Andrew Dickson

6.12.2022 | Congregational Life

Andrew Dickson, PCI Congregational Life Development Officer, reflects on a new programme being launched for 2023 to equip and encourage emerging leaders. 

I wonder have you or your congregation asked that question lately? 

All churches need members who serve to make their ministries work. Yet, as we prepare to enter 2023, an all too familiar story continues to play out across many PCI congregations – we are wrestling with a shortage of leaders. We desperately want and need our volunteer leaders back. Yet people – perhaps understandably – are slower than they once were to step forward, step up, and serve. 

Often, in our desire to get or keep ministries going, we can resort to plugging gaps, thrusting mainly younger people into leadership, praying that it will all work itself out. Whilst such strategies might solve our lack of leadership crisis in the short-term, it is not a sustainable long-term model.

How do we help those thrust into the leadership limelight in this present season?

How can we help leaders lead when they’re unsure about how they got there?

What practical tools can we offer that will equip them to lead fruitfully in every season? 


Stepping Forward: Stepping Up is a programme for new and emerging leaders aged 16+, designed to encourage, envision, empower, equip, and excite them as they take their first steps into congregational leadership. 

Incorporating two in-person events and two online sessions, Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will be facilitated by PCI’s Council for Congregational Life and Witness, with the training delivered on:

Saturday 28 January, from 10am-2pm @ Assembly Buildings, Belfast.

Thursday 23 February, from 7pm-9pm (online via Teams).

Thursday 23 March, from 7pm-9pm (online via Teams).

Saturday 22 April, from 10am-2pm (venue TBC).

Providing a mix of personal teaching, practical workshops, group discussion, and leadership lessons from a variety of contributors, Stepping Forward: Stepping Up’s four sessions will give emerging leaders the opportunity to explore six ‘C’s which lie at the heart of both Christian leadership and life.


It’s easy to think, “I’m not strong”, “I’m not brave”, “I can’t speak”, “I’m too young (or old)”, “I’m not good enough”, or “that’s someone else’s job”. However, the reality is that God has called every disciple of Jesus to proclaim his excellencies, speak of our hope, embody his grace, and to do good as we seek to make disciples (1 Peter 2&3). Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will encourage participants to consider this calling and the encouragements throughout Scripture which show that age (think Jeremiah) and ability (think Moses) are no barriers to God using us in the work of his Kingdom.


The world around us often defines leadership on the basis of strength and success. As followers of Jesus, however, we are called to wear a different set of values as we live and lead (Colossians 3:12-17). Our character matters. Yet it’s not something we can automatically attain. To grow and lead with lives marked by service, humility, integrity, holiness, and the fruit of the Spirit, we need to take time to abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11). Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will help emerging leaders understand how to prioritise their own spiritual growth for the sake of those they will lead.


Commitment is an ideal running throughout the pages of Scripture. We see that God is committed to his people. Jesus was committed to his ministry and mission. The disciples and apostles were committed to following Jesus, making disciples, and sharing the good news. In our present age, however, we are often wary of committing our energy, time, and talents to our churches. Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will help participants see the value of commitment not just for our own spiritual lives and leadership, but for the building up of the wider church. 


Does our practice match our profession? Does our behaviour reflect our beliefs? All Christian leaders need to be consistent in both their commitment and pursuit of godly character. Paul understood this when he declared, “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers” (1 Thess. 2:10). When it comes to leadership of ourselves and others, Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will show emerging leaders why consistency is the jewel worth wearing, the anchor worth weighing, the thread worth weaving, and the battle worth winning. 


Part of the beauty of leading within the church is that we do so as one body comprising many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Our shared union with Jesus creates communion with one another. From the youngest to the oldest, we all have gifts we can bring to this community. We each have a God-given part to play. Reflecting on these truths, Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will encourage participants to take their place within the wider body, and to lead alongside others in a spirit of collaboration and partnership.


What words define your congregation’s culture? Worshipful? Prayerful? Missional? Nurturing? Innovative? Welcoming? The truth is, each of our congregations has a culture. Most often, this culture is influenced by what the leaders communicate and value, how they cast vision, and by their personal example. As emerging leaders ponder what they want their lives, leadership, and congregations to be “known for”, Stepping Forward: Stepping Up will help them consider how to inspire a church culture rooted in Jesus and the importance of embodying these six C’s.


Volunteer leaders will continue to remain the life force of all congregations. In many ways, both the success and strength of the future church depends on our ability today to engage, encourage, envision, empower, equip, and excite new and emerging leaders for the tasks of ministry. 

Perhaps in reading this, there are young people in your church, aged 16+, who spring to mind. Why not forward this this blog to them and arrange to chat with them about Stepping Forward: Stepping Up in the coming weeks? 

A congregational investment of £25 to send your emerging leaders to these four sessions, will enable them to hear from a variety of ministry practitioners, spend time journeying alongside those at a similar stage as them, and ultimately create leaders of impact who might shape congregational life and witness for years to come.

To book your emerging leader’s place on Stepping Forward: Stepping Up today, visit www.presbyterianireland.org/steppingforward and complete the booking form. For further details, please contact the Council for Congregational Life and Witness office (clw@presbyterianireland.org or tel: +44 (0)28 9032 2284). 

Andrew Dickson, PCI Congregational Life Debelopment Officer.



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