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For four years, Mike Johnson ran a successful Christian Reformed Home Missions Leadership Development Network (LDN) in Texas. During that time, he helped guide new church leaders through an intensive three-year training program as one of 15 LDNs in the United States and Canada.

But Johnson often wondered whether other prospective leaders might want to participate but not be able to commit the time.  

“I thought the three-year commitment might be a barrier to some people. I wanted us to help more people in congregations,” Johnson explains. His solution was to found Ascending Leaders, a Home Missions-funded LDN spin-off program with a shorter training period.

The program’s small groups meet for 10 weeks, 20 weeks, or 10 months. “It provides a bit more flexibility for people and, hopefully, it brings even more potential leaders to us,” says Johnson, who also works in leadership and disciple formation for the Home Missions West Central U.S. Ministry Team.

 “These groups can meet anywhere at any time,” Johnson remarks. “And with the exception of a weekend seminar, each training unit has 10 modules that a group can finish in as few as 10 weeks.”

Participants study on their own and then reflect and discuss in peer learning groups.

“This can be implemented in any congregation,” he says. “We already have modules operating in Arizona, South Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, and Iowa.”

Johnson sees the program as an effective companion to the traditional three-year LDN, which provides classroom instruction in theological knowledge and ministry skills in addition to giving mentoring opportunities in local church ministries.

Johnson points out that Ascending Leaders and traditional LDNs share a common goal: “CRC congregations all over North America have a critical leadership shortage. Through our programs, we are helping to develop stronger leaders for stronger churches.”

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