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Participants in the Evangelical Covenant Church’s first 30 for 30 leadership development cohort say the experience was invaluable.

The cohort of young leaders from across the Covenant first met in 2019 and concluded their experience with a two-day online retreat November 2-3. Throughout the two years, participants gathered to worship, pray, and study together at Covenant Offices  and multiple churches in different contexts. They met pastors from across the Covenant, and each participant worked one-one-one with a mentor.

“One of the most important tasks of a leader is to develop other leaders,” says Evangelical Covenant Church president John Wenrich. “Thirty for 30 is an intentional decision to invest in younger leaders. By God’s grace we turned that vision into a reality.”

“One of the purposes of the program was to create a pipeline for future denominational leaders,” says Angela Yee, executive director of ministry development for the Evangelical Covenant Church. “This is a long-term investment.”

Participants say the program already is making a difference in how they perceive their own leadership and the denomination’s future.

“The thing that impacted me the most was the retreats to all the diverse churches,” says Dani Kilgore, associate pastor of outreach and missions at Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael, California. A visit to Fountain of Life Covenant Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where she met with pastor Alex Gee, especially stood out for her.

“I didn’t just learn about his church, but I gained wisdom on how to connect with the community to impact the whole community as kingdom leaders,” Kilgore says. “I left feeling empowered.”

“I think it allowed me to see a bigger picture of the challenges that institutions face, regardless of their size,” says Tom Dierenfeld, pastor of student ministries at LifeSpring Covenant Church in Loveland, Colorado. “It also highlighted the fact that God uses humble, ordinary people, empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world with the good news of Jesus.”

Aisha Cox, teaching pastor at Ascent Covenant Church in Lafayette, Colorado, says, “These past two years God has equipped me to lead in a higher capacity. I’ve gained greater confidence in my call and have developed new friendships with peers on a similar journey.”

Those relationships have been one of the high points for the group, several say. The cohort plans to continue their ministry conversations and encourage one another through a Facebook group. “It’s very important to know you are surrounded with other individuals you can count on in your leadership journey,” says Gustavo Torres, who serves as associate pastor and worship leader at Iglesia Del Pacto Evangelico Peniel in Chicago.

Adam Barnett, pastor of Redeemer Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, added, “Thirty for 30 has left me even more excited about the future of the Evangelical Covenant Church. There are many emerging leaders in the Covenant family, and I believe the future for our churches is bright!”

“I would describe 30 for 30 as a catalyst,” Maurice Cox said. “Many people in my age range are often seeking something to scratch their leadership itch—something to affirm and challenge the leader in them. Thirty for 30 did just that and beyond. My knowledge of the Covenant grew, but I would also say I learned more about who we were through relationships.  For two years I got a close up on the Church that Jesus Christ is calling us to be.”

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