Values-based Leadership Program seeks to transform leaders

The Values-based Leadership Program Resource Team (from left): Katie Cline, Madalyn Metzger, Lee Schmucker, Andrew Bodden, Garry Janzen, Rick Stiffney. Photo by Katie Cline.


By Kayla Berkey

(Mennonite Church USA/Values-based Leadership Program) — The second in-person session of the 2017-2018 Values-based Leadership Program (VBLP) took place at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center on Feb. 21 – 23. VBLP is a leadership training course rooted in an Anabaptist perspective and designed to support the development of Christian leaders in a variety of contexts. It occurs annually in a two-session format at Laurelville, supported by a five-month inter-term.

VBLP participants gather at the spring 2018 session. Photo by Katie Cline

The February session focused on the expression of leadership and tools to help leaders expand understanding for working with groups. It included sessions on intercultural competency, leading with purpose and values in challenging times and finding ways to practice self-care and resiliency.

Lee Schmucker, a member of the VBLP steering committee, co-facilitated the in-person sessions. The program is designed as a team-led effort that seeks to offer multiple leadership assessment tools and strategies for participants, she said.

“We aim to create a framework with the opportunity to discuss together and process what leadership means in various contexts. We seek to learn together,” said Schmucker.

“I’m left reflecting on the best ways a leader may encourage people to bring their gifts to the table in a collaborative manner, and that is ultimately helpful to any organization or church family,” said Tim Friesen, executive director of Crooked Creek Christian Camp in Washington, Iowa, who participated in this year’s program.

Tim Friesen, VBLP participant. Photo by Katie Cline.

Friesen also appreciated the peer mentoring that takes place in cohorts during the inter-term. “We bounce ideas off each other and learn how others have approached experiences in their work place,” said Friesen.

“The cohorts are impactful because people develop a vulnerability and trust within them,” said Schmucker. “The power of the two sessions is participants come back with a group of colleagues and friends with deeper relationships.”

One of this year’s cohort leaders, Madalyn Metzger, vice president of Marketing at Everence, first attended VBLP as a participant in 2015-2016.

“What struck me then – and continues today – is how the program focuses not just on the elements of good leadership, but the calling and mission behind that leadership,” said Metzger.

She led a cohort of six participants in the program who work in a variety of fields including retail services, operations, relief and development, youth and young adult formation, retirement community administration and the pastorate.

“It was so great to see how each of them gained a new perspective on their roles as leaders within their centers of influence,” said Metzger. ”For some, it was an opportunity to hone their leadership style. For others, it was a time to grow into their potential more fully.”

Madalyn Metzger, VBLP cohort leader. Photo by Katie Cline.

The spring in-person session culminated on the last day with each participant sharing what they created as their personal leadership mission statement.

“It’s one of the most precious moments, hearing participants share what they have developed as their leadership focus and how they want to align their behavior with their values,” said Schmucker.

Registration for the 2018-2019 class is currently available. Anyone who participates in the Collaborative MBA program may also apply to have their completion of VBLP replace one course in the Collaborative MBA Leadership concentration.

“VBLP is one of my favorite projects for the year,” said Schmucker. “We’re all on a journey of leadership. To be a catalyst in that journey, and watch people transform and expand their understanding of who they want to be, impacts me too. It’s really a joy.”

VBLP is sponsored by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Everence, Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Mennonite Education Agency, MHS and Schmucker Training & Consulting.