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Nurturing the leaders of the future

The Evangelical Alliance's public leadership course is set to grow a new generation of leaders

The Evangelical Alliance has been considering how to help grow leaders in the public sphere in all areas of society over the last few years. During this season we’ve had the surprises of Brexit, Trump and the snap election; sometimes it seems that the only certainty is uncertainty.

This means that bringing hope and good leadership into the public arena is needed now more than ever. From the local community centre to our national parliaments, from the staff room to the boardroom, we need hope-filled Christian public leaders who are living out the kingdom of God in every area of society, for the glory of God and the benefit of all. This has been the goal of our public leadership programme.

A significant breakthrough came in 2016 when we pioneered our first public leadership course in Scotland. A similar course is now underway in England and a version will launch in Northern Ireland in the autumn.

The concept is fairly simple. We recruit a group of emerging leaders from fields as varied as politics, art, media, law, business or the charitable sector. They attend a series of events covering key areas of Christian public leadership, we pair them up with a mentor, and introduce them to senior leaders. Through it all we create a network of Christians who are passionate about public leadership and can pray for and support each other long after they have finished the programme.

We’re equipping them to have influence that is distinctly Christian.

We’re equipping them to have influence that is distinctly Christian,” says Danny Webster, advocacy and media manager at the Evangelical Alliance. It’s not just about learning to do their own jobs well, but recognising that their faith transforms their leadership for the good of all.”

So far in Scotland, 34 people from different areas of public life have done the course. They have benefitted from teaching and mentoring from key Christian leaders such as Professor Tom Wright and the former chief executive of SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy), Ian Marchant. They also take part in social and networking events at locations of significant cultural significance, making connections for the future.

The participants have considered different aspects of leadership, such as how to build a vision, how to work with people well, and how to manage employees as well as considering how the Bible informs these issues. They go on weekend retreats to learn and grow together and visit different contexts, such as the Scottish parliament or the football stadium, to learn how Christians in those areas live out their faith.

The latter is due to input from Roy MacGregor, the chairman of the football team Ross County, who is a Christian and has thought hard about how his faith influences his company and his team. He’s a local guy from that region in the Highlands, who wanted to create a club for the whole community, so they run community events, and visit schools.

The Scottish Public Leadership course has enjoyed good feedback. One participant told us: It has helped me see how God is working in Scotland… it continues to serve as a testimony and constant reminder to me of how important and influential a role Christians can play in their workplaces and how essential it is that we support, pray for and encourage one another.”

While they receive a lot of input for themselves personally, it’s hoped they leave with something beyond their own individual development. That is a crucial component, but there is also a bigger vision – how could some of the relationships built on this course enable us to work together to have a bigger vision for transforming society? We want to encourage participants to ask: How do I work with others to tackle a particular social need, or bring the gospel into this sphere I’m working with more effectively?’ It’s about uniting people to bring transformation. 

We want to transform Scottish society through a network of Christians in different leadership roles, to be salt throughout society, to bring kingdom transformation to our nation. Rather than re-establishing Christendom’ as this could be interpreted, the course is seeking to ask the question: Why is this good for Scotland?” 

The Alliance is now looking for more suitable young adults and pioneering future leaders to take part in our programmes. We’re looking for people who want to have a significant influence across the nation, and have an outlook to impact people beyond their role,” said Abi Jarvis, the Public Leadership coordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. We want to get people together from different sectors because we want people to meet people they would not normally meet, and discover how they can work together and support each other.”

Later in 2018 the Evangelical Alliance will be releasing a four month study resource for groups of public leaders to use to help them develop and work for transformation in their context. This will enable many more people to engage with Public Leadership on a local level and complements our national programmes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Who wouldn’t want organisations and communities that are run more fairly, selflessly, to have more kindness, generosity – these kind of kingdom values?” says Jarvis. If we have more Christian leaders living out the gospel where they are, everyone can benefit from it.”

If you are interested in taking part in one of our programmes, or would like to gather together a group of public leaders locally, please contact hello@​thepublicleader.​com.

About the author

Kieran joined the Evangelical Alliance Scotland team in 2012. Prior to this he worked for MSPs at the Scottish parliament for three years with spells in both Edinburgh and Inverness. Before this he spent a number of years working in youth and community work in the housing estates of his native Glasgow. Kieran helps the Alliance connect with politicians in Holyrood and local government, connects with national and local media, and also provides support and encouragement to churches, organisations and individual Christians trying to engage with wider Scottish society.

See more from Kieran Turner

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