When I hear myself affirm my willingness to step into unfamiliar territory, and a yes has come from somewhere deep inside, I'm never quite sure that I am fully prepared to hear myself say it! It's sometimes unsettling. Regardless, I said yes. I found myself leaning in fully when asked by an Executive Leader in the Conference to embrace a new role with the Center for Transformational Leadership. To step into this new place, as I was beginning to grasp some of the vision meant I'd be leaving faith formation. I'd be moving on from 30 years of ministry experience, knowledge, and a certain settled-ness of call. Or would I? Over the span of a lifetime, I've learned to trust that yes. It is almost always an answer that originates in my faithful response to God. I'm sure you have had such an experience too! It is spoken from deep within as a response to call. I can think of no better place to begin than with call.
In this reflection, I'll explore how the work of the Center for Transformational Leadership, as the Conference has begun to imagine it, is ministry in the way of Jesus. I'll explore this work in 3 key areas; call, community, and engaging the word and our story.
Call is something we speak about in the faith community as a faithful response to an invitation from God to use our gifts, abilities, our hands, and our feet to further God's work in the world. I once read an interview in Christian Century with Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators. This interview about vital youth ministry began with call. Melheim reminded that Jesus called a group of young fishers to leave their nets behind and they did. Melheim believes it was because Jesus called them to do a 'big thing'. In response, they were so intrigued, interested, moved, or even bored with their current situation that they perceived that a yes to the call could mean something new, a transformation. They perhaps intuitively knew it may be a way of igniting passion and using their gifts. I answered the call to this new role because I believe, because I was asked to help do a 'big thing'. I also answered because I am aware that over the course of one's life and discipleship, we are called again and again.
Perceiving and answering call is true for disciples and for our churches.
It is exciting and energizing to be called to work with others to create something from a shared vision. Our congregations each began based on a shared vision and a unique call. They began because a group of God's faithful felt called together to do a 'big thing'. It is only when that vision, that call, that sense of purpose and mission is lost that congregations lose their way.
It is the church that knows and easily articulates it's unique call, that can share a collective vision in just a few words, that transforms and vitalizes. It engages seekers and disciples alike in a big thing and ignites passion, energies, and purpose. It is the church that lives that call faithfully each day that has a vital mission to the community and the world. Many institutions are now using a larger portion of their resources to help their leaders and members alike to discover and affirm their own transformative yes. When they do, the organization is transformed. We can help you discern your own transformative path and point you to trusted resources!
Community engagement is ministry in the way of Jesus. Community is the place that forms our discipleship, that affirms and engages our gifts, that prepares, tempers, and strengthens us to move beyond the church doors. In his small volume Why We Live in Community, Eberhard Arnold, German theologian and founder of the Bruderhof explores the many facets of Christian community. Among the insights shared in this small but impactful reflection on community is this; "We must live in community because we are stimulated by the same creative Spirit of unity who calls nature to unity and through whom work and culture shall become community in God... The more clearly a community defines its unique task, the more deeply conscious it must be of belonging..."
Belonging to one another, the unity of God's creation, and the power of community are all inherent in the 'why' of your church. Absent these, a congregation may be nothing more than a collection of individuals. Jesus continually kept the 12 mindful of their own call and the need to be in community, to be present in a circle wider than the circle of 12 he created. Jesus not only guided those in his closer circle but he shared his message with the multitudes, such as in the Sermon on the Mount. If transformation and transformational leadership is to have integrity, impact, and align with the kin-dom work our churches are called to, then it must transform our communities. The CTL is working to curate and share resources that will assist in this essential, ongoing transformation. We're curating resources to help your community of faith be moved into the powerful work of its mission on behalf of all. We will convene leaders together for conversation, exploration, and discovery. We will assist your community in creating its 'future story'.
Engaging the Word and our story. Jesus was the ultimate storyteller. The parables juxtapose everyday life and kin-dom values in transformative ways. This is perhaps the best reason I know of that those new to scripture begin in the Gospels and most poignantly, in the parable stories of Jesus. While we engage in our sacred stories, we also create our own stories. As individuals and as members of the communities we are part of; the biblical narrative and our own narrative seek to embody the love of God and the love of God's people. We tell stories in part, to create the transformative community we seek to be. There are moments when that strength of purpose and connection to our mission and to one another are elusive and the stories we tell aren't whole. There are times when unexpected voices call us to recognize that our stories are not whole or fully formed. There are other times when our stories imagine a vision that inspires, illuminates, and moves us forward toward that wholeness we seek.
The good work of transformation and reimagining church is not only about call and community. It is about stories. It is about deep listening to the stories that have formed us. It is about listening to the stories of our past, our children and our elders. It is about faithfully proclaiming the stories that are rising within us. It is about imagining the future stories we long to tell. The CTL will work hard to assist and guide you in engaging in stories! We will assist you to listen to and learn from your stories. We will help with resources and tools for imagining and forming future stories. We will be curators of the best stories and offer sacred space for those stories to be told and shared!
The work of the CTL is to offer resources, support, guidance and tools for exploring and igniting call, purpose, vision, and mission. We are here to help you Illuminate, Innovate, Inquire, Implement and Inspire your mission and ministry! And I'm so very glad that a call was extended and I'm so excited that I said yes! I invite you and your congregation to reach out and let us know how the Center for Transformational Leadership can help you.
Karen Ziel is the Assistant Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL) at the Southern New England Conference. She can help congregations and their leaders with tools and resources for assessment and discernment. As a member of ...