Freedom to Lead International® is a faith-based nonprofit bringing real change in churches and communities through the development of competent Christ-centered leaders.
By using story to develop competent Christ-centered leaders, Freedom to Lead International® is contributing to one of the most exciting Christian movements of our time.
Our Story: Do we tell stories or develop leaders?
Actually, we develop Christ-centered leaders for people who learn best through story.
A BIG problem
In 2009, FTL’s founder Rick Sessoms was approached by a ministry colleague with a big problem. He had been leading a network of Christians in South Asia who had led multitudes of people to Christ, and thousands of churches had sprung up with these new believers. Most of the churches were in areas where people learn best and are most influenced by the oral arts – stories, images, drama, dance, and music.
But 40% of the new churches closed or languished.
And most of the failure was directly related to a failure of leadership.
He asked for help.
We began with research. Collaborating with a group of leaders from South Asia taught us that what these leaders most needed was non-formal training — intensive modules and purposeful mentoring — that develop core competencies of Christ-centered leaders.
Stories were an obvious medium for the needed training.
80% of the world’s people belong to cultures that learn best through story, images, and music. They’re most likely influenced through oral rather than literate means. Yet, more than 90% of Christian workers use literacy-based communication.
In February 2011, we launched the program, now called The Garden Project, among leaders in South Asia.
On its success in South Asia, various ministry networks invited us, in 2014, to launch the project in Ethiopia and French-speaking Africa. We launched our first cohort in Senegal in 2015.
Opportunities for growth open up as requests are received to bring the project to other areas.
The Garden Project now serves more than 10,000 leaders in 50 countries in South Asia and Africa.
And everyone, from the bishop in urban Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the house church pastor in rural South Asia, expresses the same need for competent Christ-centered leaders to lead healthier churches.
In summary, with your help, it is possible to develop competent Christ-centered leaders around the world to build up the BODY of Christ, by employing creative, culturally-relevant methods like storytelling to communicate effectively with targeted leaders.
To put it simply, you can help existing Christian leaders to be better leaders.
Rick Sessoms, CEO
Not very long ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of starting a ministry like this. In 2007, I was part of a leadership team that was preparing for a major congress. I remember well the day our team received an exciting report about the rapid increase of conversions in church growth in many nations due to storycentric strategies. I paid close attention to the part of the report that described that these storycentric churches are multiplying, but there was no leadership development that addressed the unique needs of these storycentric leaders.
I’d invested a lot of my ministry life to come alongside leaders with teaching and mentoring and executive coaching, but the tools of my trade were mostly literacy-based. Concepts and abstract ideas and systems. The report I heard that day was an aha moment. The burden was overwhelming.
Somebody needed to take on the challenge to cultivate Christ-centered leaders through storycentric methods.
I sensed God’s saying that the world is waiting.