Sharing Leadership: a UCC Way of Being in Community

Sharing Leadership: a UCC Way of Being in Community

Sharing Leadership is important in today’s UCC now more than ever. Our denomination is known for its stance on inclusivity and justice, which has attracted cherished new congregants and clergy who grew up in traditions where leadership was not shared but rather imposed from on-high. In our churches, we have done a better job supplanting top-down leadership than we have introducing and perfecting the congregational way. Sharing Leadership: a UCC Way of Being in Community provides guidance and hope for the possibility of well-led congregations.

Sharing Leadership is a resource that can help even those who have been part of the UCC their whole lives to understand congregational polity – the practices by which we in the UCC govern our communities – better. Readers will develop a new appreciation for the theological and historical roots of the UCC’s practice of sharing leadership.

Furthermore, lay leaders who spend most of their time in institutional settings unrelated to the church, who might otherwise import secular leadership structures into the church, might find themselves exporting practices of sharing leadership to their wider communities instead. This new form of evangelism has the potential to enrich all kinds of institutions. 
Key principles Sharing Leadership lifts up include:
  1. The Holy Spirit is present and available to all. The UCC’s theology and anthropology do not make room for the possibility that ordained persons are uniquely capable of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Although clergy have a key role as conveners and presiders that requires theological education, all can participate in discerning God’s vision.
  2. The UCC resists hierarchies that suggest any one person is somehow closer to God than another. Any leadership hierarchies that exist in faith communities should serve the sole purpose of increasing efficiency and impact in carrying out God’s call.
  3. Amidst a flat hierarchy, leaders must attend with extreme intentionality to role clarity. Dysfunction often arises amidst flat hierarchies because they leave people confused about their own authority and that of others. Confusion brings out the worst in people. It can be prevented through continuous revisitation of how responsibility is distributed and shared. 
Those who teach UCC Polity to seminary students sometimes hear an awful joke from leaders in other Christian denominations: “Oh, I didn’t know the UCC had a polity.” It does, we do, and yet congregational polity is not understood, nor carried out well, universally.

In fact, in some cases, church leaders take advantage of the ways in which congregational polity tends to be misunderstood – “We can’t try that without a vote!” “We can’t change that without a congregational meeting!” – to hoard power and resist those who hear the call of the Holy Spirit differently from themselves.

Sharing Leadership provides a new resource for those who choose to educate themselves on the wonders and wiles of sharing leadership the congregational way.  Read more about this book and order from Pilgrim Press.


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Sarah B. Drummond

Sarah Drummond is a scholar, educator, and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, currently serving as the Dean of Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School. 

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