Are you called to lead?
Taking on the role of leader is not an easy task. It requires self-confidence, skills in listening and negotiation, but most of all it requires a strong spiritual core.
Nothing builds one's confidence more than appreciation and respect, regardless of whether there is agreement or argument about issues. Differences of opinion are to be expected, so a leader must open the space for all within the group to be heard. Because we are from varied cultural backgrounds, we also offer our perspectives with distinct styles that may or may not be understood by others. However, negotiation is the key to achieving any agreed upon decision, but it is the responsibility of the whole group, not only the leader.
Unfortunately, leaders are sometimes not appreciated or respected no matter who they are. An aspiring leader is met with suspicion that he or she is simply seeking power and control over others. It is confusing because on the one hand people expect the leader to take charge, but on the other hand they are criticized for doing so.
So it is not unusual for many to avoid being a leader. But many among us are blessed with the gifts required for leadership that should be shared with others. Many among us are called to assume leadership in the UCC.
Exercising leadership in the church is similar in many ways to other non-religious settings. The unique nature of church leadership is that our spiritual core relies on a deep and abiding faith in God. As Christians, Jesus Christ must always be present in our minds, hearts and souls in our interactions and decision-making.
I am reminded of Margaret Benefiel's book, "Soul at Work." Benefiel reminds us that awareness of our soul (or spirituality) plays a crucial role in leadership and organizational life. She defines spirituality as awareness of the "human spirit, fully engaged."
The UCC is now called to be fully engaged by welcoming the Stillspeaking God into our midst as we make the decision about who we call to lead us as General Minister and President. Leadership transitions are healthy in every setting of the church — in the local church, the Conference or at the national setting. However, it is normal to be nervous about change.
Many are very worried because our faithful and extraordinary GMP, the Rev. John H. Thomas, completes his service in this role at next year's General Synod.
The search committee, of which I am a part, takes its responsibility very seriously. While we acknowledge this anxious time for the church, we are convinced that a faithful and spirit-filled leader will emerge. We invite every member of this beloved church into discernment with those who may consider this call. We are comforted by knowing that God's Holy Spirit will be with us during this important leadership transition.
Self-confidence and particular skills are certainly important to effective leadership. A supportive community is truly a blessing, but the faithful leader is sustained by God's ever present grace.
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, a member of the General Minister and President Search Committee, is executive minister for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the five-person Collegium of Officers.
| Learn more about the GMP search process at <ucc.org/gmp>.|