The Strength and Encouragement of NGLI

By Rev. Mark E. Pettis

The Rev Mark E. Pettis, Senior Minister of Manhattan Beach Community Church in California, is completing his 10-year journey with the Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI), a leadership development initiative administered by the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance, the philanthropic arm of the Pension Boards. Read Rev. Pettis’ letter as he shares his journey and appreciation of the NGLI program.

Pettis Mark 1Having just completed my participation in the “Benediction” event for NGLI*1 (the first cohort in the Next Generation Leadership Initiative), I find myself hovering in a reflective space. Spending this final, “formal” time together with my NGLI cohort reminded me of all that this wonderful program has meant for me and my ministry.

I entered NGLI after only one year in ministry. Ministry was a second career for me, following a decade or so in politics and government relations. I am also the child of two ordained United Church of Christ ministers. So, given my professional experience and my upbringing, I came into ministry foolishly believing that I knew everything I needed to know to succeed. NGLI helped me to see that there was still much for me to learn, but it did so in a nurturing and encouraging environment. The cohort approach also offered me long-term conversation partners who have proven invaluable in the ten years since. NGLI, more than any other factor, has helped me to succeed in ministry.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the NGLI program for my ministry was the opportunity for self-reflection. I tend to be very confident in myself and in my skills. The lens that NGLI offered me to consider were not only my strengths, but my growing edges, which allowed me to be intentional in addressing my deficiencies, but also to be confident in the offering of my strengths.

The first four years of prescribed instruction provided an excellent foundation for how I now approach ministry. And the past six years of self-directed study has allowed me to seek out opportunities to gain invaluable training or experience tailored to my specific ministry in the settings where I have served. I would not hesitate to say that each experience was worth my time and attention, and I took something from each that I now use in ministry every day.

I am deeply indebted to the leadership of the NGLI program. Rev. Krista Betz is an unequaled companion in ministry, offering support and encouragement, but also challenging me along the way, seeking to bring out my best. I would offer my thanks to the NGLI Steering Committee, to the entire United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance, to the Pension Boards’ Trustees, and to all staff past and present who have made this such an incredible experience.

I have been truly blessed to be a part of NGLI, and I am absolutely changed by the experience. I hope that the ministries to which I am called will recognize the part that NGLI has played in my growth as a minister. This program is a blessing for our United Church of Christ.

Rev. Mark E. Pettis