Degree in Adult Learning and Development from the University of Minnesota, and her Masters of Divinity at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She is ordained in the United Church of Christ and a member of Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis.
“I am excited to be part of this initiative that will strengthen and grow our church by creating new ways we can engage and develop lay leaders from around the Conference,” Vicki says. She has begun her work with the Conference as of March 1.
Stay tuned for news about how this major initiative is unfolding, and for opportunities for you to provide your input into the planning process!