Friday, October 23, 2009

Leadership Conversations

Sometimes it takes 15 years to get it right.

We have never done much in the way of formal leadership training at Open Circle. We are a relatively small congregation and our structure has been pretty fluid through the years. Leaders have just stepped up and into many positions; for certain positions we have a congregational call process where we ask the congregation to identify the people who best represent the values of our community. Mostly we have been blessed with hard-working, gifted people who have stepped up to get the work done. But not too long ago we had a bad "match" that ended badly and we realized that it would be helpful to have a structure in place to have intentional conversations about leadership with current and prospective leaders in order to get to know prospective leaders and to better match gifts with needs.

Two books we found very helpful in this regard are Bruce Sanguin's The Emerging Church and Anna Christie's Evoking Change. Both talk about the importance of paying attention to the emotional and spiritual health of leaders and both have suggestions for how to better equip leaders.

So we are 5 weeks into a 7 week session on the spiritual and emotional foundations of leadership. It has been a great experience with the group we have. Each week we begin with a meditation; each meditation is led by a member of the group. That person is also responsible that week to share something of their creativity. We have had baking, crafts, writing and journaling thus far. Then there is the information part that includes: spiritual practice, meta-narratives of scripture, faith sharing, self-definition, boundaries, and staying connected across differences. We will close with a session on group dynamics. We have had great conversations about our roles as leaders at church, in families, at work. The benefit of this kind of gathering for getting to know leaders, learning from each other, and better matching gifts with needs is readily apparent.

Two weeks ago we had a very interesting session on faith sharing. Faith sharing is something we don't do much of in progressive churches. We know what we don't believe, and many of us are fairly uncomfortable in settings where people are sharing their faith. But it seems fairly important for leaders in a progressive church to have moved beyond "I don't believe this anymore" to be able to comfortably talk about what they do believe. So the group had a week to do their homework and everyone came with a written statement of faith. None of them sounded anything like the Nicene Creek - Thank God! We are learning something here - but each was well-thought out and articulated a positive statement of that person's faith. It was a great exercise.

It's never to late to learn from your mistakes and change the way you do things.

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