Imagine Transformative Leadership Under One Umbrella

March 8, 2021 | | GNJ News

“Transformation is the change from a condition of human existence contrary to God’s purposes to one in which people are able to enjoy fullness of life in harmony with God.”—Transform World

Like raindrops, leaders come in all shapes and sizes, reflect different images with different colors and in different ways. Those drops meet to form a puddle or sometimes reservoir of all those shared ideas and reflections. Now imagine a place where laity and clergy can learn together, helping each other grow and build more confidence.

According to the leadership umbrella principle, the size of our leadership umbrella is not how much we are in charge of; it is how much we can lead and keep dry, and how to lead with compassion means sharing that umbrella. It also says that the storms and trials should push us to grow our leadership umbrella.

The new Leadership Academy will be that umbrella for the future—one that says in spite of the recent obstacles, growth and vitality can still be achieved and if done correctly, to an even greater extent. The most recent program, which began last October, finished up in February with three Wednesday evening virtual sessions of “Missional Engagement that Opens Hearts, Minds and Doors,” where participants learned best practices for engaging in mission that is relational, transformative and uses the gifts and assets of a church and community.

GNJ’s former Director of Mission Ashley Wilson along with Rev. Luana Cook Scott of Morristown UMC and Hope Center Developer Andrea Wren-Hardin facilitated the sessions via Zoom.

“We’re helping them move from a place of charity to mission,” said Wren-Hardin, who hosted the second session.

“We’re all broken. With our different forms of brokenness, we need to learn how we can help each other, how we can share with each other,” she added. One way, Wren Hardin suggested, was through an asset-based approach that can sustain long-term change and helps people identify their own potential beyond contributions of outside experts.

The church has been called by God to engage in mission. It is through mission we grow closer to God, our community and one another as we work to transform the world.

But the three sessions were more than just instructional videos for participants. Those who tuned identified next steps to share with their mission committee and church leadership, as well as resources for encouraging and engaging in mission.

“We were so glad we joined! Each week was full of energy, and each presentation was laid out perfectly,” said Joanne Santoro, speaking for herself and her husband, Sal, who are laity at Aldersgate UMC and serve as the church’s leaders of the Outreach Team. “We enjoyed each breakout session as well as each presenter. The presenters were able to keep everyone engaged.”

Wilson, who focused on relational mission, including what scripture and our personal relationships reveal to us about mission in the third session, said she created a document that helped people think through a different mission or start something new.

“We explored mission gestures versus mission engagement and how to be more relational and long term in our mission ministries,” said Wilson.

Through the three sessions, participants not only connected to the instructors but also to each other, forming relationships that will likely be fostered in the future.

“I learned that people of GNJ are passionate about mission, and they’re looking to engage with each other and their communities. There’s definitely an interest in collaboration and partnership,” said Wilson, who added that she was pleasantly surprised when she learned that some people who took part in the sessions were engaging in mission in more relational ways in spite of the pandemic as they spent more time and effort in building relationships.

Overall, Wilson said the revamped Leadership Academy will help with partnerships between clergy and laity. It will give them shared tools to work with and the resources needed to make their ministries impactful.”

Rev. Juel Nelson, who is GNJ’s director of leadership development, is hopeful that the Leadership Academy will have a broader outreach while remaining committed to the mission. She said, “Christ-centered leaders are a vital part of every church in achieving the mission of the church. With these new resources in hand, they will be able to make an even bigger impact.”

Moving forward, Nelson said the Academy will offer more short-term courses and e-learning programs to enrich both laity and clergy and help them strengthen the five markers of vitality.

Stay tuned for more details at