Designing Faithful Leadership Formation

12 Badges symbolizing different leadership qualities

Leadership development in our congregations should be an extension of faith development. But our congregational leaders need more than technical training, they need a combination of skills, sensibilities and internal qualities to enable them to be both effective and faithful. This nuanced difference in the meanings of the words “training” or even “development” could be better described as “leadership formation.”

To meet the needs of today’s congregational leaders, the Central East Region offers a model that identifies twelve areas where leaders and potential leaders might learn and grow.

Each of the twelve areas fall into one of three categories:


Sensibilities are lenses that our leaders can develop in order to get a better "balcony view" of the situations in which they are leading and the people that they are working with. Part of developing these sensibilities is knowing that it is an ongoing process of learning, reflecting and shifting awareness. We don't think of sensibilities as competencies because these are areas where leaders will always have blind spots and deeply ingrained assumptions that keep them from seeing the whole picture by themselves.

  • Contextual Sensibility: Developing an understanding of changes in society and how those changes impact our churches.
  • Multicultural Sensibility: Understanding how race and privilege operate in our lives and institutions and actively working to dismantle racism.
  • Systems Sensibility: The ability to understand that a change in one part can have an effect on the other parts, even if we can’t see direct causation.
  • Mission-FocusedHaving a clear sense of the mission of the congregation and keeping the congregation focused on that mission.


Skills are competencies that can be developed through a combination of study and practice. These can be learned through reading, workshops, classes, webinars and "on the job."

  • Conflict Transformation Skills: Understanding the different levels of conflict and being able to engage in creative conflict.
  • Change Skills: Understanding the dynamics of change, identifying adaptive challenges and being able to engage in strategies and creative conflict.
  • Communications Skills: Understanding different styles of giving and receiving information and being able to communicate across those styles.
  • Management Skills: Basic skills to keep the congregation running smoothly, effectively and with fiscal responsibility.
  • Skills to Grow Other Leaders: A generosity of spirit and collegiality in identifying and mentoring potential leaders then supporting their development and participation.


Because we are looking at Leadership Development as a kind of faith formation, we want each leader to develop self-awareness and find ways to cultivate and improve their full, authentic selves, especially in ways that make them better leaders.

  • Embodying UU “DNA”: Developing and embodying faithfulness to core UU values and theology. Knowing UU history and traditions.
  • Spiritually Grounded: A clear, positive understanding and personal practice of one’s own faith in our liberal religious tradition.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Knowing and taking responsibility for one’s own functioning in the system. Being aware of what one’s triggers are.


Individual Leadership Development Portfolio (PDF) A personal tracking system of leadership trainings, webinars, experiences and books read based on this model of Faithful Leadership Formation

About the Authors

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

For more information contact .