Great Lakes Conference Church Chair Training

During a time of pastoral transition at Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California, Will Davidson was serving as chair of the church’s leadership team. Recognizing the need for resources specifically for lay leaders, he began a conversation with Evelyn Johnson, then-superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference, about the critical need for training for church chairs. He contacted Covenant pastor and management consultant Alan Forsman, who also recognized the need for such resources. They began conversations about developing a training program specifically for church chairs.

Will Davidson

Those conversations continued for several years until they decided to make it their pandemic project. They added to their core team Michael White, pastor of Harbor Covenant Church in Gig Harbor, Washington, and Mike Hagen, who had served as Harbor Covenant’s chair. The project became a collaboration between the Pacific Southwest Conference and the Pacific Northwest Conference, both of which contributed initial funding to develop the program, along with the Start and Strengthen Churches mission priority of the Covenant.

“The relationship between the church chair and the lead pastor is probably the most important relationship in a local church,” Davidson says. This training, he emphasized, is intended to complement that critical relationship, ensuring that both feel equipped to perform their roles well.

Alan Forsman

A pilot session was hosted at Hillside Covenant in July 2021. Based on feedback they received, the training is now one intensive single-day event divided into 12 sessions. Each topic is presented by an expert in the subject. Attendance is open to anyone serving as a church chair or vice-chair, as well as those who are preparing to serve in these roles. Pastors are not invited to attend to allow the attendees to share openly and honestly about all the joys and challenges they face in their roles.

Topics include meeting planning and facilitation, team development, lead pastor relationship, managing conflict, pastoral transition, succession planning, financial statements and budgets, church insurance and risk management, church constitution and bylaws, digital communication strategies, and the Covenant’s mission priorities.

Garth McGrath

Throughout the past two years, multiple training sessions have been hosted at various churches throughout the Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest conferences. The first training event in the Great Lakes Conference occurred in March, with the largest attendance to date, representing approximately one-third of churches in the conference.

“The training event equips chairs with the interpersonal and technical skills necessary and helpful to lead a local church well,” said Garth McGrath, Great Lakes Conference superintendent. “Hosting this event has resulted in stronger, better equipped, and more confident lay leaders in the key role of church chair; stronger relationships between church chairs and lead pastors; and stronger churches because of stronger leadership overall.”

Although they created the training during the pandemic, Davidson and Forsman emphasize the importance of hosting the event in person so that participants are able to make connections and develop relationships with the presenters and other individuals who are serving in similar capacities. “I was greatly encouraged by the fact that I am not alone in this role,” said Becky Garner, who serves as the acting chair of Hillside Covenant Church. “I now know that many people who are experts in their fields and ministry roles are available to help me.”

Nanette Mocanu, who completed the training shortly after being elected chair of First Covenant Church Oakland (California), emphasized how critical the training was in helping her feel prepared to lead her congregation. “As I drove to the training, I was somewhat filled with apprehension; could I lead my church? What was I thinking? As I drove home, I felt like I had acquired tools to help me lead, serve, support my pastor, work through conflict, and try to focus our church on mission.”

The next event is scheduled to be hosted in the Northwest Conference, on October 28 at New City Covenant Church in Edina, Minnesota. More information can be found on the Northwest Conference website.


  • Daniel F. Casey

    Daniel F. Casey is an editorial assistant for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He recently graduated from Wheaton College and plans to pursue a Master of Divinity at North Park Theological Seminary.

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