Anabaptist leadership program will begin its 16th year in the fall
By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Education Agency/Mennonite Church USA) — Participants in the 2015–16 Values-based Leadership Program (VBLP) explored tools for leading teams during their second face-to-face session, which was held Feb. 23–25 at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
The 35 participants in the four-month Anabaptist Christian leadership program first met in person in October 2015; they’ve met by phone in cohorts of six to seven participants since then.
“The February session reinforced all that we had been learning together, like applying communication styles and diversity awareness to our personal and team leadership,” said Steve Muller, chief operating officer of Garden Spot Village in New Holland, Pennsylvania, and a VBLP participant. “We also shared a rich time of dialogue with our cohorts, reflecting on our leadership journeys and refining our purpose statements to apply personally and organizationally.”
Investing in healthy leadership practices
Capitalizing on team talents, using the Six Thinking Hats® process, growing in intercultural competence and learning about leading change were among the topics the participants addressed in February with the guidance of the VBLP resource team.
According to Lee Schmucker, a consultant from Wichita, Kansas, who helps lead the program, the resource team facilitates a process intended to deepen participants’ self-awareness, expand their leadership perspectives and skills, and encourage healthy leadership practices and relationships.
She said the gap between the October and February sessions encourages participants to put into practice what they are learning and to be intentional about their leadership development. The cohorts, which meet throughout the program, provide space for vulnerability, exploration, encouragement and accountability.
At the close of the program, participants present their personal leadership purpose and value statements, which they have refined and clarified throughout the process.
“My greatest joy is hearing participants describe their renewed focus, self-discoveries, encouragement and empowerment in their leadership roles,” Schmucker said.
Learning to lead from within
Muller said the program is a good resource for people who are “interested in living out their values and faith more fully in their leadership.”
“I found the program to be a very comprehensive look at leadership, from assessing personal strengths and leadership styles to gaining valuable perspectives on diversity and understanding others,” he said. “Participation with a select cohort of other attendees added depth and understanding to the content as well.”
For Madalyn Metzger, marketing director of Everence Financial and a VBLP participant, the program brought a new perspective to the idea of leadership from within — “within our organizations and within ourselves.”
“Because we are called to lead as people of faith — through our work and service in institutions of faith — the program is helping us clarify and hone that calling within a faith perspective,” she said.
She added that the program had been a valuable experience for her, both personally and professionally: “It enabled to me to refocus on who I am and how I want to lead, and gave me the space to define what that means and what that looks like.”
Participants sought for 2016–17 cohorts
Schmucker said that while the VBLP continues to evolve to stay relevant and current, the intent and impact are consistent through the 14 classes — inviting leaders to integrate personal story, faith, values and style to deepen authentic leadership practice.
“Over the years, VBLP alumni describe how the program experience has transformed their leadership journey,” she reflected. More than 500 people from across the US and Canada have taken part in the VBLP since it started in 2001.
Registration is open until Aug. 31 for the next VBLP class, which will meet Oct. 18–20, 2016, and February 21–23, 2017, at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center. The program is designed for individuals working in health and human services, education, missions, international relief and development, area conferences, congregations and businesses. (See www.vblp.org.)
Mim Shirk, senior vice president for MHS, a sponsor of the program, said it is as much for senior people who need a fresh take on leadership as it is for people moving into leadership roles for the first time.
“It’s more about discovering your own leadership style — your strengths and weaknesses — than learning a right way to lead,” said Shirk.
VBLP sponsors include Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Everence, Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Mennonite Education Agency, MHS and Schmucker Training & Consulting.
Participants in the Values-based Leadership Program — grouped by personality type — present on 1 Corinthians 13 during their February meeting. (Laurelville Mennonite Church Center photo)
Participants in the Values-based Leadership Program discuss a presentation given during their February meeting. (Laurelville Mennonite Church Center photo)
Participants in the Values-based Leadership Program concluded their time together in February by singing a blessing, “The Lord lift you up.” (Laurelville Mennonite Church Center photo)
Lee Schmucker of Schmucker Training & Consulting, a member of the resource team for the Values-based Leadership Program, shares with VBLP participants at their February meeting. (Laurelville Mennonite Church Center photo)