“Get Religion. Grow Leaders. Cross Borders.” This has been the theme of our president Peter Morales since last year’s General Assembly.  As the only UUA staff member who has leadership development as a full time portfolio, I’ve taken seriously the second item. For such a simple sentence, “Grow Leaders” is a complicated proposition.

How might we develop a common understanding about how to develop the needed skills and sensibilities for lay leaders, without creating a new credentialing program? Credentialing offers a certain appeal to those who value standards and consistency, but such programs can be inflexible, burdensome and expensive.

Having recently gone through the preliminary ministerial fellowshipping process, I felt a certain attraction to the idea of competencies.  However, in conversations with seasoned lay leaders, the word has an implication of mastery that would be hard to measure.  Instead, we’ve identified and are in the process of describing and refining 12 areas that should provide a solid, faithful foundation for leadership development, which is found under one of the tabs at the top of this blog.

I’ve already been using this list to design workshops, webinars and other programming. It is my dream that existing and aspiring leaders would use these building blocks to design their own learning/serving plan and that congregations would help their leaders to do so.

This is a model of leadership development that is used by evangelical church planters, because it is designed to equip and send leaders in a way that enables them to respond creatively to different contexts. The ideas are well-articulated in the book The Starfish and the Spider by Pri Brafman.  I talk about using these ideas briefly in this workshop excerpt:

What I love about the starfish model is its potential faithfulness to the ethos Unitarian Universalism.  We are the Living Tradition. We believe that when we come together in covenantal and accountable community, our expressions and acts of faith can be creative and life-affirming.


About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.