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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There is a Leadership Shortage . . .

There is a leadership shortage . . . will you help us fill it? MLN Logo for print use

“But I’m not a leader,” you say, “I could never get up in front of people and tell them what to do. That’s just not me.”

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you have a calming presence in the midst of dysfunction, turmoil, or conflict?
  3. Do you find yourself asking for clarification in board or committee meetings?
  4. Do you discourage scapegoating, gossip, or bad behavior among church members?
  5. Are you persistent? When you set a goal, do you see it through to fruition?
  6. Do you consider the feelings of others when making a decision?
  7. Can you separate unhelpful emotional responses from facts?
  8. Do you try to look at things from someone else’s perspective when you encounter conflict or misunderstanding?
  9. When confronting bad behavior, are you willing to address the behavior rather than the personality?
  10. Can you put aside your personal feelings and emotions for the good of the group?
  11. Are you willing to “stay in the space” and be present with others even when things get tense and uncomfortable?
  12. Do you try to appreciate and even embrace diversity in all its forms?
  13. Do you have a good sense of who you are and what you believe? Or are you still trying actively to discover and live out your purpose?
  14. Do you believe in the people with whom you “do church?”
  15. Are you willing to do the right thing, even if it’s not the most expedient, convenient, or non-controversial thing?
  16. Do you have a good sense of where you end and others begin?
  17. Do you have ideas about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?
  18. Are you willing to hear the ideas of others about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?

Did you answer “yes” to any of them? If so, guess what? Yep, you’re already a leader. Did you answer “yes” to a few of these and “I wish!” to a few more? If so, the Moravian Leadership Network is for emerging leaders like you and already established leaders as well!

How important are leaders in the church or any organization, for that matter?

According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge“Leadership makes a significant difference in levels of engagement and commitment and is perhaps the most important asset in every organization, yet recent research points to a shortage of leaders. It is a serious global concern. The shortage, however, is not because of the lack of potential talent. The people are out there, the eagerness is out there, and the capability is out there. The shortage results from prevailing myths—myths about talent, strengths, position, self-reliance, and effort—that inhibit the vast majority of leaders from shining and organizations from realizing the full benefits of the talent they already have.”

Leadership Graphic

Moravian leaders should shine and we should be realizing the full benefits of our significant existing talent. Leaders are a lot like Christians, in that we are always becoming better ones! It’s a process, isn’t it? Though we are a small denomination, we are blessed in that we have a tremendous resource designed to help us grow into our best selves, as Christians and as leaders. The Moravian Leadership Network (MLN), a program of the Board of Cooperative Ministries, joins and strengthens leaders in the Moravian Church, Southern Province through experiential, group-oriented learning. We hope to broaden and deepen the pool of Moravian leaders, people who will dedicate themselves to accomplishing worthwhile goals with a sense of vision, excitement and common good, creating a future of greater possibilities.

Each year, a diverse group of Moravians from various congregations meets four times for meaningful face-to-face sessions. To date, 40 participants from over 20 different congregations have completed the program, which emphasizes spiritual leadership, personal development, relationship-building, conflict and change management, and Moravian history, polity/structure, and theology. Participants envision the Moravian Church’s dynamic future and make valuable connections with others who will journey alongside them.

The church of the 21st century will fulfill its mission with committed members who are grounded in their faith, understand congregational life, and join together with others to provide the leadership we need. Visit http://bit.ly/MLN2016 for more information and to apply for a future class.  The application period for the Class of 2017 begins May 1 and goes through July 2016.

We hope that you will participate in or encourage others in your faith community to participate in an upcoming MLN program.  May the God of hope and love encourage and strengthen all of us to pursue and practice a faith that will shape our leadership for the sake of God’s kingdom, here on earth as it is in heaven.


Kouzes & Posner have a new book out soon. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader describes five things you can do to increase your leadership quotient:

  1. Believe in Yourself.  Believing in oneself is the essential first step in developing leadership competencies. The best leaders are learners, and they can’t achieve mastery until and unless they truly decide that inside them there is a person who can make and difference and learn to be a better leader than they are right now.
  2. Aspire to Excel. To become an exemplary leader, people have to determine what they care most about and why they want to lead. Leaders with values-based motivations are the most likely to excel. They also must have a clear image of the kind of leader they want to be in the future—and the legacy they want to leave for others.
  3. Challenge Yourself. Challenging oneself is critical to learning leadership. Leaders have to seek new experiences and test themselves. There will be inevitable setbacks and failures along the way that require curiosity, grit, courage, and resilience in order to persist in learning and becoming the best.
  4. Engage Support. One can’t lead alone, and one can’t learn alone.It is essential to get support and coaching on the path to achieving excellence. Whether it’s family, managers at work, or professional coaches, leaders need the advice, feedback, care, and support of others.
  5. Practice Deliberately. No one gets better at anything without continuous practice. Exemplary leaders spend more time practicing than ordinary leaders. Simply being in the role of a leader is insufficient. To achieve mastery, leaders must set improvement goals, participate in designed learning experiences, ask for feedback, and get coaching. They also put in the time every day and make learning leadership a daily habit.



Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). She also directs, with a dedicated planning team, the Moravian Leadership Network program for the Southern Province.