What to do? I have searched for models, examples and mentors to guide me. This book is the story of the search to stay focused on my purpose of loving the people and to be less distracted by my midnight demons of details and past failures at leadership. Once again, I found myself about the task of reinventing my way of being a leader. Finding a model that describes how to bring together a tiny aging parish with a fledgling Episcopal campus ministry was virtually impossible. I talked to colleagues, searched the Internet and dug deep. Very little appeared.
My first inclination was to lead the two communities as separate congregations, parallel congregational development. They did not know each other, and their age difference was vast. The few members who attended the parish eight o’clock Sunday morning service were old enough to be great grandparents to the students in our ministry. The regulars at the ten o’clock service could have been the young adults’ grandparents. The only bridge between the Sunday congregation and the campus ministry was my presence.
I learned quickly that the parish had been founded in the late 1940s by a few faculty, staff and students who attended Arizona State University (then Arizona State Teachers College). The infant congregation met at a tiny chapel in the middle of the college cam- pus. With hard work, sacrifice, and a grant from the Episcopal Church, the congregation bought property a few blocks south of campus and built the parish hall with volunteer labor. They worshipped in the parish hall for ten years while raising money to build the current sanctuary. The congregation’s vision was to be a university parish, a church with its life in and among the ASU community.
The parish vision had fallen cold some years before I arrived. But a faithful remnant of those founding members still attended the eight o’clock service. They saw my arrival as the bishop’s affirmation of their original concept. The parish began to breathe once again.
But I was still left with the task of discovering a game plan to combine two seemingly disparate ways of working. The first work was to create holy space for the caretaking of a generation in its last season of life, in other words to be a gentle “hospice-worker” priest. The second work was the pastoring of a generation of seekers and questioners; this is the role of a “mid-wife” priest. As much as I tried, I was unable to find a book describing how to lead such an institutional animal. Now after a few years of failures and some successes I am ready to share what I have learned.
I set out with the intention of writing this book without using the word leader. Surely, I thought, I can find a new or better term, because, frankly, I am exhausted from discussions about what makes good leaders and what kind of leaders we need for the future. I even had the notion that our scriptures, or at least Jesus, did not make any reference to a leader. Of course, I was wrong. John 10:3 set me straight: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” The shepherd is the leader.
So, then, how does the shepherd lead? The sheep follow the shepherd because they know the voice of the leader. The shepherd has a distinctive voice and knows the name of every member of the flock. A relationship exists between the shepherd and the sheep. “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).
Over time, I discovered that imbedded in the craft of being a spiritual director were the skills I needed to be a shepherd, both as a hospice-worker and as a mid-wife pastor.
The four roles of the spiritual director I believe apply to pastoral leadership: the spiritual director as (1) steward of sacred safety, (2) holy listener, (3) the advocate of silence, and (4) wisdom teacher. Most of the work of spiritual directors can be understood through the lens of one or more of these roles. Because these roles of the spiritual director are fairly universal to the field, I am convinced that the church leader can express these roles through church business, pastoral counseling, the ministry of presence, preaching and teaching, and congregational discernment. (from pages 9-10)
When Leadership Meets Spiritual Direction: Stories and Reflections for Congregational Life is not just another book about leadership. Nor is this a book about the leader being the spiritual director for an entire congregation. By following the example of a spiritual director, this book is simply making an offering of thoughts, reflections, stories and experiences for the congregational leader. (from page 14)
Leadership is about our relationships with God, our self, and others. Spiritual direction is about these same relationships. When you lead as a spiritual director you will be developing your relationships with God and yourself and assisting others to enrich their own relationships with God, self, and others. These relationships are not built upon the expectations that God or my spiritual director will give me the right answers. Spiritual directors rarely give answers; my experience has been that God does so even less often. Instead, both the Spirit and the director have guided me to find the answers already existing within my soul. Leading through spiritual direction has the same purpose. The people must find their own answers. You are fetched to be the wisdom guide and spiritual director who will help them discover those answers. The pilgrimage will be a long, slow walk for everyone involved. The journey is not about the destination. Rather, it is about the transformation that will take place along the path. God be with you. Time to start walking. (from page 207)