Over 200 pastors and lay leaders attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's (ELCA) annual Mission Developers' Training conference on August 19-23 in Chicago, which for the first time, gathered several leaders from the ethnic communities in the ELCA association.
Through the years, the training conference has provided "mission developers" with new approaches on how to administer the word into the lives of others, and whom have used their talents in forming new congregations for the ELCA.
Rev. Ruben F. Duran, the executive director for new congregational development at ELCA said the conference strived to "train mission developers" by directing them to "grow in evangelical outreach."
Participants gathered into small groups and attended plenary sessions on mission development, listened to sessions on how congregations were able to grow in number, and from bible study and keynote presentations, they were able to learn about the guiding principles of how to start a new congregation.
In addition, they were told to make a six-month plan on how they would start a new ministry within their own geographic and ethnic context.
"Starting a new ministry grows the ELCA, and the growth comes from the margin." Duran told participants at the plenary session on Aug 23.
At the plenary session on Aug 22, Rev. Ernie Hinojosa from the Camino Real Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas said, "whether you are starting a new mission or re-starting, it is helpful to define the mission, vision, and core values" and to know "about what God wants to do with God's people."
Commenting on what it means to be a leader, Jimmy Hao, one of the participants from Grace Chinese Lutheran Church in Seattle said, "The role of a pastor is not to be the boss," but they are called to "[administer] the Word and Sacrament," by "empowering members of the congregation into leadership so all can carry out the mission."
The Grace Chinese Lutheran Church, which became an official congregation in the ELCA on May 15, gathers a diverse group of congregants from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as well as second-generation Chinese-Americans, who attend their English or Chinese worship services.
He said that even though most of the members, who are mostly new Christians, could not understand the Lutheran doctrines, they understood that the "Word of God changed people's lives."
The conference focused primarily on leadership in the context of developing leaders to start new churches, but "the number one priority," of the conference was to "focus on the spiritual life of the leader," and to let them know that "Jesus is the foundation of the church."