5 Things I Learned from 37 Seminary Students

These past two weeks several from the 12Stone staff team and I had the privilege to teach some of the best and brightest students I’ve ever met. Each week covered a Master’s level course for Wesley Seminary. (Great school and programs!) The first week was Strategic Leadership: Vision to Execution and the second week was Relational Influence for Ministry Effectiveness.

What I did not expect is how much I would learn.

I’m a learner by nature, so I should have anticipated better, but wow, this was extraordinary.

37 church leaders from all over the country came to 12Stone® Church. 19 in the first course, 24 in the second. (6 took both!) They taught me much, and I’m sharing some highlights I think will benefit you.


These courses were one week intensives, so we had a lot of time together including meals, worship and prayer. But we also seemed to match “lectures” with incredible Q & A, case studies, and candidly, a lot of laughter.

5 things I learned, or re-learned in a deeper way:

1) You can’t hide culture and DNA.

The students noticed and commented on how much the 12Stone team were all deeply aligned with core values, principles and passion. We perhaps expressed things a little differently according to our individual personalities, but nonetheless it became so obvious the classes would call it out! It became fun banter every time it was noticed. They said they appreciated and respected what they saw and heard. Quite a compliment! So, let me ask you. What part of your culture and DNA is so strong that others visiting would soon notice?

2) The church struggles with execution not vision.

The first course focused on Vision to Execution, the second course touched on it briefly as well.  Both acknowledged the need for a fresh review on the aspects of a clear and compelling vision, (as well as the qualities of a visionary), but the great need in nearly every church was execution.

  • Failing churches make no plans. (Strategic plans)
  • Average churches make plans, but falter in commitment to execute.
  • Good churches make plans, and intermittently stick to them.
  • Great churches make plans and execute to completion.

Disciplined diligence is the key to stick to your strategic plan!

  • Discipline deals with your inner character. Do you have the right stuff?
  • Diligence deals with your outward focus. Are you doing the right things?

Both involve a choice, a decision, not talent.

Without discipline you will drift to relational and leadership comfort.

Without diligence you will drift to inward focus and maintenance.

3) Laughter and education is a good mix.

We know that laughter is good for the soul, but it’s also good for the mind. It helps keep you relaxed and in a good frame of mind. It lowers stress and anxiety. You tend to receive new or challenging thoughts in ways you are more likely to retain.

Further, you are more receptive to ideas that you formally may have disagreed with. Laughter keeps your heart connected which helps your mind stay engaged.

Strategic Leadership

4) The Holy Spirit is an instant bond.

There were obvious differences in theology, philosophy, geography (from New England to Fargo, North Dakota), background and ethnicity, but there was an instant bond among everyone. It was evident that the connection and community was not so much about the class, lectures, and writing papers. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit. There were prayers said and tears shed. There were deep moments of truth all bound together by the presence and power of God. To me, it was a vision of how God designed the church to operate at its best.

5) Leaders are eager for best practices, but hungry for more of God.

These 37 sharp leaders wanted all the leadership development they could get, but it was easy to discern they were truly hungry for the presence and power of God. I love leadership books, conferences and rubbing shoulders with great leaders, but that all pales compared to what God brings to the mix. This was a clear theme over these past two weeks.

PS – A special shout out to Pastor Robin Ritchie who worked a gazillion hours behind the scenes making sure all the organizational elements came together in a flawless manner! M.V.P. indeed!

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