Leadership Institute includes guidance, hope -- and tractors

David Burke


Part of the mission of this year’s Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection, the Rev. Adam Hamilton said, was to give encouragement to pastors and churches in a post-COVID world, where attendance levels aren’t what they were before the pandemic. 

“A lot of pastors in this room feel like they’re failing right now,” Hamilton, founding pastor of the 32-year-old church, told the 1,600 attending in person in Leawood, Kansas, and nearly 1,000 watching online. 

Rev. Adam Hamilton makes an early exit from Leadership Institute on his John Deere tractor. Photos by David Burke

Hamilton pointed to figures that 20% of those who were attending church in person a few years ago were now strictly online worshippers; and that 26% were a combination of online and in-person. 

“If you keep comparing yourself to pre-COVID 2019, you’re driving yourself crazy,” he said. 

At his church, he said, in-person attendance was down by one-third, but exposure has increased with online services and two hourly Sunday morning broadcasts on local TV, the latter of which has 20,000 viewers. 

“Our overall presence, we’re killing it,” Hamilton said. 

Hamilton formally introduced Resurrection’s BE Campaign, based on Micah 6:8, with T-shirts, yard signs and billboards proclaiming “BE just. BE kind. BE humble.”  

Although branded as Resurrection material, Hamilton said COR’s name was taken off, and all of the material, including video commercials, would be made available to any local church, and they would be able to put their own names on the campaign. 

For two of the three-day Leadership Institute, Sept. 28-30, Hamilton’s own John Deere 3020 tractor was parked on the chancel.  

A part-time farmer for 21 years, Hamilton said he used the theme of “God and Tractors” for a sermon series in the summer. 

“What tractors are to farming, the Holy Spirit is to Christian life,” he said. 


His sermons included discussions of getting stuck, and how we need someone to help us; cleaning up his algae-filled farm pond as an analogy for getting rid of toxic components in our lives; and horsepower, about where we get our strength. 

“We did something that spoke to people,” he said. 

The three-day session concluded with Hamilton, on his tractor, lowered to the basement of the church and a video of him driving the Deere back to his home farm. 

Hamilton also encouraged pastors and church leaders to encourage young adults in the call to ministry.  

When he was ordained in 1990, Hamilton said, there were 2,300 elders younger than 35. Today there are 648. 

“It’s hard sometimes, but it’s also amazing,” he said. “We’ve got to tell people that.” 


Canoeing with Bolsinger 

The Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger, a leadership expert, author and vice president of leadership formation at Fuller Theological Seminary and executive director of Church Leadership Institute, was the keynote speaker for this year’s Leadership Institute. 

Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger speaks to the Leadership Institute.

Bolsinger based much of his presentation on his 2015 leadership guide “Canoeing the Mountains,” drawing parallels between Lewis and Clark’s journey to find a northwest passage and leadership in the church. 

COVID, he said, “exasperated and accelerated” churches’ planning, for good and bad. 

“Where we thought we would be in 2027 we are in 2022,” he said. 

During the pandemic, he said, many churches and leaders reverted to their basic instructions rather than trying to adapt. 

“The answer is not trying harder, it’s training differently,” he said. 

Other speakers at this year’s Leadership Institute included Jenni Catron, leadership coach and author of “The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership”; Nona Jones, a church pastor and director of North American community partnerships for Meta, formerly known as Facebook; Mark Matlock, founder of the church consultancy group WisdomWorks; Bob Page (president/CEO) and Tammy Peterman from the University of Kansas Health Systems; Nicole Price, leadership development coach; and Jo Saxton, author, leadership coach and podcast host. 

Next year’s Leadership Institute is Sept. 27-29, and speakers will include the Rev. Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, considered one of the most influential churches in North America. 

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.

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