Ignite: Building and developing leaders in the Latino community

What do you do when you can’t find the type of leaders you are looking for? Why not raise up the leaders yourself? That’s what Pastors Carlos Herrera and Jessy Padilla did when they were struggling to find the second-generation Latino leaders they were seeking.

Around eight years ago, after planting a church of second-generation Latinos, Pastor Carlos Herrera was looking for leaders who could come alongside him and plant more churches. He was disappointed to find out that neither seminaries nor churches were developing these leaders in his community. If no one else was producing the right leaders, how could he find a way to do it? So with the intent to fill a big need in terms of Latino church leadership, Herrera and Padilla initiated the first session of their Ignite program.

Ignite is a leadership program developed with the intention of finding and building up future leaders. For each cohort, it recruits 10 Latino couples from any Converge church in the Chicago area who are interested in becoming leaders in their church and in their community. This 18-month program consists of quarterly retreats, personal coaching sessions, and local accountability groups. The couples prepare for each retreat by reading a book related to that retreat’s focus, with topics ranging from spiritual disciplines, to marriage, to purpose and calling. Between retreats, the couples meet regularly with their groups and mentors in order to continue developing their leadership skills together.

Within the four cohorts of couples that have graduated from Ignite, two have started church plants, one has gone to Costa Rica for missions, one has become a worship leader, and another has become an associate pastor. And even those graduates who aren’t currently in ministry roles have brought their newfound strengths into their spheres of leadership. Some who have gone through the program said Ignite saved their marriage, helped them find true understanding of their calling, or even helped them heal after losing a child. By the program graduation, the participants come out with a better vision of leadership and are equipped to step up and take the lead in many different aspects of life.

Padilla believes it’s a big mistake to assume that your leaders are going to come from somewhere else. If you want leaders, you need to raise leaders. Churches often assume that seminaries will develop leaders, while seminaries assume that churches will develop leaders, and the potential leaders quickly fall through the cracks of the system. If you are interested in starting a leadership program like Ignite in your own community, consider attending Herrera and Padilla’s workshop, Ignite Your Hispanic Ministry, at the Converge 2019 conference this January in Orlando, FL.

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