NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church's discipleship agency has announced two new initiatives aimed at building spiritual leadership among pastors and within congregations.

The announcement comes as part of a church-wide response to an urgent need identified by the 2004 General Conference, the top legislative body of the denomination. The assembly identified leadership and faith development as critical matters facing the church in the 21st century.

The two new initiatives, designed to help pastors and congregations build those leadership skills, were introduced Jan. 11 at the General Board of Discipleship.

"These two companion resources squarely address the most pressing issue of the church today," said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the agency. "Both initiatives are dedicated to creating spiritually formed leaders who want to improve their skills and deepen their congregation's commitment to disciple-making. The impact these resources will make will be felt for years to come."

The L3 Leadership Incubator and the Church Vitality Indicator (CVI), more than three years in the making, use a combination of cutting-edge technology and prayerful dialogue to strengthen leaders and reshape disciple-making faith communities, said discipleship agency staff. The L3 stands for "love, learn and lead."


Church Vitality Indicator is a subscription-based online assessment and discernment tool to identify and build upon a congregation's strengths. Using results from a 66-question survey and an influence diagraph, the indicator provides an impact report that helps lay and clergy leaders understand the state of their congregation and plan for the future. The online resource provides leaders with analytical tools and offers up to 96 possible focus areas for unlocking a congregation's growth potential, according to agency staff members.

The CVI initiative is grounded in three beliefs: that the heart of a congregation is a "community of faith," that congregations are unique and diverse, and that it takes a team to lead a congregation, said Betsey Heavner, the agency's disciplining consultant. Noting that Jesus began with a team of 12 disciples, she said the agency hopes that with the denomination's itinerant system, strong teams will be produced to maintain the church's identity when people leave.

L3 Leadership Incubator

The L3 Leadership Incubator was produced in partnership with local church pastors and denominational leaders after a 2002 pilot project with church leaders in Kentucky, who wanted to be agents of change in their communities and congregations.

The initiative creates a small-group environment where spiritual leaders and ideas are born, nurtured and developed. Meeting over the course of 18 months, six to 12 leaders focus on their spiritual growth and leadership skills and the development of an Incubator Ministry Action Plan.

The $250 L3 Incubator kit, developed by Discipleship Resources, contains a DVD with more than 850 slides, 24 songs with lyrics and music, seven video clips, copies of the Incubator Guidebook and an access code to the Incubator Web site. In addition, the kit includes a year's subscription to the Church Vitality Indicator Website, the companion resource from the Board of Discipleship.

CVI may be used with or separately from the L3 Leadership Incubator and, like the incubator, does not require any outside facilitator or consultant. CVI subscriptions, available at the Upper Room's online bookstore, range from $49 to $400, depending on congregation size.