FlameBuilders global leadership and spiritual formation institute graduated its second cohort on Saturday, April 30, 2016. For those who attended the graduation celebration, held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston Salem, it was a refreshing reminder that the Spirit of God is alive and well within the hearts of young adult in the United Methodist Church.
FlameBuilders was launched in September 2014 as a nine-month leadership development and spiritual formation program for emerging lay leaders, ages 21-40. Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:19 – “do not put out the spirit’s fire” – the program was designed to bring together a diverse group of young people, offering them the tools needed to better understand themselves, each other, and how to discern God’s unique call on each of their lives.
The young adult lay leaders came together one weekend per month in different locations in western North Carolina to receive research-based experiential lessons on leadership. The curriculum was designed in collaboration with the globally-recognized leadership development organization, Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). What makes the program unique is that CCL’s “Early Leadership Toolkit” lessons were supplemented by biblically-based leadership examples, guiding participants to greater levels of clarity about how to discern and develop their own God-given “Pathway for Impact” – a measurable plan of action to make a meaningful contribution to their families, communities, and congregations.
“A lot of time and effort and attention to detail went into all the different sessions. You can tell there’s a lot of background work in gathering meaningful experiences for the group to have together.” – Class 2 Graduate
Class 1 graduated in May 2015, and several Class 1 alumni were present at the Class 2 graduation to offer their support, and to serve as evaluators for the Pathway for Impact pitches. This year, FlameBuilders implemented a monetary incentive called a “Spark Fund,” which was awarded to the three Class 2 participants whose Pathway for Impact presentations met the following criteria: 1) Aligned with their purpose, 2) made an impact in the Kingdom of God, and 3) was communicated in a clear and engaging manner.
The job of the Class 1 evaluators was incredibly difficult, as the audience heard one compelling pitch after another from the group of 18 passionate and energetic FlameBuilders. The top Spark Fund recipient – Andrew Lewis – was awarded $750, which will go toward enabling him to teach financial literacy to members of his church and community. He shared that his Pathway for Impact – to teach what he has learned about budgeting and financial planning – was further confirmed when his wife gave birth to their first son 5 weeks early, yet the family never had to concern themselves with being financially burdened because of the deliberate planning that had taken place ahead of time.
Among many other things, participants shared that they appreciated the opportunity to interact with those who were different from themselves. The group varied in ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender, and church affiliation – coming from both rural and urban congregations.
“I don’t live in a very culturally diverse area. So I’ve really enjoyed the vast mix of people and diversity we had, and not just a superficial diversity but truly everyone’s different experiences. To find that we had so much in common even though we’re so different – that’s lacking from my everyday life.” – Class 2 Graduate
Despite the differences, their genuine camaraderie was apparent, and they all agreed that the FlameBuilders program was transformative, recommending it for all young adults.
“The most exciting thing for me has been to share my life with people, and open up to people and exist in a space that was safe. To be authentic.” – Class 2 Graduate
The leaders of FlameBuilders are clear that it is a collaborative effort, and that there are many partners who have contributed toward the program’s success. Among them are three United Methodist institutions of higher education – Bennett College, Greensboro College, and High Point University – as well as CCL, the Western North Carolina Conference (WNCC) of the United Methodist Church, and the program’s founding organization, Boundless Impact.
FlameBuilders is now accepting applications for Class 3, which will begin in September 2016. For more information, contact Cindy Thompson, Executive Director of Boundless Impact at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Zitty Nxumalo, Program Manager, at email@example.com.