Over 130 District Superintendents, District Board of Ministerial Development members (DBMD), Religion Faculty, and non-traditional program instructors (FLAME) gathered at five regional meetings aimed at implementing best practices for developing healthy, fit, and effective clergy.
Together, this group comprises the Wesleyan Ministerial Development Leaders (WMDL). The WMDL was formed to work alongside those seeking ministry credentials in The Wesleyan Church. Whether you’re a pastor, student, church official, or congregant, the WMDL Institute affects you. Strong churches require healthy leaders. Quality leadership requires investment in the formation of healthy, fit, and effective pastors.
The 2015 WMDL meetings provided a juncture for two broad Wesleyan emphases related to ministerial credentialing: education and formation. These meetings culminated a longstanding process to redefine the desired outcomes for those called to ordained ministry in The Wesleyan Church. “Through conversations and focus groups of over 500 pastors and church leaders, we have identified 70 educational and formational outcomes for a Wesleyan pastor that relate to what pastors should know, be able to do, and what kind of character and pastoral sensibilities they should have,” said Dave Higle—Director of Clergy Development.
To achieve these outcomes, ECD has fostered collaboration across the local church, districts, Wesleyan higher education, and ministerial training programs (like FLAME, FLAMA and Cross Training). This partnership allows ministerial students to expand their knowledge, excel in personal growth and spiritual formation, and become equipped for more authentic Christian leadership.
As emerging ministers journey toward ordination, they are accompanied by the District Board of Ministerial Development (DBMD). As such, “Part of this meeting explored how to deepen the formational aspects of the DBMD experience for ministerial students. DBMD members are embracing their role as a discerning body, listening for the Spirit’s confirmation of a student’s potential call to be a minister,” said Dave Higle—Director of Clergy Development.
Russ Gunsalus, Executive Director of ECD explained the impetus behind this exploration: “The education and formation of a minister is a team endeavor. Educators are the primary source for students’ knowledge, and the local church provides them the primary context for developing skills, and the DBMD provides character and attitudinal evaluation. Together we discern and assess the combination of skills, knowledge and aptitudes emerging in an ordinand’s life as they prepare to become a minister.” WMDL meetings have helped districts consider and move toward a more comprehensive standard for evaluating candidates’ character, competence, and calling.
But these meetings didn’t just culminate conversations; they stimulated further questions. WMDL members walked away asking: How do we develop programs around these clergy characteristics? What criteria measure a congregation’s ability to develop skills and character? What’s the role of the local church in recommending potential ministerial students from their congregation? How can this system help current pastors continuing their education? As the WMDL members continue asking these questions, one thing is certain: this initiative will continue to be a catalyst for leadership development in The Wesleyan Church.
As a result, pastors will be more healthy, fit, and effective—ready to partner with God in transforming lives, churches, and communities with the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ.
Ethan Linder is a staff writer for Education and Clergy Development. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana–where Ethan is College Ministry Pastor at College Wesleyan Church, and Sarah is a teacher. When he’s not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies.