First Call Theological Accompaniment is our way of relating to rostered leaders who are serving the first three years of their first call in the Southwestern Texas Synod. We firmly believe that the candidacy process and the fine theological education our leaders have acquired are enough for them to serve well and faithfully in their first call. We also know from experience that there are lots of stressors in the congregation around relationships, authority, and sustainability. Through FCA we endeavor to provide spaces for peer learning, guided conversations, and new congregational perspectives that permit our leaders in their first calls to not only survive but thrive.
The Southwestern Texas Synod's Lay Leadership Academy (LLA) is a flexible approach to equipping the baptized people of God of this Synod for ministry through education. Designed to connect and serve the whole Synod, it incorporates distance-learning technology. Connecting education with training and formation, the program augments classwork with the contextual ministry and retreat experiences. Individual classes are available to the laity of the Synod for general knowledge and enrichment, and groupings of 4 or 5 classes offer targeted training for greater congregational service in areas such as faith formation, ministry of presence, preaching, leadership, and church administration. Taken as a whole, the 2-year cycle of LLA classes provides the educational framework to meet Synod's need for training potential Synodically Authorized Ministers; laypeople who would consider serving in that role will also need to pursue an entrance, discernment, and placement process with the Office of the Bishop.
One of many ways of deepening our connection to God and to one another is through Spiritual Direction. Spiritual Direction consists of mindful listening and careful wondering on the part of a Spiritual Director, that assist us to be in tune with the movement of the Holy Spirit through the events of life and experiences with others. Spiritual Direction often includes, but is not limited to, prayer, listening to music, focusing on an image or picture, silence, walking a labyrinth. Spiritual Direction may also challenge the participant to the practice of greater hospitality, abundant generosity, and service of those who are on the margins of society. Those who wish to engage in this practice of deepened spirituality and strengthened connection to God should look for trained and certified Spiritual Directors.
Coaching empowers leaders to develop concrete actions in times of crisis, and at anytime that we are faced with finding a new path forward. It is focused on accompanying clients to determine their own course of action by deep listening and focused questions. The guiding principles of ELCA Coaching are: God’s mission and the work of the Holy Spirit are the heart of coaching - Coaching is a ministry of accompaniment and encouragement. God provides everything needed to accomplish God’s purposes for every leader and congregation. Effective leadership is adaptive leadership. Coaching facilitates adaptive leadership.