n March of 2015, Dr. Roberto Hodgson, director of Multicultural Ministries, USA/Canada region, reached out to Rev. Errol Carrim, a leadership development coach, to create a program that would nurture young leaders. Errol and his wife, Rhonda, an ordained elder who teaches practical theology at Northwest Nazarene University, developed the ELDI program and serve as the program facilitators.
Within the DNA of the Church of the Nazarene is a commitment to develop and equip leaders for service. While we must always seek to be intentional about such efforts, fresh initiatives are sometimes needed in order to strengthen existing avenues or to create new avenues of training and equipping. The Ethnic Leadership Development Initiative (ELDI) is an example of the latter. It is beyond the scope of this article to address all entailed by the designation ethnic. Thus, for our purpose here, ethnic refers to a people group who share cultural, physical, or geographical ties.
Launched in September of 2015, the aim of ELDI is to provide leadership development for ethnic and multicultural churches in the USA/Canada region by offering training, coaching, and mentoring to selected young leaders from various ethnic groups. In part, the program helps young leaders become acquainted with denominational leaders and the ministries of the regional and international Church of the Nazarene. It also provides participants a valuable opportunity to network and build relationships with other young leaders from various cultural groups across USA/Canada Region. At the heart of the program is the goal of developing the inner life of the leader.
In the initial cohort, young leaders were selected by the ethnic facilitators of various cultural groups. Cohort 1 commenced with participants from eleven different ministry groups: African, Black, Cambodian, Chinese, Haitian, Hispanic, Korean, Native American, Filipino, Samoan, and multicultural contexts. Members of the second cohort, which commenced in May of 2017, were nominated by ethnic facilitators, and then completed an application process before selection. Cohort 2 added Laotian and Caucasian participants.
At the beginning of each cohort, participants meet at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas, for three days of workshops and introductions to one another and to GMC personnel. Over the next year, each participant receives personal coaching once a month by either Errol or Rhonda. They also receive opportunity to attend quarterly webinars on subjects relevant to their personal development as leaders. The first year culminates with the group gathering for two days of seminars and preparation for a mentoring relationship. In the second year of the program, participants continue the journey with a mentor, ideally from within their particular ministry context, to further their development as leaders.
The primary objective of year one is establishing the leader’s inner life. During workshops, webinars, and monthly coaching sessions, leaders are led to focus on their personal development. The cultivation of leadership skills is important; however, many skilled leaders have experienced failure and heartache due to a lack of self-awareness, failure to deal with personal history, inattentiveness to personal care, and other issues related to the inner life. Thus, the focus is not on leadership skills, but rather on fostering the leader’s character. Of course, each leader lives and works within a particular context, so issues related to life, family, relationships, and ministry are addressed during coaching sessions.
Participants are challenged and guided in developing emotional intelligence, recognizing how their past influences their leadership style, managing conflict in a healthy way, and communicating effectively with family and those they lead. They are encouraged to be more intentional with their self-care, Sabbath-keeping, and how they value their time.
Rev. Shane Burt-Miller, youth pastor at Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene, was a member of Cohort. He acknowledged that the program had a tremendous impact on his growth as a leader: “Through ELDI, I was able to experience authentic mentorship and coaching that has helped to boost my confidence and effectiveness as a leader.”
Dr. Tina Pitamber, pastor of the Solid Rock Community Church of the Nazarene in Richmond Hill, Ontario, was encouraged by the affirmation she received by participating in the program. Furthermore, the experience helped deepen spiritual maturity and provided a “safe outlet” for talking through personal and work goals. Many participants expressed gratitude for simply being able to process what was happening in life and ministry with a coach who was not embedded in their local context.
Among the participants are first generation immigrants to the USA or Canada, children of first generation immigrants who have grown up primarily in the USA or Canada, and those whose families have been in the region for many generations but who are part of minority groups. Caucasian participation was included for Cohort 2 with the recognition that this population group, too, is dealing with the challenges and realities of multicultural ministry contexts.
Drawing together such a diverse group offers several opportunities. One opportunity is to network with others who face similar challenges in ethnic and multicultural settings. Dr. Tina Pitamber is a second-generation immigrant who pastors a multicultural congregation. She observed that part of the value of the program was that it allowed her to meet others who are walking the same journey. She stated, “It was good to have a collective and diverse group of people to talk to and to share in our pain and in our victories.”
By design, the program also seeks to build greater cultural awareness and sensitivity. Time together helps participants establish relationships and hopefully enhances a sense of unity and collaboration that will carry on beyond the program commitment. Another opportunity they receive is to meet and interact with GMC personnel and to gain a sense of how the church operates on the regional as well as general level.
A key opportunity this program offers is helping second generation leaders learn how to bridge the gap between those who immigrated as adults and their children, who have grown up primarily in Canada or the USA. The challenge is twofold: (1) engaging first and second-generation immigrants within the local church, and (2) engaging in outreach and evangelism within local communities.
Many local churches have difficulty keeping their young people engaged in the church, but this challenge takes on a new dynamic within immigrant populations. Many first-generation immigrants retain their language and as many customs as possible, including ways of worshipping. However, their children often are more fluent in the language and customs of the host culture, thus creating the potential for increased resistance to church engagement.
One benefit of the program is helping participants develop into effective leaders who can help bridge the growing cultural divide between first- and second-generation immigrants within their particular community. In some instances, this has meant starting an English-speaking service among second-generation immigrants, while first-generation immigrants continue to worship primarily in their mother tongue. Thus, a key purpose of the ELDI program is to equip young leaders to serve effectively within a dynamic context and mentor them as their influence and responsibilities expand.
Since the ELDI program is only in its second year, it is too early gauge its overall impact. The hope is that the impact will multiply by attracting more participants from various groups, particularly groups that have had few or no representatives in the program. Early feedback from participants is positive. They feel supported, encouraged, and enabled to become the leaders God has called them to be.