Spiritual Leadership

What Is Spiritual Leadership?

Spiritual Leadership is an orientation, a way of living and being in the world. It is living our deepest values guided by connection. It is doing what is ours to do, giving our unique gifts to the world. It is living in our dignity and integrity, despite the things in the world that would rob us of power or dignity or worth. It is a willingness to depend on something larger than ourselves and to be in community.

Everyone has, and can further develop, the capacity for Spiritual Leadership. You don’t have to be a “leader” to practice it. Everyone of any rank, role, age, gender/sex, race, constellation of abilities and limitations can practice Spiritual Leadership. No one has to authorize you to exercise your it; it is your birthright as a human being.

Spiritual Leadership is something we develop and deepen through practice. Spiritual Leadership is about navigating between our power and our powerlessness. Especially clear right now as we write this in 2020 is how little we have power or control over. Our Spiritual Leadership is about exercising the power that we do have to create a more just and beautiful world, even as we release our compulsion to try to control what is not in our hands. It is on us, therefore, to pay attention to where we have power — inner power, interpersonal power, institutional power, social power, spiritual power — and where we are powerless.

Spiritual Leadership can be - and is - practiced everywhere, but congregations have a special relationship to Spiritual Leadership. We believe that the purpose of congregations is to equip everyonein the congregation to live into their spiritual leadership. Spiritual Leadership is something we do together in community. It’s in and through community that our gifts are offered and received in service of building a better world. None of that is work we can do on our own. Congregations are a special kind of community where Spiritual Leadership can be developed and practiced.

Practices of Spiritual Leadership in Congregations

We have identified five practices that congregations can engage in to do this work of equipping everyone in the congregation to live into their spiritual leadership. Check out the Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change community of practice. A community of practice for anyone interested in embedding the practices of Spiritual Leadership in their congregational life and beyond.

Centering in gifts is a vital practice for human well being and wholeness, for individuals and communities. Our gifts are not for us — they are meant to build, maintain, and restore the community.

Centering in Gifts

When we choose Unitarian Universalism as our religion, we claim and are claimed by the tradition. In claiming Unitarian Universalism as a religion, we are accepting the responsibility to tend our tradition, bringing seeds of nourishment to harvest and weeding out what is harmful.

Tending to Tradition

Covenanting is a practice, not a product. There are ways of practicing covenant that are multidimensional and liberating, and which help us learn skills needed to contribute to liberation in the world.


Spiritual Leadership calls us to risk stretching beyond where we are comfortable, beyond what we think we are capable of in the name of Love and Justice.

Faithful Risking

Claiming Our Spiritual Leadership Online Course

People of faith who long for a transformed world are called to claim their Spiritual Leadership. Our souls need it. Our congregations need it. Our world needs it. The NER staff team holds the audacious opinion that the purpose of congregations is to inspire and support people to affirm and practice their Spiritual Leadership.

Spiritual Leadership is not reserved for religious professionals or lay leaders. It is an orientation and practice by which every one of us creates, sustains, and restores Beloved Community in which each person experiences belonging, equity, and well-being regardless of identity, role or rank. We need Spiritual Leadership everywhere: our homes, schools, places of work, neighborhoods, communities. As covenanted communities, congregations are perhaps especially suited to nourish and support it.

Consider taking this training if you and your congregation are looking for ways for congregational life to be more about:

  • soulful engagement with your faith;
  • finding energy and meaning in the gifts already present in your congregation; and
  • the transformative power of communities living their values in ways that challenge dominant culture — both within and beyond the congregation.

Hundreds of people from scores of New England congregations have taken the training in person. In their feedback, they’ve told us:

  • “Those who attended now understand their role in the congregation as a form of ministry. They are holding their leadership in a deeper way, in a way that is not task-oriented but a practice.”
  • “This is one of the most exciting things I have encountered. In it, we are claiming Unitarian Universalism as a real religion.”
  • “Spiritual leadership helps people slow down and be intentional about the work that we are doing…we are going to be a little less urgent about everything.”
  • “The program exceeded my expectations. It was the most useful program I have attended.”
  • “Can I do it again? So much to reflect on!”

For the optimum experience, form a team with others in your congregation and take it together. Go at the pace that works for your group — 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months. You can also take it on your own if that’s your only option.

We are grateful that through the UU Leadership Institute we can offer the training as an online experience making it accessible to more people and more congregations. For more information about the content of the training, see the course syllabus (PDF).

COST: $30 per person. Find your team and sign up soon!

REGISTRATION: Register online via UU Leadership Institute Training.

Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change: Resources

From New England Region

Find all the resources and materials for the Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change gatherings below.

SL4CC Resources