Tc 852: spirituality and leadership theory and Practice of Leadership for Church Leaders

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TC 852: SPIRITUALITY AND LEADERSHIP Theory and Practice of Leadership for Church Leaders Boston University School of Theology Spring, 2011 Susan W. Hassinger, Bishop-in-residence and Lecturer

Contact information: Office: Room 424A, School of Theology Building Office hours: by appointment e-mail address:


Leaders in these changing times face significant challenges. Those challenges include the way we think about and practice leadership. Leadership is impacted by the background of the leader and the context of the setting in which leadership is shaped and exercised. Leadership is not just what a person does; it comes from within. The quality of a leader’s life and work can be significantly enhanced by being supported with spiritual life practices for the leader and for the individuals and groups with whom the leader engages. Everyone is a leader in some setting. Leadership may come from the margins, not just from the top. These core values form the basis for the course.

Through reading, research, discussion with others, and practice of disciplines, students will:

  • Understand various theories of leadership, both secular and church-based

  • Examine the systemic nature of leadership

  • Be able to describe the environment and context for leadership and the impact and import of that environment for the leader

  • Recognize the difference between “managers” and “leaders” and the appropriate needs for both

  • Recognize that the “being” of the leader, not just “doing” is foundational

  • Reflect on biblical models of leadership

  • Learn, experience, practice spiritual disciplines for leaders and those with whom they lead


The course will meet four times during the semester: January 20-21, February 17-18, March 10-11, April 14-15. For each of these two-day periods, the class times are as follows: Thursdays: 1-5 p.m., 6-9 p.m.; Fridays: 9 a.m. – 12 noon.

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Sessions will include presentations, group discussion on presentation and readings, small group interaction, and other resources as available. Each session will begin with some form of prayer or spiritual exercise and conclude with the practice of “examen.” In the first meeting, the class will work on a “Relational Covenant” to guide our life together.

Participation in the class sessions is essential. Students will be expected to do the assigned reading between class sessions, to participate in class discussion of those readings, and to engage in the small group and in spiritual practices between class sessions.

The following are also expected:

  • A 2-3 page reflection paper indicating why the student is taking this course, what s/he hopes to gain from this, whom the student considers to be a good contemporary leader (any sector, within the past 50 years), and why

  • A 2-3 page reflection paper identifying a biblical leader and why that leader ws chosen. The paper will also describe the characteristics of that leader, the nature of that leader’s relationship with God, the context and challenges faced by that leader, and the resources and spiritual practices on which that leader drew

  • A 2-3 page reflection paper, describing the spiritual practices which are foundational for you, and your questions about spiritual practices for leadership

  • A 3-5 page review and critique of each of the required books

  • A research project: interviews with a pastor or leader of a local church or non-profit organization and 3 lay persons or persons related to that organization regarding their understanding of leadership and of spiritual practices for leaders; written summary (guidelines to be provided) and reflections, based on learnings from readings and class discussion

  • A 10-15 minute presentation of the project to the class, with discussion

  • A 5-7 page final paper that develops a proposal for leadership support and a “rule of life” that includes spiritual practices for the student as leader and also practices for those with whom the student expects to lead

For doctoral students this additional work (or for others wanting extra credit):

  • A 5-7 page theological reflection paper on one of the books on the recommended reading list

  • A 15-minute presentation of this to the class, with discussion

Note: The following provisions are approved by the STH faculty for all courses:

    1. For persons with disabilities: “Students with Disabilities—Any students who believe they have a disability should meet with BU Disability Services as soon as possible at the beginning of the semester to initiate disability verification and discuss accommodations that may be necessary to ensure your successful completion of course requirements. That office is at 19 Deerfield Street and can be contacted at 617-353-3658. Request for accommodations are then sent by that office to the Academic Dean who forwards them to the Instructor.”

    2. For those who are taking an 800-level course for doctoral level credit: See above for specific expectations

    3. Regarding the new STH Academic Code of Conduct: The STH Academic Code of Conduct may be found on the STH website at: All students are required to familiarize themselves with this code, its definitions of misconduct, and its sanctions. Students should especially familiarize themselves with the section on plagiarism.


Class participation – 15% reflection papers (3) – 15% review of books (5) 25% research project – 20%

presentation of project – 10% final paper – 15%
Criteria for Evaluation of Written Materials

  1. Form and writing style

All written materials will be written clearly (no spelling or grammatical errors), typed (1.5 or double-spaced). They should demonstrate coherence, organization, and conciseness of thought.

  1. Level of reflection and critical understanding

Reflection papers, reviews of books, research project, and final paper will reflect both critical understanding of the designated focus, as well as the student’s own grappling with the subject. Each paper will demonstrate the student’s own voice, as well as include the interpretation of others’ voices.

  1. Theological and biblical reflection

The papers will reflect the student’s recognition of the theological and biblical principles and understandings on which the student is drawing.

John Ackerman, Listening to God: Spiritual Formation in Congregations (Alban Institute, 2001)

Edwin H. Friedman, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue (Guildford Press, 1985) – chapter 9 (Note: this book will be on reserve in the library)
Susan W. Hassinger, “Decision-making in the Christian Community,” Mid-Stream: the Ecumenical Movement Today. Vol. 37, Nos. 3-4 (July/October 1998), pp. 415-423
Ronald A. Heifetz, Leadership without Easy Answers (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994)
Eric H. F. Law, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: a Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community (Chalice Press, 1991)
Parker J. Palmer, Leading from Within: Reflections on Spirituality and Leadership (Note: this privately published booklet will be on reserve in the library)
Gil Rendle and Alice Mann, Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations (Alban Institute, 2003); see especially chapter 11, “Spiritual Discernment and Planning.”
Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast: an Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)


Dorothy C. Bass, editor, Practicing Our Faith: a Way of Life for a Searching People (Jossey Bass, 1997)

Constance H. Buchanan, Choosing to Lead: Women and the Crisis of American Values (Beacon Press, 1998)
Stephen L. Carter, Integrity (Harper Collins, 1996)
Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t (Harper Business, 2001)
E. Conde-Frazier, S. Kang, & G. Parrett, A Many-Colored Kingdom: Multi-cultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation (Baker Book House, 2004)
Robert D. Dale, Leadership for a Changing Church: Charting the Shape of the River (Abingdon Press, 1998)
Bill Easum, Leadership on the Other Side: No Rules, Just Clues (Abingdon Press, 2000)
Thomas Edward Frank, The Soul of the Congregation: an Invitation to Congregational Reflection (Abingdon Press, 2000)
Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: a Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Paulist Press, 1977)
Adam Hamilton, Leading Beyond the Walls: Developing Congregations with a Heart for the Unchurched (Abingdon Press, 2002)
Sally Helgeson, The Web of Inclusion (a Currency Book published by Doubleday, 1995)
Joseph Jaworski, Synchronicity: the Inner Path of Leadership (Berret-Koehler Publishers, 1998)
Dennis Linn, Shelia Fabrican Linn, and Matthew Linn, Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life (Paulist Press, 1995)
Reggie McNeal, Revolution in Leadership: Training Apostles for Tomorrow’s Church (Abingdon Press, 1998)
Reggie McNeal, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2000)
Lovett H. Weems, Church Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity (Abingdon Press, 1993)
Wheatley, Margaret J., Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Leadership from an Orderly Universe (Berrett Koehler, 1999)


Dates Topics – Readings – Assignments Due

Thurs. afternoon session: 1-4:50 p.m.; Thurs. evening session – 6 -8:50 p.m.; Friday a.m. session – 9 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.)
Jan. 20 (aft.) Overview of the Course

Introduction to each other and to the course

Presentation: Assumptions I bring to this course

Developing a “relational covenant” for the class
Jan. 20 (eve.) What Do We Mean By Leadership?

Presentation: Definitions of “leadership”

Introduction to “Mutual Invitation as Mutual Empowerment”

Discussion: Contemporary leaders; characteristics of good leaders

Presentation: Introduction to Heifetz and other literature
Jan. 21 (a.m.) What Do We Mean by Spirituality and Spiritual Foundations?

Presentation: Definitions of “spirituality”; connecting spiritual foundations with leadership

Presentations & discussion: The Leader as person – nature of power & authority; scriptural reflections on power and authority

Introductions to Ackerman and Thompson

Introduction of spiritual practice of examen

  • Read Parker Palmer pamphlet.

  • Write a 2-3 page reflection paper that includes: a) why you chose to take this course; b) the goals you hope to achieve through the course; c) a brief description of someone you consider to be a good contemporary leader (within the past 50 years, any sector; d) why you consider that person to be a good leader (characteristics of a good leader) Due: Jan. 27 (by e-mail)

  • Write a 2-3 page reflection paper that includes: a) identification of someone you consider to be a biblical leader and why you chose that person; b) a description of the characteristics of that leader, that leader’s context and challenges, the relationship of that leader with God, and the spiritual practices on which the leader drew. Due: Feb. 3 (by e-mail)

  • Also write a 2-3 page reflection paper that includes: a) a description of the spiritual disciplines that nurtured you in childhood and youth (if any); b) a description of the spiritual disciplines that nurture you now (if any); what questions you have about leadership and spiritual practices. [Read Thompson, Soul Feast, Introduction, as background for this reflection paper.) Due: Feb. 3 (by e-mail)

  • Read Heifetz, Leadership without Easy Answers, and write a 4-6 page paper outlining the key concepts about leadership that you have gained from this book. Pay particular attention to types of situations, what is meant by “adaptive leadership,” strategic principles of leadership, what Heifetz means by “getting a balcony perspective,” and what are the hazards leaders face. Include in this review and critique a statement of why or why not this book is helpful in church-related situations. Due: Feb. 10 (by e-mail)

  • Read Ackerman, Listening to God; spend times in silence reflecting on where you have noticed God (handout 3)be prepared to discuss this spiritual practice in class.

  • Before the Feb. 17 eve. Class session, read Friedman, chapter 9. Reflect on how it connects with your life and experience.

Feb. 17 (aft.) The Leader as Person – Nature of Power and Authority;

Leadership in a Multi-cultural Environment

Group reflection on spiritual practice: Where have you noticed God? What has it been like to engage in that reflection?

Discussion: biblical leaders and spiritual disciplines papers

Presentation and discussion: theological reflections on power and authority

Presentation and discussion: leadership in a multi-cultural environment
Feb. 17 (eve.) The Leader as Person – Awareness of Adaptive Leadership

& “Emotional Process

Presentation & discussion: Heifetz & adaptive leadership

Presentation: leading with or without authority

Discussion: Edwin Friedman on leadership from a “systems” perspective

Feb. 18 (a.m.) The Leader, the Group and Vision

Presentation and discussion: introduction to spiritual practices for leaders and those they lead

Presentation and discussion: “The Leader, the Group and Vision”

Presentation: Research Project Guidelines


  • Write a one-page summary that describes the setting for your research project, explains why you chose that setting, and identifies those persons whom you intend to interview in relation to leadership and spiritual practices. (Due Feb. 24, by e-mail)

  • Read Law, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb, and write a 3-5 page paper that describes what Law means by “wolf” and “lamb,” as well some key concepts that it is important for leaders in multicultural environments to understand and practice, and some spiritual practices for multicultural settings. (Due Mar. 3, by e-mail)

  • Read Rendle & Mann, Holy Conversations, and write a 3-5 page paper that describes in what ways strategic planning may be a spiritual practice; pay particular attention to chapter 11 on discernment. (Due Mar. 10, hand in during class)

  • Before the March 10 class session, read the Hassinger article from the Mid-Stream journal.

  • Begin interviews for research project

Mar. 10 (aft.) Discernment as a Leadership Practice: Listening to God

Sharing: Research project settings

Discussion: Law book re: multicultural leadership & spiritual practices

Discussion: where/when have you experienced God’s guidance in either a personal or corporate decision?

Presentation &discussion: Discernment as a leadership practice for the leader and for the group

Mar. 10 (eve) Discernment as a Leadership Practice – part 2

Presentation and discussion: Hospitality as a spiritual practice

Presentation of other spiritual practices/resources on reading list
Mar. 11 (a.m.) Leadership in Times of Chaos & Possibility

Presentation & discussion on the theme (Wheatley & others)

Presentation & discussion of Frank, The Soul of the Congregation

Discussion of progress on, questions about, research projects


  • Spiritual practices: for a week engage in daily inventory of consciousness and conscience; journal your experience (not to hand in!). During a second week, notice where you have received hospitality, and where you have extended hospitality; journal your experience (also not to hand in!)

  • Submit written research project (Due Apr. Apr. 11, by e-mail).

  • Prepare to make a 15-minute presentation of your project to the class and to engage in discussion of the project with the class.

Apr. 14 (aft.) Pitfalls of Leaders and Antidotes to the Pitfalls

Sharing of spiritual practices of examen and hospitality

Presentation and discussion of the theme

Presentation of research project(s)

Apr. 14 (eve.) Adaptive Leaders for the Long Haul

Presentation & discussion of the theme

Presentation of research project(s)

Apr. 15 (a.m.) Developing a “Rule of Life”

Presentation & discussion of the theme

Presentation of any remaining research projects

Inventory and closure

  • Final paper – 5-7 pages that: a) reflects how the student’s goals for the class have/have not been met; b) describes aspects of leadership that the student expects to carry into the future; c) outlines a possible “rule of life,” including spiritual practices for the student as leader as well as for those with whom they lead. (Due Apr. 21, by e-mail)

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