Leaders Develop Leaders

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

Take a look around the church. Who is leading? From where I sit within the provincial organization, nearly everyone in a significant position within an agency or institution share one common life experience… they went to camp. For those of us in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, that means Laurel Ridge. In fact, many of us actually worked on the M-Staff, where as summer staffers we played guitar, guarded swimmers, led activities, and cleaned lots of bathrooms. If not M-Staff, many leaders once served as counselors or visited Laurel Ridge as a camper. Others served on the Regional Youth Council (RYC), a youth organization made up of representatives from each congregation.

Above: Ruth Cole Burcaw and Butch Sawtelle at Laurel Ridge, during their time on staff (circa 1987). Butch has gone on to provide leadership in his local congregation, on the Mission Society board, and at Laurel Ridge. Ruth serves in provincial leadership.

I know that my own Moravian leadership journey began with my service on RYC, where I served as president while in high school. I worked on M-Staff during my college years in the summers of 1985, 1986, and 1987. And while there were several intermittent years where I focused on raising my family, I never left the church. I served in leadership in a variety of ways in my local congregations. In my early 40s, I became more involved at the provincial level and was elected to the Board of Christian Education, one of the predecessor boards to the agency I currently serve as Executive Director–the Board of Cooperative Ministries.

Why am I a leader in the Moravian Church? Is it because I’m a preacher’s daughter who grew up with the church hard-wired into my DNA? Is it because I’m a somewhat ambitious, overachieving first-born child? Or is it my natural bossiness, my “take-charge” personality? Or that my parents raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to and worked hard to accomplish? Circumstance, birth order, personality, nurture. Surely these all play a role, but ultimately, I believe I am where I am today for two primary reasons: 1) my leadership capability emerged from my lived experience as a young Moravian, and 2) I had mentors who believed in me and encouraged me to use my giftedness so I might strive to become all that God created me to be.

“Transformative leaders create the atmosphere, context, and support that enable and stimulate people to generate the needed transformational change. When the possibilities and giftedness of people are nurtured and when they are invited to be part of the vision and solutions to the challenges facing the organization, it is then and only then that the culture of the organization begins to adjust and adapt.” -Gary Nelson

Let’s be honest: the Moravian Church is small. If we count our brothers and sisters around the world, we are talking about just over a million people. Put us up next to the Catholics (70 million in the US alone), the Southern Baptists (15 million), or even our newest ecumenical partners, the Methodists (12 million), and the less than 40,000 members in North America seem rather insignificant. Do the math. Given our small numbers, our capacity to produce transformative leaders is also small.

But I’m hopeful. Our church is full of Jesus-loving, faith-living, justice-seeking men and women who model the way for our young adults and children. When I think about the amazing Moravians who inspired and encouraged me throughout my life, including a few who are now pastors, professors, and even bishops, I know that we absolutely can empower and build a new generation of Moravian leaders.

Above: Butch’s daughter, Kathleen Sawtelle, is part of the 2018 Laurel Ridge M-Staff (her brother Michael is facilities director there). Ruth’s son, Jake Burcaw, is interning at camp and is believed to be Laurel Ridge’s first 3rd generation staffer. Jake’s grandfather, the late Hal Cole, was one of the first staffers (M-Boys) to work at Laurel Ridge, cutting trails with Bishop George Higgins. He served as a Moravian pastor for over 40 years.

If we desire future generations to carry on and reimagine our Moravian heritage in the coming years, we must work intentionally to develop the Moravian leaders who will emerge from our congregations and our unique programs and ministries.

Who are the emerging leaders in your congregation? Who can you support, encourage, and mentor?

What you do and say matters – be a mentor to someone in your church or at camp. Encourage them. Listen. Invite them to participate, to lead. Create opportunities. Affirm their innovation and their call. Provide them with a lived experience that they can use for the rest of their life to follow Jesus in serving the world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruth Cole Burcaw is the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province and a member of Unity Moravian Church. She’s pictured above with her father, the Rev. Dr. Hal Cole.


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Four Tips for Engaging Young Adults in the Church

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BY JESSY BURCAW |

Editor’s note: the author, Jessy Burcaw, is a 24 year-old young adult member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. 

Photo by Helena Lopes, via Unsplash.com

These days a lot of people are talking about young adults in church–how to get them there, how to keep them, and how to get them involved. Here are four tips that might be helpful as your church thinks about engaging young adults. 

1) Don’t tell us it is our job to bring in more young adults

Well-meaning people have suggested that I need to bring my friends to church or have implied it’s my responsibility to fix the “young adult problem.” This logic has a few flaws. Most of my friends are Moravian and already belong to a church. My non-Moravian friends either have their own church to attend or are not interested in church. So if young adults don’t bring in more young adults what do we do? Listen to the young adults you do have. Realize it may not be a Sunday School class they want. You may have to try some new things and get out of your comfort zone a bit as a church. Young adults are happy to help but it’s not our job to fix the young adult problem just because we are young adults.

2) Don’t assume we all want to do the same thing

Often times when young adults come home from college and want to be involved in church, people assume they want to work with kids or youth. In my case, as a teacher, the last thing I want to spend my Sunday doing is working with kids. After a long week working with children, I want a break from them. Yes, it is true that many young adults do enjoy working with youth or children but keep in mind we are all different. Millennials are not all the same! We have many gifts and talents that can be put to good use in church. For some it might be playing handbells or singing in the choir. Others might want to get involved with building and grounds and help take care of the church building. Others will organize outreach and mission. Take the time to get to know us and to understand what gifts and talents we might be willing to share. Not only will it make us feel more welcome, it will also make a better church!

Photo by Eric Bailey, via Pexels.com

3) Remember we are adults now too

Many young adults grew up in the church we attend now. That means people remember us when we were children running around after church or when we were teenagers acting cooler than the flip side of a pillow. It also means people sometimes forget we are no longer those 16-year-olds in church because our parents made us come. We are now coming to church because it is a place we want to be. We want to make a meaningful contribution to our church family, but it is a two-way street. Churches are going to have to not just create space for us, but proactively invite us to get involved in meaningful ways. This means people who’ve been in leadership for years might have to move over and let young adults help, which might mean changing “the way we’ve always done it.” Young adults don’t need to run everything, but one day we will be the ones making the decisions. Why not start training us now, let us in on some decision-making, or at least listen to our voices? It’s time to start being intentional about sharing responsibilities with young adults who want to be involved.

4) Don’t panic if we aren’t at church every Sunday

Just because I am not in church every Sunday doesn’t mean I don’t want to be involved anymore. A lot of my friends don’t go to church every Sunday, but they still want to be involved too. Many of us (not all) get more out of mission work and putting our faith into action than we do sitting in church on Sunday morning. Now don’t get me wrong–I enjoy very much going to church and listening to my pastor, but that’s not always enough. I don’t need to sit in church every Sunday to feel close to God. Sometimes I feel closer when I am on the mountaintop at Laurel Ridge singing camp songs, or sitting by the river writing in my journal. The place I felt God’s presence the most wasn’t a church; it was when I sat on the floor of a school in Nepal listening to a child read to me. For many young adults, church isn’t about being in one place to worship or listen to God’s word. Church is walking in the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk; church is going to Nepal to teach; church is helping with hurricane relief; church is so much more than a building. So just because you don’t see us in worship doesn’t mean we are never coming back. It just means we are out in the world putting our faith into action.

Young adults do not just represent the future of the church–we are the church right now! Please continue to encourage us, love us, and make space for us as we embrace both old and new ways to follow Jesus in the world.


About the Author

Jessy is a lifelong member of Unity Moravian. She grew up in Winston-Salem and attended Appalachian State University to study Elementary Education. Now she is a 2nd grade teacher in Winston-Salem. She is a proud mother of her fur-baby, Olive. Jessy has a passion for mission work and spent her summer in Kathmandu, Nepal working in a school. She plans to return this summer again to continue working with the school.


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