Creating Conversation: Guder Scholars Program in Missional Leadership

Participants in the Guder Scholars Program dining out together.

Creating Conversation is a weekly editorial, curated by the Centre for Missional Leadership (CML), and gives opportunity for people to speak about issues they believe are vital for the church in Vancouver. 

One of the goals of this weekly article is to spark dialogue – and action. We invite you to join the dialogue here on the Church for Vancouver website. 

We also invite you to use the article as a discussion starter with your small group, church staff, friends and your neighbours. Thanks for participating in the conversation!

This past August six pastors who are in their first 15 years of ministry gathered at St. Andrew’s Hall for the Guder Scholars Program. The program is named for the Centre for Missional Leadership’s Senior Fellow, Rev. Dr. Darrell Guder, editor of the 1998 classic Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.

Guder served as theologian-in-residence at Young Life, and taught at several seminaries across the United States before retiring from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2014. It was through Guder’s writings that many of us in the church today have a clearer sense of mission as he argued in Missional Church:

Mission is not something the church does, a part of its total program. No, the church’s essence is missional, for the calling and sending action of God forms its identity. Mission is founded on the mission of God in the world, rather than the church’s effort to extend itself.

St. Andrew’s Hall is a beautiful place to learn.

Dr. Guder’s care for pastors shines through in the program design and the desire to bless and encourage leaders in Christ’s church as they equip their congregations for vibrant Christian witness in a post-Christendom society.

This year’s Guder Scholar program received applications from across North America and through a selection process a diverse and gifted set of leaders were invited to participate in a three-day intensive retreat exploring key themes for the missional church today.

The theme was ‘Missional Leadership for an Online Church.’ The six participants (four Presbyterian Church in Canada, one Christian Reformed and one Presbyterian Church, USA) came from across North America and engaged in pre-learning with both online Zoom conversations and through reading the book Following: Embodied Discipleship in a Digital Age written by Jason Byassee and Andria Irwin.

Participant’s travel costs were covered through the generous support of the Cork Fund at St. Andrew’s Hall, and the Guder scholars stayed in the St. Andrew’s Hall residence for the week, allowing some before and after program time to explore the beauty of Vancouver in the summertime.

During our time together, the ministry team of the Centre for Missional Leadership – Rev. Albert Chu, CML Director; Rev. Dr. Tim Dickau, Program Associate; Andrea Perrett, Associate in New Witnessing Communities and Rev. Dr. Ross Lockhart, Dean – offered teaching times on the theme.

Participants also offered their own teaching time, coming prepared to share their experiences through the pandemic in congregational ministry, and giving examples of their innovation with technology and wrestling with their own theological questions of the online church for an incarnational faith.

One day the Guder Scholars took part in a field trip downtown to Coastal Church to learn more about their multi-site campus approach to ministry, as well as their innovations regarding online church during the pandemic. In between the teaching times, the Guder Scholars enjoyed great meals, good conversation and even a Vancouver Canadians baseball game!

Albert Chu, DIrector of the Centre for Missional Leadership, leading the group.

This year’s Guder Scholars expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to weave both Sabbath rest and new insights into their time on the West Coast.

One scholar said, “A highlight of our time together was the community that formed over the week. I loved being with the other scholars and the CML team. It was a gift to be together with other pastors and leaders looking for creative ways to encourage one another and build the church.”

Another Guder Scholar said, “I sensed God’s presence often in conversation with other participants, through the inspiring presentations and in quiet reflection time in the residence or during walks early morning on the UBC campus.

Oh, and I haven’t laughed with pastors that much in a long time. God was definitely a part of that!” Echoing that sense of rest another participant said, “I am filled with gratitude to all the speakers and ministries that blessed us with their time and wisdom. I appreciated that the program was not packed with too many activities, and we had time to rest in God’s presence. I pray that God will refill and refresh everyone who served us in any capacity through this program in Jesus’ name.”

In a recent follow-up Zoom call with participants, Darrell Guder blessed this year’s Guder Scholars with words of encouragement and wisdom for their future ministries in Christ’s church. Guder’s support and direction has helped build the Centre for Missional Leadership at St. Andrew’s Hall over the past many years, and he has deeply impacted the way we seek to form leaders for Christ’s church of tomorrow, today.

As Guder argues:

The critical and evaluative motive for the doing of theology includes within its responsibility the formation of servant leaders for the church. When we describe theology as missional, then we do imply that the work of theology is not an end in itself but is related to God’s mission in the world.

We focus upon the church’s theology and the church’s theologians, its teaching elders, those who are called and gifted to equip the saints for the work of ministry as the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and pedagogical ministers of the Word.

The 2022 Guder Scholars gathered in August.

The August 2023 Guder Scholar Program will begin accepting applications in January 2023 with more information available at The theme for the 2023 Guder Scholar program is ‘Missional Leadership and Evangelism’ with Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison from Perkins School of Theology as our guest speaker.

While we always receive more applications than there are spots available, if you are in your first 15 years of ordained ministry, please apply online once the applications open in January.

The Guder Scholar program is part of the ministry of the Centre for Missional Leadership at St. Andrew’s Hall, a college of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, called to discern and equip the future church that God is bringing.

Ross Lockhart is Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall and Professor of Mission Studies at Vancouver School of Theology.

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