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A congregation discerns their vision in a World Cafe
Don't use the church directory as a strategy to fill your open leadership positions!
Leadership Development Programs in Your Congregation
Leadership Development

Many congregations only think about developing new leaders around the time that the nominating committee is looking for potential board members. Instead, we recommend that congregations see leadership development as part of an arc of faith development that includes not just leadership skills, but also leadership sensibilities and faith development. 

We on your UUA Congregational Life Staff want you to spend your leadership development energy on relationship-building and connecting individuals to meaningful service, so we offer affordable leadership development courses that your potential and seasoned leaders can take take in parallel, then to meet and learn together:

  • Centered Leadership Part 1: For new leaders and those interested in possible leadership. Covers covenant, healthy communication and boundaries, shared ministry, and stewardship. Also provides and introduction to congregational polity, UU theologies, and the wider UU movement.

  • Centered Leadership Part 2: Includes family and other systems thinking applied to congregations. (Similar to Healthy Congregations®) Learn healthy leadership practices, communication and conflict skills, the importance of being mission-focused and how to communicate across differences.

  • Strategic Leadership: Develop a deeper understanding of how to focus your congregation on mission, build trust and develop a cohesive leadership team. Learn about stewardship, strategic planning, annual goal setting and ministry assessment and the basics of congregational governance.

  • Adaptive Leadership: Develop advanced leadership skills that will help identify challenges. Learn how to help others see challenges in new ways, empower others and find creative solutions together. This course includes working on a case study with other participants.

Introduction to Leadership Development Teams

Nominating Committees tended to meet for a few weeks out of the year to fill roles that are outlined in the church bylaws. In recent years, congregations have been moving toward a more holistic approach to leadership development. Here is an overview of that shift.

Train Your Leadership Development Team

Start by learning together the kinds of leadership best practices that you want to instill in the rest of the congregation. Learn about the difference between Leadership and Management (we need both), how Leadership Development is an important part of Faith Formation, and how thinking in terms of teams and not just individuals can make all the difference!

Identify Potential Leaders

Develop several practices and strategies that enable you to identify potential leaders, especially from groups that may be at the margins (young adults, people of color).

Invite Potential Leaders to Discern Their Gifts

Developing leaders requires building relationships. Potential leaders want to be "seen" by existing leaders and have their own gifts affirmed and their potential recognized.

Inform and Equip Your Leaders with Training and Formation Opportunities

Our living tradition calls us to be lifelong learners, and this is especially true for our leaders. There are many skills and sensibilities that today's leaders need to help our congregations be ready for the 21st century. The UUA has many training resources to assist you!

Involve Leaders in Ministries that Best Match Their Gifts and Calling

Connecting the right person to the right role and team is mutually beneficial to both the person and the congregation. 

Inquire Regularly How the Person and the Ministry are Progressing

Use an ongoing, appreciative assessment tool to help leaders see how well they are serving the ministries and mission of the congregation, and how well the congregation is s

About the Authors

  • The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the UUA Congregational Life Staff...
  • Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including...

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For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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