Clergy Leadership Academy: 'Yes' space for designing the future

May 25, 2023
2022-2023 Clergy Leadership Academy participants

This year, participants in the Minnesota Conference's Clergy Leadership Academy (CLA) explored the essential leadership task of equipping others. We are called to make disciples for the transformation of the world, and we all know that the world and our churches are operating in a changing landscape. What does this mean for discipleship? What do we want disciples to know, do, and be?
We invited clergy and laity from a variety of congregations to share how their discipleship systems are evolving. We learned from Rev. Stina Koppes, Bill Lewis and Lori Lahtinen from Cross Winds UMC in Maple Grove; Rev. Kali Christensen and her team at Clarissa, Clotho and Eagle Bend UMCs; Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota Area director of new church development; and Revs. Dan Wetterstrom, Kelly Lamon, and Jeremy Peters from The Grove in Woodbury and Cottage Grove. In our last session for the year, we created “yes” space and practiced some human-centered design processes as we explored questions around discipleship trends and did some creative thinking. It turns out we have lots of ideas!


CLA is a three-year cohort learning experience for provisional members of the annual conference as a part of disciplinary requirements for ordination and strongly recommended for licensed local pastors or clergy from other denominations in their first four years of pastoral ministry. My primary objective is to equip participants as spiritual leaders following our clergy competency model and in alignment with our mission and values. Each of the three years has an specific focus:  
  • Year A: Leading Self—Developing Authenticity and Self Awareness
  • Year B: Leading Others
  • Year C: Leading the System/Organization

One of the best parts of CLA is the community that is formed and, in May, we celebrated the graduation of one of our mentor groups. Congratulations to Revs. Laura Hannah, Penny Bonsell, and Andrew Bonsell, and a HUGE thank you to Rev. Lori VonHoltum, who completed three years as their clergy mentor.

This graduating group led us in an incredible worship experience, including music from what we now call the Bonsell Band.

I am always grateful for my time with clergy at CLA. What I love most about it is that I get to create, curate, and then belong to a community that fosters authentic spiritual leaders for the Jesus movement in Minnesota. It’s one of best parts of my job, and partnering with Cullen Tanner to make these retreats restorative, informative, and connectional (and at times simply goofy) is our delight!

Jody Thone is director of leadership development for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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