“Developing leaders must take a whole-life approach, and not focus simply on a student’s knowledge base.”
One of the distinctive features of the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development is suggested in that last clause in our name: leadership development. At the Antioch School, we believe that preparing the next generation of leaders is about more than mere academic preparedness. Rather, developing leaders must take a whole-life approach, and not focus simply on a student’s knowledge base.
For this reason, our degree programs all begin with life and ministry development requirements. These requirements insure that Antioch School students are growing not just in their knowledge and their skill, but also in their character. It takes more than academic skill or homiletic acumen to be a faithful leader in God’s church. It also takes character: It is for this reason that Paul exhorts Timothy to, “set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). He knows that when one’s character is consistent with the contents of his teaching, that teaching will be far more effective.
The Antioch School approaches growth in character from the three perspectives. First, we utilize the SIMA MAP system. SIMA is a tool that helps Antioch School students identify the pattern of behavior that they exhibit in their life and work, to enable them to make the best use of the unique design that God has placed on them. Using SIMA, students learn to know themselves very deeply and thoroughly, which equips them to find work and ministry opportunities in which they will be maximally effective. SIMA enables students to help others to understand their unique design, allowing them to be used in ministry in ways that are a good fit for them, leading to lifelong joy in ministry.
Secondly, we require evidence that mentoring has taken place in the student’s life. Just as Timothy’s life and ministry development was overseen by Paul, we want our students to benefit from the mentorship of older, wiser believers. Using a variety of mentoring assessment tools, students are evaluated, nurtured, and guided in a process of growth and development in community that facilitates steady, consistent growth in character. As students grow in their understanding of the faith through their engagement with the Antioch School’s academic resources, they integrate that understanding into their lives, under the guidance of wise mentors.
Third, we require students to reflect on their own lives and development, and to think about their future life and ministry plans. Our youth-obsessed culture does not do a good job of helping the young think about their lives ten, twenty, or thirty years into the future. Nor does it place a high value on reflecting on how we have come to be in the position we’re in today. For these reasons, students are led through a process of taking stock of the important people, events, and lessons that have led them to the current moment. On this basis, they look ahead at the future, envisioning a pathway of development in faith and life. This enables students to make wise life choices, because when they are equipped with a vision for their participation in the mission of the church, they can make decisions on the basis of God’s eternal purposes, rather than their own narrow short-term self-interest.
When life and ministry development is successfully integrated into an Antioch School program, it serves as the connective tissue that brings all the elements of an Antioch School degree program together. Growth in character means that the knowledge and skills gained through one’s education are guided in ways that enable one to minister to God’s church faithfully, wisely, and effectively.