Like most Pinnacle Forum Partners, Clifton “Clif” Fenton is deeply disturbed by what’s happening to our culture, from the decline of traditional Judeo-Christian values to the breakdown of the family to the deterioration in personal ethics and more.
And like most Partners, the 72-year-old former investment banker is all in when it comes to Pinnacle Forum’s goal of transforming leaders to transform culture – and its focus on helping people discover and execute on their God-given calling.
But Fenton and his peers in Pinnacle Forum’s Greater Chicago Chapter have come up with an innovative twist on the traditional forum design with their Emerging Leaders Initiative. Started in 2012, it is designed for younger leaders – men and women in their 20s and 30s, versus their 40s, 50s and 60s – and uses a mentor model versus the normal peer-to-peer paradigm.
“Collectively the Millennials or Gen Y are the largest generation in American history, and are projected to be even more influential than the Baby Boomer generation,” Fenton explains. “Habits are formed early in life … thus, the purpose of ELI is to help prepare Millennial leaders to live their professional and personal lives according to the values of Jesus.”
While that aligns perfectly with Pinnacle Forum’s mission, ELI’s structure is designed to meet the unique needs of the younger generation. Specifically, the younger men and women meet in small groups, each facilitated by an established Christian leader, with studies and discussions focusing on real-life issues and challenges facing Christians living and working in an increasingly secular culture. ELI participants also have access to senior Christian business leaders at periodic social events.
“Each Emerging Leader commits to use his or her influence to promote a Gospel-centered culture around them as they take on additional positions of authority in their personal and professional lives,” Fenton explains.
Fenton’s own journey to be a leader of young leaders is a story in itself. He was raised in a Christian home, but in college he found himself happily anticipating, in his words, “a lifetime of church-free Sundays.” Marriage and children eventually brought him back to church, though not to Jesus. That wouldn’t happen until at age 57 he finally accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What prompted his decision and later inspired him to help start ELI? Seeing his own children’s faith in action; early on a son talking with him and giving him a copy of Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ,” and later his college-age daughter launching a Bible study at her very liberal and secular campus.
When a friend told him about Pinnacle Forum’s goal of personal and cultural transformation in 2004, he was hooked, and by 2009 the Chicago chapter was starting to hit its stride. He recalls being inspired by the Four “E” Strategy, especially the final “E” – Execute – and challenged on how to be influential in one of the Seven Mountains of Culture. After experimenting by bringing some Millennials into forums, the chapter decided to try a different structure for the younger leaders.
That focus on executing is at the heart of Fenton’s sage advice for Pinnacle Forum Partners and participants around the country:
“Don’t be content (in your forum group) with making friends, having great conversations and sharing problems. Keep in mind what you’re doing with what God has given you,” he says. “Look around … there must be something that bothers you … something that makes you say ‘someone should do something’… something that gives your life a sense of purpose and meaning…”
Today, Clif Fenton is fully committed to the cause of Christ in Chicago, where he and his wife Judy live downtown and attend Holy Trinity Church. Since retiring in 2000 after an impressive career with Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York and Nuveen in Chicago, he has given generously of his time and talents to a variety of organizations helping Chicagoans realize their full potential as people and citizens.
And, he continues executing on his passion of helping young leaders live out their faith in every area of their lives. Fenton and others believe their ELI model could be a natural adjunct to any Pinnacle Forum group or Chapter, and will be at Pinnacle Forum’s National Conference in April. In the meantime, Fenton is available at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.