EPIC as the Secret to Successful Leadership

Nov 08, 2002 03:00 AM EST

FORT WORTH, Texas - Christian futurists Leonard Sweet and Keith Kline, director of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Center, led a 56 participant "interactive team-building seminar.¡±

"Leadership development of the future will be conversation-based, not [based] on people attending conferences," Sweet said in an interview. "With this interactive team-building seminar, Southwestern is on the cutting edge of this new learning strategy."

Sweet informed the group that as technological advances change the style of learning, seminars also need to change in order to keep pace with the postmodern world. He envisions the move from the ¡°Come and hear a lecture¡± form of learning to a ¡°Com and be a participant and a team-builder¡± method.

The seminar developed out of a meeting Kline had with "Cutting Educators," a group of education leaders from what he described as "entrepreneurial-type churches that do whatever it takes to reach people."

The workshop included three major components, beginning with a large-group dialogue and interaction time with Sweet. Participants then met in smaller groups with participants who shared the same ministry function in their church to discuss the implications for their ministry area based on the dialogue with Sweet.

"Then each church's team met to evaluate current programming and to develop strategies for implementing what was discussed in the larger groups," Kline said.

Sweet bases his new concept of learning on ¡°EPIC - Experience, Participate, Image-Rich and Connection.¡± "This is an entirely new paradigm which is changing where we are to where we must go," he says.

Sweet compares the new learning style to the change in emphasis of television programs. According to Sweet, successes of TV programs such as ¡°Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" transitions the audience from the rational to the experiential, from representative to participative, from word-based to image-based, and from individual to connected.

The EPIC learning style allows everyone in the congregation to be involved in the service instead of only being attendees, akin to how "singing hymns and choruses back to back magnifies the experiential momentum of worship as opposed to stand-alone songs slotted into liturgical notches."

"We need to be more passion-driven than purpose-driven," said John Herring, pastor of discipleship at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Herring who prepares his Staff by studying Sweet¡¯s published material, believes that these workshops would be a success for his staff.

"We don't have time to sit through the non-relevant lectures," Herring said. "We need to get the information which is relevant to our needs quickly. This is not for shortcuts, but for experience itself." Herring notes.

A fervent advocate of the EPIC, Herring said he could see "light bulbs popping" in his staff members' minds as the seminar progressed. "These are the things we have been talking about, and as the seminar addressed the ideas and concepts, it started solidifying in our minds.I see this as the model of things to come in the future for teaching in our churches," Herring said.

When asked why he would invest precious time, money and resources into a small conversational seminar, Herring answered,

"We are about involving people in experiences. We need to share experiences together. The more experience my staff gets, the better language we have to communicate to our people. And the gospel is about communicating an experience to the people."

Herring said he sees the new paradigm as being a more relational Bible fellowship, noting, "We want to be intentionally relational in all we do."

"John Herring brought 14 people to the workshop," Kline said. "He did an excellent job of preparing his staff prior to coming and then helping them evaluate the implications that came out of the seminar."

"The learning experience of the future," Sweet said of the workshop, is "a much smaller, relational, heavily interactive style. You study ahead of time, then come to interact to get specifically what is relevant to you and your group."

The next ¡°Cutting Educators¡± workshop is planned for next fall. The church members invited to participate are expected to have completed the prepared assignments before attending the workshop.

By Pauline J.