For several years now, I have been fascinated by the instincts leaders develop over time that come to serve them well — how one leader knows just when to approach a congregational member about a major gift, how another gains board support for a new ministry or initiative, how another reads a room and knows when to push harder or when to wait for another day. Leadership, at least in part, is about having the right instincts and then trusting them.

During the pandemic, though, our instincts may be off — and in some cases, way off. In this week’s Weekly, we begin with an article by Susan Beaumont asking if we really can trust our gut right now, particularly in the complexities of working relationships. Then, Lawrence Peers raises the possibility that the exhaustion so many of us are feeling right now may be a result of being “mindtrapped,” a phenomenon which has us over-relying on our instincts even in situations when those instincts are failing us. Also, I’ve included an article I wrote about how instincts are formed in leaders.

This is the last week to participate in Alban author Leah Schade’s new research project about ministry, preaching and social issues, so don’t miss that opportunity. Finally, learn more about one of the newest titles in the Alban library, Empower, a book that highlights the importance of mentoring in the formation for ministry.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Can you trust your gut right now?

Can you trust your gut right now?

Leaders are often listening both to what is being said and for what is not being said, but listening for realities beneath words right now may lead leaders into making false assumptions. Susan Beaumont helps us think about how to check our gut, particularly in working relationships.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Exhausted? Maybe you're mindtrapped

Exhausted? Maybe you’re “mindtrapped”

Lawrence Peers challenges us to see that the exhaustion many congregational leaders describe is only partially related to our external challenges. It also comes from our attempts to manage unfamiliar stresses and uncertainties in old, familiar ways.

Survey on Ministry, Preaching and Social Issues

Your input is needed in new research survey

All clergy, seminarians, lay preachers and retired clergy are invited to participate in a research survey being conducted by the Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary, and author of the Alban book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide. Your responses will help further research about preaching and ministry at this unique time in American history. Responses to this 20-minute survey are anonymous. The survey is open through February 15. You are also encouraged to share this with other clergy in your network as well.

“I don’t have many ideas; I have instincts.”

Coming to trust our instincts in leadership requires exploring how those instincts have been formed within us. Examining that helps us stay humble and faithful over time.

From the Alban Library

Empower: A Guide for Supervisor-Mentors in Theological Field Education

edited by John Senior and Matthew Floding

Empower: A Guide for Supervisor-Mentors in Theological Field Education

As the second book in the Explorations in Theological Field Education series, Empower is a toolkit for mentors working with beginning ministers. Chapters from ministry practitioners and field education program directors offer lessons gained through hundreds of hours of mentoring experience. Seasoned practitioners reveal how to do the work of mentoring in ways that are “fitting” to the particular needs of students with whom they have worked. This volume, then, is not a cookbook or a manual. It is itself a mentoring guide to those who wish to deepen and expand the craft of mentoring. Its goal is to meet ministry mentors in their journey towards skillful mentoring, and to provide guidance and support to help them hone their craft.

Before you go…

“Call me Buzz; that’s what everybody calls me,” the captain of my transatlantic flight said as he shook my hand. “Seven-and-a-half hours tonight. They’re telling us that it should be a pretty smooth ride. But I’ve looked at the maps, and they’re not reading the air right. We’ll have a few bumps — nothing serious — just more than what they anticipate.” He should know. He’s been a pilot for 26 years.

For many of us, the confidence that Buzz exuded when talking about the night sky eludes us right now. Almost a year into the pandemic, we’re still figuring out what to notice and what to ignore, when to trust our instincts and when to interrogate our assumptions. We are learning what questions to ask to get us the information we need, even in our Zoom meetings. We are going to get it wrong from time to time.

This work of leading by instinct requires patience, inquisitiveness and resilience. Even when we get it wrong, we can hope that our instincts will be better next time. 

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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