Spiritual Leadership – creating a creative learning methodology17 Mar

A Creative Learning Methodology for develop Ecclesial Leadership

I have assumed that clergy are differentiated in some way from those who populate our congregations. I understand the notion of ‘a priesthood for all believers’ although not scriptural, nonetheless an interpretation of Exodus 19:6. I want to clarify that I do not believe that clergy are set aside in a hierarchical fashion (that they are better than or higher up the ecclesial ladder than anyone else), but I do believe that they are (and must be) differentiated by the exemplary, holy life they lead – so that they can be an example and an inspiration to others. They will attract and nurture those entering the way of Christ and in so doing, they will embrace the main mission of the church.

With this in mind it is important, that any curriculum or content of a leadership development program for clergy would incorporate this differentiation within its leadership model. Yes there are current models out there that will go some way to teach this and I think specifically of Servant Leadership, Level 5 Leadership (Jim Collins) and other Ethical and Postmodern Leadership Models. However none of these secular models are sufficient in their existing form. We would need to develop an integrated model, a pastiche of what is existing and we would add on to that, a specific ecclesial flavour that would incorporate the elements discussed in this paper. None of the current secular models embrace a theology of leadership and this is something which would need to be firmly and centrally integrated into any clerical leadership model.

In terms of learning methodologies to support the process outlined above we would need to look at including free space for reading, reflection and contemplation, deep prayer, prayer partnering, prayer groups. To support a constant exploration of scripture, reason and tradition and all things relevant to ecclesial leadership, we would need to provide opportunities for deep dialogue, debate and constructive argument. The models of Scharmer and Gunnlaugson would be very useful tools for teaching deep dialogue. It is suggested that the core approach to learning and the environment of the classroom should reflect a critical constructivist approach. This learning paradigm uses the theoretical inputs of Jurgen Habermas. Habermas’ learning philosophy opens a space for engagement with social realities and allows for critical contemplation and transformation. The critical constructivist classroom is one that challenges the traditional power relationships between the teacher and the taught and opens up opportunities for mutual learning. The classroom relationships also clearly mirror the kind of power relationships inherent in ecclesial leaders – that is, the power of the teacher is used purely for the good of the students, not to overwhelm or manipulate them. The teacher openly encourages the building of new knowledge and of learning with the students. With reference to Gortner’s article, the work of Argyris, Wheatley, Heifetz and the notion of double-loop learning are also very relevant here. Lastly and very importantly there needs to be an output from the students in the form of an Action Learning project, which would involve them going into a community and enabling the core mission of the church, that is, spreading the love of Christ and building the body of the Church – in other words making disciples the way Jesus did.

Full referencing details are available on request.

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Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development
Author of Assessing Human Competence
Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling
Based in Sandton, Johannesburg

My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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