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Leadership magazine provides tools for clergy

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Pastors are turning to the Web for ideas, networking and education. A new resource from Duke Divinity School is helping fuel this effort.

Becoming an effective leader isn’t easy. But good tools can help. Duke Divinity School is providing those tools with its new online magazine, Faith & Leadership.

Launched in 2009, the site is a way to get pastors and other congregational leaders thinking about the challenges of guiding others, said David Odom, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“Hopefully it provides important information for people who are concerned about the church and congregations,” Odom said. “It certainly includes pastors, but we hope it goes beyond that.”

Thanks to a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the site has been able to communicate ideas, and keep readers abreast of worldwide news that might impact the Christian community.

Faith & Leadership is part of the divinity school’s Leadership Education program, which began in 2008. According to the school’s website, the program “cultivates thriving communities that are signs, foretastes and instruments of the reign of God.”

Leadership seems to be a growing academic area at divinity schools. Odom said the subject is in vogue right now because leading has become more challenging.

Dwight Zscheile, assistant professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary, said more churches need innovative leaders because local ministry has grown to encompass a wider range of concerns.

“The fresh focus on leadership comes largely from a growing awareness of the church's missionary situation in the West where mobilizing congregations for engagement with their surrounding communities —  rather than merely caring for members' pastoral needs  — is central. It also reflects a wider focus on leadership within organizations of all types that has emerged within the past few decades,” he said.

The Internet, he added, has become a valuable tool for today’s leaders and a resource for leadership information. 

Zscheile added that leadership is something that can be taught, another reason why divinity schools are offering courses in the area. He described leadership as a process of relational influence, not necessarily a set of characteristics or attributes.

“Any person’s ability to influence a group will depend on multiple factors, but leaders can always grow in their leadership imagination, capacity and impact,” he said.

Odom said he hopes Faith & Leadership is helping its visitors through its news articles, feature stories, social networking opportunities and its blog.

Forty percent of the site’s content focuses on illuminating one’s understanding of leadership, 40 percent is geared toward practical information for pastors and 20 percent focuses on sparking the imaginations of spiritual leaders, said Odom.

The site is updated daily and features a fresh, lead story every two weeks. Visitors can also sign up for its newsletter, follow the site on Twitter, or become a Facebook fan of the page.

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