We often set personal and professional goals about what we want to accomplish rather than what we want to learn, but Scripture suggests that learning is a lifelong pursuit: “Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning” (Proverbs 9:9). Congregational leaders who are busy with the details of running the church may not always create the necessary margin to invest in learning, which is essential to cultivating a thriving organization and sustaining one’s commitment over time. Specifically, leaders benefit from learning more about themselves, learning or improving skills and deepening their understanding of their context.

We cannot say enough about the importance of self-awareness. It’s important to learn about our strengths and weaknesses. Being aware and honest about these qualities guards us against thinking too much or too little of ourselves. Personal inventories, self-assessments, good therapists, spiritual directors and truth-telling friends are great ways for us to see our blind spots and claim our giftedness.

It’s important to learn new skills, too. God calls us into ministry, but we need to cultivate professional competence to do the work well. It’s true that a minister cannot be an expert in every area. At the same time, what does the congregation need from us in this season? What competencies should we hone to provide our most faithful leadership right now?

A third opportunity to learn has to do with understanding our context. Congregations change over time, and the longer our tenure, the more they change. The community around the church changes, too. Perhaps what’s needed now is for us to reassess the church as an organization. What are its strengths? What are the challenges? What aspirations do we discern?

What do you want to learn?


Ambivert leaders are more effective

Instead of simply claiming to be introverted or extroverted, leaders must recognize when it’s time to step outside their social comfort zones and when it’s time to recharge.

Q&A with Karl Moore

Can we make our congregations as welcoming as a coffee shop?

An experience at his favorite coffeehouse inspired a Christian leader to reflect on how to cultivate a welcoming organizational culture.

“Voices for Vocational Accompaniment: Leading, Mentoring, and Learning From the Next Generation”

In this excerpt from a book by the Forum for Theological Exploration, a mentor reflects on the urgency of young people discovering their prophetic vocation in and after the pandemic.

By Jen Bailey

Before you go…

My mother inspires me to be a lifelong learner. In her 80s, she always has something new to tell me when we talk. Her late brother was a pastor, and over the course of his ministry, I watched him evolve. He was always reading and sharing books with me. I quickly learned from my uncle that one cannot thrive in ministry without a commitment to continuous growth and development.

Many years ago, I took my first personality and leadership assessments. What I discovered about myself made me want to stay on the journey of self-exploration. Prayerfully, as I learn more about myself, develop my leadership competence and understand my context, I will lead to the glory of God.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

Foundations of Christian Leadership, an offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, brings together emerging leaders from a variety of faith-based organizations as colleagues in an encouraging and collaborative learning environment. Foundations benefits those who care about the church in the world and want to build skills to lead Christian institutions with joy and creativity.

Applications for our Richmond, Virginia sessions are due February 20, 2024. Learn more about the program here.

Know someone who would benefit from Foundations of Christian Leadership? Let us know!

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