In my conversation with Stephan Papa, we talked about developing leaders as a key process in the vitality of a congregational system. Indeed, one of the most persistent cries among leaders in all the congregations Iâ€™ve served is that â€œwe need more peopleâ€ (and in Baltimore, Iâ€™m hearing â€œwearing fewer hats!â€).
Congregation-based community organizing identifies the capacity to act as the essential task of any organization. We become an organization to achieve something that we couldnâ€™t do alone. (Otherwise thereâ€™d be no need for an organization!) We find each other, we choose each other, as an expression of our desire for more capacity to do greater things. We choose each other because we want (gulp!)
Power, Iâ€™d say, is organized people plus organized money. The people in the congregations Iâ€™ve served are our number one asset. They provide the passion for our work, and they provide the essential power to get it accomplished. To walk with the (generalized) people and help each person choose the leadership role each may want to play is, I think, one of my most important tasks. I ask people what brings them to the church, what makes them keep coming back, what they hope their â€œbelongingâ€ might accomplish for them and their families and neighborhoods. And then I ask them what leadership role they want to play in making their own dreams come true.
This might mean finding some resources in the system to support a project theyâ€™d like to engage. It might mean identifying work already being done and people already engaged who would flourish with additional people power. It might mean getting someone connected to learning and skills resources in the right workshop, or denominational resource, or community institution.
But the most important issue for a leader like me is to get someone in touch with their own desire, their own will. This is a question of faith. It is our experience of knowing our own will (Lat., voluntas), and maybe even discerning the divine will. (Thatâ€™s something our congregations do in their voluntary association with each other.) Touch your desire, tell why you do what you doâ€“this is a spiritual quest.
If we really believe that our end is â€œto touch inward springs,â€ and â€œto awaken the conscience, the moral discernment,â€ (Channing) then being a ministerâ€“even a pastor!â€“who encourages each person to grow in their ability to act and their capacity to lead is clearly my aim.
And yes, this work is the greatest job in the world! (And in Baltimore, â€œAmericaâ€™s Greatest City,â€ the bus stops tell meâ€“wow!)
Tell me what kind of leader you are . . .