Fuller Seminary’s newly launched Church Leadership Institute (CLI) is dedicated to helping Christian leaders lead churches and institutions through rapidly shifting ministry contexts.
“The most pressing issue we’re addressing for church leadership is how to help church leaders thrive through leading a change process,” explains Dr. Tod Bolsinger, executive director of CLI.
Leaders, says Bolsinger, have typically been “trained to be people of pastoral care and not necessarily trained to be change leaders.” The CLI fills that gap through research, resources, and consulting and coaching offered to schools and churches that span denominations, geography and size. “We’re working with mega churches in Texas and small churches in Michigan, urban churches in New York, and rural churches in Mississippi” says Bolsinger. What churches have in common, no matter their size, is living in a time of massive societal upheaval that requires an authentic and thoughtful response.
“We’re not the experts on racism, for example,” explains Bolsinger. “We help leaders learn how to lead change processes on those difficult issues. Our work is the change process. It’s helping leaders navigate change.”
Leaders can join an 18-month training journey with a cohort of other churches and ministries to learn how to “lead a team through processes of adaptive change.” Coaching is also available on a one-on-one basis with people in Bolsinger’s network. Because CLI is anchored in Fuller’s De Pree Center for Leadership, participants have access to resources and research on navigating the kind of deep change that Bolsinger, an expert who has written widely on adaptive change, points out can be painful, but ultimately is for the common good.
“I’m an alumnus of Fuller, for example, as well as a professor,” says Bolsinger. “I tend to want to change the school, to be the school I love. But even I need to say: ‘How do I help change the school I love to serve the Church, which is bigger than my own hopes and concerns?’”