In recent years, a conversation has occurred in the Presbyterian Church about the future of leadership, asking “Do we have the leaders we need to follow God into the future?” Even though evidence suggests that the future of the church will be increasingly flat in structure and egalitarian in ethos, it is still believed thatMature Christian Leadership is required for any community to succeed in responding to God’s call to Mission.

And, lest we get confused, by “Mature Christian Leaders” we do not mean simply “pastors.” Quite the contrary. The Synod of Mid-America (SoMA) believes that the way forward is for our church to again lift up and celebrate the different orders of ministry we believe God has given us: Deacons, Ruling Elders, and Teaching Elders.

Yet here is the problem: How do we ensure that our Ruling Elders and Deacons are formed into Mature Christian Leaders? The Teaching Elders of our church are often required to attend one of our 10 Presbyterian seminaries, which are acknowledged as some of the finest theological institutions in the world. But what about our sisters and brothers who are not called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament? They are also called to Mature Christian Leadership. How are they to be trained?

While there are occasional “leadership education” events held in various presbyteries and congregational settings, training for Deacons and Ruling Elders is ordinarily left to the congregational pastor, the vast majority of whom confess to feeling ill-equipped to adequately educate other leaders of the church. Through informal surveys, and public and private conversations, the SoMA has come to believe that congregational pastors would be well served through a basic curriculum of “Church leader training” that outlines a trustworthy path along which they can lead the congregational leaders they serve.

This basic curriculum should be modular, with topics stripped down to their essence and treated as “building blocks.” These building blocks could be used as stand alone discussion resources or combined to create a fuller experience. The end goal of the curriculum would be to lead congregational leaders to a place where they feel comfortable answering the “Constitutional Questions” of ordination/installation (W-4.4003) in the affirmative, and also to a place of relative comfort with the process and procedure of accomplishing the work they’ve been given.

In the paper Raising Up Leaders for the Mission of God[1] the following conclusion was reached:

Leadership education and formation involves partnership and mutual responsibility between PCUSA [councils] and PCUSA-related seminaries and institutions. The [Joint Committee on Leadership Needs] recommends that the resources of seminaries, presbytery Committees on Ministry and Preparation for Ministry, current [Commissioned Ruling Elder] training programs, and sessions be freshly combined in mutually reinforcing, accountable, and generative ways; that the PCUSA and its seminaries collaborate in new ways to nurture leaders for the mission of God in the world. Given the climate of diminishing resources in seminaries and various levels in the PCUSA including sessions, presbyteries, and seminaries must collaborate with one another. (page 5)

While the synods of the church are not specifically mentioned in this report, the SoMA takes seriously this call to action to ensure that high quality theological education is available to any and all who want and need it. In order to respond to this call, the SoMA has decided to take advantage of digital and communication technologies to make courses and curriculum available to our congregations and presbyteries. This project will be known as Theocademy.


[1]Published February 2, 2010 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Joint Committee on Leadership Needs (composed of members of the Committee on Theological Education, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board)