The Heart of the Leader
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. —Ephesians 4:11-12
It’s the key, the critical element. The leader—we’re talking primarily about the clergy leader (or rector, if you have one), but also other clergy and lay leaders, like wardens, vestry members, and others—must single-mindedly champion spiritual growth as the priority for the parish. The clergy leader is CSO: Chief Spiritual Officer. Modeling discipleship and spiritual sustainability are implicit in this role. How is the leader fed? How does the leader stay in touch with the first love that drove the call to ordination?
Some basic steps to strengthen the heart of the leader:
1. Model discipleship: Leaders make disciples by becoming disciples themselves
2. Exhibit humility: Spiritual growth is God’s work. Leaders are instruments of God’s power at work
3. Focus more on transformation than attendance or pledge units
Some examples of this best practice principle at work:
1. Put REVIVE to work in your congregation: Revive is a discipleship program to help active lay leaders (wardens, property and finance officers, committee chairs, teachers, etc.) grow in confidence as spiritual leaders. It’s a small group program lasting for 10 months that transforms leaders of practical church ministry into confident spiritual leaders who love God and participate in Christ’s ministry. For more info visit revive.forwardmovement.org.
The leader’s heart includes not only the clergy but all the leaders in the parish. Each vestry meeting starts and ends with a meditation grounding our conversations in Christ. Additionally, we encourage our church leadership to attend worship and discipleship offerings regularly. Thus, being in leadership is not just about governing the church, it’s an opportunity to grow closer with God. —The Rev. Hillary Raining, Rector, St. Christopher’s Church
Participation in RenewalWorks has helped me become more intentional about spending time with God, in prayer and through other spiritual practices, and has enhanced my awareness of God in all things. This time with God has made for a deeper and more conscious spiritual life, and has kept me grounded through the challenges present in parish ministry and personal life. RenewalWorks has also helped our congregation get clear about its identity as the body of Christ distinct from, yet in relationship with, other caring entities in the larger community. By engaging in RenewalWorks, we see ourselves more fully as agents reconciling others to God through Christ. —The Rev. Patti Snickenberger, Former Rector, St. Lawrence Church, Libertyville, Illinois
Additional Examples and Resources
1. Clergy make discussing spiritual growth a priority for colleague groups.
2. Clergy make time and arrangements for discipleship training (conferences, retreats, mentor relationships, spiritual direction).
3. Vestry members understand their role as spiritual leaders and employ vestry covenants and other methods to hold themselves accountable. They make use of Forward Movement resources like the Vestry Resource Guide and the book, God’s Grace and Robert’s Rules: A Theological Primer for Vestry Members.
4. The vestry supports and encourages the clergy, providing resources to deepen the their spiritual lives and establishing patterns of care for them.
5. Pertinent Forward Movement resources