by Meredith McNabb, Associate Director of Education
“I have no idea where we should start when I get home… There’s so much to be done!”
One of our great privileges of working with faith-based organizations through our Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising and Cultivating Generous Congregations courses is to encounter gifted, motivated leaders who are ready to take on roadblocks in order to accomplish their organization’s mission and vision. In each course, the goal is for the participants to envision what they’ll do back home to help more fruitful practices take root in their own contexts.
Often, those next steps are clear to the leaders in the courses, but on occasion we get to sit with individuals or teams who see twenty—or fifty!—high-priority things they think they could or should address, and the needs feel overwhelming. For congregational leaders and the leaders of religious educational institutions or nonprofits, there’s never a shortage of things to be done and challenges to be addressed. However, those leaders also recognize the importance of being strategic with time and resources and maintaining good boundaries to avoid overwork and burnout.
Reframing the next step as one of discovering the existing strengths and resources of the community and the congregation or organization is a powerful pivot away from that sense of facing overwhelming needs and moving toward a sense of imaginative, hopeful clarity about potential success.
Asset mapping, strengths and gifts inventories, prayer walks—not to mention plain conversation with one’s constituents and neighbors!—all can contribute to the discovery of those existing strengths and resources. Robert Schnase, author of The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, gave a presentation to religious leaders to advise how to be effective “missional strategists”. His words can guide leaders in the midst of engaging all that discovery:
- Listen and pay attention
- Display curiosity and ask provocative questions
- Give the work back to the leaders who will draw on their own strengths
- Increase the self-awareness of leaders—their blind spots and their spiritual gifts
- Communicate hope to leaders and encourage them¹
This to-do list helps to recognize the leadership potential among our congregations’ and organizations’ members, friends, and neighbors, as well as in ourselves. Each step to move out of the scarcity mindset that we can take for ourselves or model and offer to others will bring out imagination and hope as we move to live out our mission and vision.
¹November 2, 2016, Jacksonville, FL: Council of Bishops UMC Extended Cabinet Summit. “The Missional Strategist”, with Robert Schnase.