Leaders Develop Leaders

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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.


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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If You Do it, it Will Happen…

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In the church world, we categorize ourselves into boards, committees, subcommittees, and circles. We have fellowship groups, small groups, Sunday school classes, and age-based activity groups. We are teachers, pastors, lay members, bishops, provincial leaders, church staff, and so many things. These categorizations are useful and community-building in so many ways. They are meant help us interact with each other, delegate the work of the church, and serve others more effectively.

But what these can sometimes prevent is real action. We can get lost in a circular system of passing a task between committees. Or, we might be too afraid to step on toes or take away a task that we feel is traditionally the “turf” of someone else. We wait, talk, vote, evaluate, affirm, legislate—we do everything but act. It can be infuriating to watch and experience. All the while, a need or passion is left in limbo. The things we care about are not getting done because we are too afraid or reticent to act.

Do you know what this sounds like to me? We don’t care enough. If we truly cared, we would make it happen. I know we are all busy and have many obligations. We are all obligated to outside forces and live in a world where our actions impact others. BUT. But, we are also all (most who read this blog) adults, who make our own priorities. If you truly make something a priority and dedicate yourself to something, you will see it through to some kind of fruition. It might not be your original vision, but something will happen. Sometimes that’s better. If you make the good and bright future of your church a priority, something will happen! If you dedicate yourself to the renewal of your church that you love, not just improvement of the same things that make you comfortable, it will happen. I’m certain. Yell at me in 20 years if it doesn’t, but at least you will have done something that you care about in the mean time.

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Joel Osteen is under a great deal of criticism lately. He did not immediately open the door of his megachurch and its network to stranded residents of Houston searching for a place to rest after hurricane Harvey displaced them. I don’t want to defend him, and he doesn’t need defending, but there is something more there. A friend of mine made me realize that there are thousands of members of that church. Any one of them could have started a grassroots movement to utilize the gifts of THEIR collective church. The church doesn’t belong to the pastor or staff, but all of the members and brave souls who call themselves members of the church community. The pastor and staff support, respond to, and are at least partially beholden to you, the rest of the church. They can be powerful leaders in the church, but they cannot do it all by themselves. We cannot expect them to do it all, and especially not to everyone’s ideals. We need to be leaders and do-ers, too!

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This is not a blame game. We already know that gets us nowhere. This is to remind all of us that we are excitingly responsible for what happens in our church. We have the power to enact change in your church; we can be the revolution! We don’t need to wait on our pastors or staff to do something, we can do it ourselves (they are too busy figuring out the fickle church printer, anyway).

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Now, disclaimer, this is not a free pass to bypass all church protocols, committees, and leaders (paid or otherwise) to do whatever you want. Conferential systems are good (yay checks and balances) and these processes were set up for a reason. All I’m asking is that you don’t let these things stop you from taking ownership of and action for your church and your passions. If you care about something, then take constant action towards it. And if we do it, it will happen. And, hopefully, God will look down at us and our work, declaring “it is good.”

Questions? Comments? Contact Amy Linville at Amy@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Amy Linville

Amy Linville is the College Age Ministry Coordinator for the Moravian BCM. She spends her time outside of work taking classes to become a librarian, serving Rural Hall Moravian with her husband the Rev. Aaron Linville, and snuggling her puppy and two cats.

The First Step to a Healthy Board: The Board Member Notebook

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It’s that time of year, when new members join the church board. Some will meekly slide into their seats and hope to fade into the woodwork. Others proudly announce, “I’m baa-aa-ck!” as their colleagues smile politely and groan inwardly. Whether it’s uncertain newbies, grizzled veterans, or perfectly normal, committed volunteers, a well-organized board notebook can provide members with much-needed structure and information as the board organizes for another year of important ministry work.

At the very least, a comprehensive Board member notebook should contain the following:

  • A Brief History of the Church: No, we haven’t all heard the story. A short, concise history can remind us of what is inspiring and motivating about your faith community AND can reinforce people’s commitment to serve in a leadership capacity. (NOTE: if this short history isn’t on your website, it really should be.)
  • Mark Your Calendars! Provide not only a list of upcoming board meetings (be sure to include the actual dates and times even if this is a standing meeting – i.e. the third Thursday – anything you can do to remind people of attendance is helpful), but also include any programmatic and/or major events coming up in the life of the church.
  • List of Current Board Members: In an ideal world, the document should include not just contact information for each member but a little more. Including a brief bio and photo with this list could be especially helpful for new members. Be sure to include email addresses and preferred phone numbers (they may have a home phone but never answer it) for ease of communication. It is also helpful to include all pertinent contact information for the church itself: mailing and street address, website, any social media accounts, etc.
  • Board Roles and Responsibilities: This could be formatted like a job description ornotebook - org chart Frequently Asked Questions. Perhaps it summarizes information outlined in your bylaws or organizing documents. Regardless of its origin, it should succinctly describe the roles, responsibilities and expectations of the board, board members, as well as officers – vice-chair, secretary, even pastor. If such a document does not exist, perhaps a small subcommittee of the board could create something for approval by the board. Having, sharing, and discussing this information will save countless heartaches, conflicts, and misunderstandings in the future.
  • List of Board Committees and/or Ministry Teams: This should include information about the purpose or charge of each of these groups, their members, and meeting schedules. This will be especially helpful if board members are required to serve on church subcommittees as part of their board service.
  • Program and Ministry Highlights: What are the fundamental ministries and/or programs of your congregation? Who are the primary contact people? When/how do they operate? Don’t assume that everyone on the board will somehow know all of this information.
  • Any Current Strategic Planning Documents: Do you have a mission statement? A 5-year plan? Don’t include these if they are outdated or not being used.
  • Approved Budget for the Year
  • Most Recent Monthly Financial Reports: This will help a new board member understand the organization’s actual revenue and expense vs. budget. It’s helpful to go over the report format the first time a new member sees these reports. What is the difference between income and expense? What is a designated fund? Don’t assume everyone knows how to read a financial document.
  • Organizational Documents: Any by-laws, constitution, written operating procedures, and, for churches that are part of the Moravian Church, Southern Province, a copy of the Book of Order (or pages most relevant to your congregation) would be most helpful.
  • Board Meeting Minutes: Provide minutes for at least the past three or four meetings.
  • Agenda for the First Board Meeting

Other items to include:

  • Church and/or ministry brochures: any printed materials that the church distributed should be in the inside pocket of the notebook as board members should be aware that these materials exist and are available.
  • Any other current event brochures, newsletters, promotional items, etc.

An Example: The Board of Cooperative Ministries provides each new member with a notebook containing five tabs, organized as follows:

  • Tab 1: General Board Information (BCM overview, calendars, contact information, roles and responsibilities, staff information)
  • Tab 2: Meeting Agendas & Minutes
  • Tab 3: Financial Reports & Budgets
  • Tab 4: Board Action & Organization (this includes information about major past board actions as well as additional handouts board members might receive at meetings)
  • Tab 5: Subcommittee and/or Board Work Notes (this includes subcommittee information along with space for the member to include whatever additional notes or information they would like)

Of course, it’s ideal if you hold a special board orientation to go over the notebook and all of its great material. This is also a great time of year for a board retreat, which can provide some extra time for folks to concentrate on congregational needs and issues. Need some ideas about how to get going as a board in the new year? Call us at 336-722-8126 or email bcm@mcsp.org. We’re here to help! The first five congregations to reach out to us will get a free copy of the excellent book Best Practices for Effective Boards by E. LeBron Fairbanks. What are you waiting for?

rcb-Ruth Cole Burcaw is a member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. She is also the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province.