An Evolving Work of Art: Leadership Development among Early Career Adults Open Access

Woolly, D. Rhodes (Spring 2020)

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THE PROBLEM: Based on actual and anecdotal data, early career adults are less likely to make themselves available as leaders in their communities and congregations. Likewise, as society becomes even more secularized, there are fewer opportunities for early career adults to explore the intersection between work and faith. Even among those who are active in their faith communities, there are few opportunities for young adults to dig deeply into questions of purpose, character, and call, especially as these questions relate to their specific careers. How might that reality impact the future of our communities, families, congregations, and places of employment?  

RESEARCH QUESTION: Will an intensive, cohort-based program of small group and one-on-one engagement significantly affect the way early career adults see the intersection between faith and life and effectively equip them for community engagement/leadership? 

SUMMARY: Eight early career adults (ages 27-37) were invited into an intensive cohort experience rooted in spiritual formation, self-reflection, vocational discernment, and leadership training. The nine-month program used a three-pronged strategy to EQUIP participants with a theological framework (four months of weekly gatherings and two retreats), CONNECT participants with vocational mentors (five months with a vocational mentor), and MOBILIZE participants to be faithful change-agents in their vocation and community.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on leader observations and extensive group and individual assessment, the pilot program was effective in (1) forming a strong sense of belonging; (2) provoking robust conversation about the intersection of faith and work, (3) providing helpful tools for self-assessment, (4) building desire for vocational mentoring, and (5) and amplifying the need for faithful leadership among early career adults. What is not known is the program’s long-term impact on participants, especially as to whether or not they become more faithfully engaged as community leaders. 

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