Blog Post

The Board of Global Ministries: Challenging Young Leaders to Take Charge of Their Professional Growth

Julie Brandt

Executive Director of the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is quietly working to build (and rebuild) communities around the world.

In Northern California, UMC volunteers are helping victims of the recent wildfires complete the paperwork necessary to receive federal assistance after losing their homes and loved ones. In hurricane-torn Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, church-organized relief workers are clearing the rubble, while church members have donated millions of dollars. And, at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, church officials from Fiji provided clear-sighted leadership and a voice for those most impacted by climate change. The engine powering all this is the General Board of Global Ministries, the church's largest agency.

Three years ago, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation partnered with the Board of Global Ministries to better prepare their future leaders to carry out its initiatives. This fall, the partnership kicked off an intensive mentorship program that matches promising young employees with veterans in workplace leadership, all so that the next generation can further the Global Ministries' mission to "seek justice, freedom and peace" all over the world.

Mentoring for Young Leaders

The Board of Global Ministries is a collective that supports mission-driven efforts, including global missionary work (which establishes congregations and supports their communities) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (which helps in disaster relief).

In 2019, the agency will celebrate the bicentennial of its first mission, but it has experienced a lot of growth over the last few years alone, both in its international outposts and its new Atlanta headquarters.

The Board of Global Ministries partnered with the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation to help its young employees develop leadership skills in an organization whose employee count has doubled to 200 in the last 18 months. The organization has implemented over 150 learning courses so far. "They created a whole learning backbone for us," said Roland Fernandes, the Global Ministries' COO and CFO.

The newest aspect of the partnership is the mentorship program, whose pilot phase has been underway for two months. Working with assigned mentors from the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, a small group of Global Ministries middle managers—all of whom applied to participate in the program—will complete six months of one-on-one coaching and self-directed study.

"What blocks us from bringing our leadership forward? The big thing is confidence," Fernandes said.

Six Months of Intentional Growth

"Mentorship is a commitment to change, growth and development... Change and growth are hard." So states the program's introductory material, which is designed to prepare learners for six months of self-reflection and improvement.

As executive director of the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, I have been lucky enough to participate in the mentorship program as a mentor to Kepifri Lakoh; Lakoh is the senior manager of monitoring and evaluation at the Global Ministries, building systems, tools and processes that help missionaries and employees track project performance.

He has many responsibilities, and was looking for ways to improve as a manager. With some added encouragement from Fernandes, he applied to the mentorship program.

During our introductory conversations, we learned about each other's situations: our professional strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Now, in the middle of the program, the conversations are becoming more focused. Their purpose is to address specific challenges, such as how he can manage his time while leading a four person team.

"You may think 'I need to get this done today,' but you walk into the office and find a completely different problem you need to deal with immediately," said Lakoh.

These conversations, combined with Cornerstone-administered assignments that encourage introspection, help mentees identify their strengths as leaders, as well as prepare for challenges they might face as they grow. The program will end with a debrief, during which mentees will reflect on their experience and commit to next steps.

Fernandes is hopeful that the program will expand once his employees settle in their new Atlanta office. In the spirit of the Global Ministries' international function, that would mean that missionaries and other volunteers would be able to take part in aspects of the training, forming a global network of leadership development programs.

"In the long run, the goal of it all is to have a staff that's motivated, has high morale and wants to build skills to do what we need them to do," Fernandes said. "Because what we do is pretty unique."

All photos: Board of Global Ministries

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