The Teachers Service Team of the International Churches of Christ is addressing the need for Leadership Training and for Congregational Training in the Scriptures.  The new chairman, Gordon Ferguson brings this update of their service.

Ministry Education and Teaching (M.E.A.T.) 2009 Year-End Review and 2010 Potential Plans


As it has developed within our committee, we have naturally fallen into two basic categories regarding our main interests and focus.  We have one group who is primarily focused on ministry education, and another who is primarily focused on congregational training for the average disciple. I would prefer to call the Ministry Education segment “Leadership Training,” since by custom we have used (or perhaps misused) the term “ministry” to refer only to those on the staff of churches – hence paid staff.  Leadership is a broader term, encompassing non-staff leadership as well, and we do have programs in place that are dedicated to training what the religious world calls “lay leaders.”  Both leadership and membership training are very worthy tasks, and while we all obviously vitally interested in both parts of this charge, it is important that we have somewhat of a division of labors.  As I understand it, here is how our group is divided up regarding these two emphases (knowing that some overlap naturally occurs):

Leadership Training

Gordon Ferguson, Phoenix
Steve Staten, Chicago
Steve Kinnard, New York
Doug Jacoby, Atlanta
Arturo Elizarraras, Mexico City
Ed Anton, Virginia Beach
Reese Neyland, Los Angeles

Congregational Training

Fred Faller, Boston
Tom A Jones, Nashville
Steve Brown, Nashville
Although there are many other good candidates who are quite worthy of serving in our group, for now this is the designated group.  Ed Anton was added to the group back in the summer of last year, and I’m sure others will be added in the future.  Thankfully, there is no shortage of well qualified brothers who would be happy to serve in this capacity, and like all groups, this one will be dynamic in terms of changes (additions and deletions) of members. But now let me proceed to my main reasons for writing this update of 2009 and request for specific directions for 2010 and beyond.

Report of 2009 Activities

As you all know, the Delegates for the United Plan for Cooperation have determined that we should have nine different service committees to help give direction to the other delegates and thus to our movement as a whole.  The ministry education committee has been chaired very capably by Steve Staten up until recently (I assume until the International Leadership Conference in Denver).  At that point, Steve asked if I would assume duties as the chairman of the committee, to which I somewhat reluctantly agreed, with the agreement that he would assist me in administrative duties and in other needed ways.  For the past year and a half, I have been off the staff of the Phoenix Church, and have started a teaching ministry to provide for our financial needs. My ministry is officially called Gordon Ferguson Teaching Ministries and my web site is gftm.org. Last year as I was in a learning process in an endeavor that was new to me, I traveled too much, being out of Phoenix for 169 days total.  Although I have less travel planned in 2010, this helps explain why it is so important for me to have Steve’s advice and help.

Under Steve’s direction, here are some of the things we did as a group in 2009:

1. Two conference calls for discussion were held regarding our assigned tasks, ways to accomplish them, and what has already been accomplished.  I was able to participate in one of these conference calls, and will schedule them this year to allow my participation in all of them.

2. Two meetings as a group took place, although not all members were able to be present at both meetings.  One meeting was held in Atlanta prior to the International Teacher’s Seminar, and the other took place in Denver at the International Leadership Conference.

3. Many other more informal conversations between various members of the committee helped us plan for and shape the other more formal conference calls and face-to-face meetings.  All of our communications were very helpful in providing a needed foundation for the future, and I want to thank each of you for all of the contributions you made to the group and our assigned tasks.

4. At least two tasks were assigned us in a very specific way, and others were requested of us in a more general way.

  • We were asked to develop and recommend a ministry training curriculum, which request we broadened into also planning to develop and recommend a basic curriculum for congregations.  Neither phase of this task was accomplished last year, but is high on our list of priorities for this year.
  • ·We were asked to lead the way in discussing and presenting material on the subject of “baptismal cognizance.”  This task was designed to not only meet a perceived need within our movement, but to help us develop a model for the joint participation of the teacher group, the evangelist group and the elder group in addressing doctrinal topics that could have significant ramifications in our churches. In our planning meeting in Atlanta, we were blessed to have Sam Laing and Joey Harris join us in this discussion. This task ended up being accomplished in a very helpful way, with all three groups represented in a presentation of material at the ILC delegates meeting.  Those who spoke to the subject were Mike Taliaferro, Steve Staten and me. A side benefit of helping develop a good working relationship between these three groups was in finding out that our cooperation and presentation influenced at least one church leader to decide to urge his congregation to affirm the cooperation proposal. No doubt unity always inspires its beholders! In a real sense, these three groups cooperating together will be quite essential for the future, since we are connected in our task and must cooperate effectively and consistently. The evangelist group was formerly called the “Church Builder’s Group,” and the name designation change is quite welcome, since all leaders in God’s family must be totally devoted to being church builders, whatever the specific main roles we may focus upon.

Review of Needed Tasks for 2010 

The needed tasks for this year are primarily to finish what we were asked to do in 2010:  recommend curricula for leadership training and congregational training; and develop and suggest venues for implementation of said curricula. Since my focus is primarily leadership training, I will have to depend upon the other brothers more involved in congregational training to provide the lion’s share of the congregational training component. In the latter part of this paper, I will be making a request of those who now have any type of official leadership training programs in place to share a number of specifics about those programs with me. I will then compile it in a form that allows all of us to get the big picture of what is currently being done, which will allow us to learn from one another and improve our own current programs.  It will also help us develop unified recommendations for training on a broad basis for all who have no specific program in place for such needed training.
This year we will need to have both conference calls and face-to-face meetings, in addition to our ongoing e-mail communications like this one. None of these are scheduled yet, although the ILC is assumedly an ideal gathering for one of the meetings. This month in Florida, the evangelist group is having a retreat for many evangelists from many locations, and during this time a meeting of the committee heads of each of the nine groups will be held. Since my schedule won’t allow my attendance, Steve Staten has graciously agreed to attend the meeting to represent the teacher group. After this meeting, we will schedule our first conference call of the year, and I will be suggesting some agenda items for this call and requesting your input for additional agenda items.
No International Teacher’s Seminar is scheduled for 2010, although we want to plan one for 2011 that we hope will be much better attended than those of the past. Interestingly, the ITS evolved from Doug Jacoby training teachers within the old Commonwealth World Sector into a program with a much wider appeal. Since no one else was doing what Doug was doing at the time, teachers and those interesting in becoming teachers from different World Sectors (to use our old terminology) invited themselves to the teacher training Doug was offering. This led to a broadened program that came in time to be called the ITS, although Doug was the primary instigator and director of the seminars. He did consistently seek the involvement of other recognized teachers, and some (like me) did attend some of the seminars and were given teaching slots in the programs.
Going forward, Doug will continue to offer his Biblical Study Tour, a program with a broad appeal to teachers and general members alike. Our group is going to be more involved in developing the ITS programs, working in closer conjunction with other leaders (notably the evangelists and elders service groups) to make sure we meet perceived brotherhood needs and receive much greater support from the evangelist and elder groups. We will be planning this together as the teacher group, and asking for input and support from the other two groups during this year. We all owe Doug a big “thank you” for all he has done to pave the way for teacher training and promotion of interest in training on a broad basis. We will continue to encourage all of his efforts in offerings like the BST, and enjoy his participation in the future of the ITS as it develops into a broader program.

Requests for 2010 Input

As stated above, our main two tasks (besides developing a plan for the 2011 ITS) for this current year are developing curricula and venues through which the curricula can be offered on a broad basis. Regarding the leadership training aspects, I believe the best potential venues will likely fall into three main areas:

1. A continuation of currently established programs, which the majority of us are already involved in either in our home congregations or in other settings or both. Hopefully we can all grow through sharing what we are doing specifically in these programs, thus improving our existing programs and will move towards more unity in how we are conducting our programs as an end result.

2. The establishment of a teaching program (or programs) designed mainly for campus students along the lines of recommendations by Mike Taliaferro. 

  • Mike feels (as I’m sure we all do) that the future leadership of our movement depends largely on young men and women converted in campus settings who can become part of our ministry staffs.
  • Offering these young, inexperienced leaders biblical training must become a high priority among us, and Mike has a specific recommendation about how this can best be accomplished.
  • His recommendation is that we offer summer courses in a given location (ideally where a congregation owns or leases its own facilities) over a period of four to six weeks, with courses taught by different teachers (in their specialty areas) for one week per course.
  • Campus students would have this flexibility of schedule, and if they were housed by members of the local congregation, the main costs would be for the teachers themselves.
  • The teacher fees would likely need to be varied, based on the situation of each teacher.  Those already supported by churches would assumedly need less support than those like Doug and me who are not supported by churches, but rather through our own incorporated teaching ministries.
  • I personally think that this option is a really good one and we ought to be seeking support for it from the evangelist and elder groups very soon, and possibly get something in place for the summer.

3. These other two avenues are no doubt worthy endeavors, but we must face the fact that the majority of leadership in our movement (staff and non-staff) will not be able to avail themselves of these two avenues.  Therefore, web-based training programs are the other option that simply must be developed and offered.  This is where my expertise is really limited, and those of you with more expertise will have to pick up this ball and run with it. My current understanding of what is available includes the following approaches:

  • The program that Arturo is offering in Mexico City to the Spanish speaking world. Many of us have already taught on this program, and are thus somewhat familiar with the format and technology available. It would be very helpful if Arturo could explain it further for us and offer suggestions about how it might be used on a broader basis for other parts of the world.
  • The program that Fred Faller is working on in conjunction with a number of others (both teachers and technology buffs), utilizing a web program called “Second Life.” This program shows each participant in avatar form, but allows conversations between participants to take place and leaves you with a feeling that you have actually been with other members of the groups in a common location.  Joey Harris is designated to teach a pilot course using the Fee/Stuart book, “How To Read the Bible For All It’s Worth.”  The unknowns as of my last time interacting with the group in a Second Life setting were how multimedia presentations could be used, particularly PowerPoint presentations and videos.  Again, it would be very helpful for Fred to provide all of us with a detailed update. Although learning to use this particular technology presents somewhat of a challenge to “non-techies” like me, it does provide in a very unique and interesting way a venue for interactive participation that does leave you with the feeling that you have been to class with other students whom you either know or quickly get to know.
  • Other web-based programs such as the one Steve Kinnard shared about fairly recently, that I think are also interactive in potential – which I think is a must for the most meaningful learning experience.  If Steve and/or others more familiar with such programs could describe it in layman’s terms for the rest of us, that would be most helpful and needed.

In conclusion, regarding venues of presenting curricula for leadership training, I believe all three of these potential approaches are needed. I would strongly urge us to make serious efforts to get all of them in place sometime this year if at all possible. Leadership training is an urgent matter, and the uniqueness of our movement demands that we exercise some serious ingenuity in developing ways to address this urgent matter. I thank you in advance for all of your attention, participation and assistance.  This must be a team effort, with each of us exercising our God-given gifts in every way possible.  May he bless us to do just that, for this is really his charge to us and not simply man’s charge!

Request for Information Regarding Current Training Programs 

In order to help us all get a comprehensive picture of what is being done presently in the “Type One” programs, I am humbly requesting that you provide me with some information that I can compile into a report for the rest of us, and for other interested groups (i.e., the evangelist and elder service committees).  I will provide the information about the three training programs I am heading up as a model for the type information I am requesting.  Again, the purposes of gathering this information is to help all of us who have programs improve them by learning from one another and to help us make recommendations to others regarding both curricula and means of implementing said curricula.  Thanks so much for your help in this endeavor!  (NOTE:  the specific requests and format for reporting these requests is omitted for purposes of this report for the broader group outside the M.E.A.T.)