b has worked with individual pastors since our inception. We have seen time again the value of meeting one-on-one with pastors. We have witnessed how these encounters deepen and expand the pastor’s sense of God and of self. This internal awareness has led pastors to a greater freedom to say, “yes” to God’s dream for them and their ministry and also adopt practices of rest and spiritual rhythms that have refreshed their lives in a myriad of ways. However as we journeyed with an entire staff (9 individuals) over a period of one year we discovered that the same results mentioned above (knowledge of God, self, greater freedom to say “yes” to God) were developed in an accelerated pace within the members of the staff. We believe this is a result of the transformative power of community. This spiritual formation journey, done together, becomes an amazingly transforming experience for the individuals of a staff, and for the staff as a whole. As the staff journeys they come together in terms of their openness to God and one another, and their ability to journey as a team is deepened and solidified in life-giving and freedom-producing ways. There is a new way of being with each other, of interacting with each other, of doing ministry together and of journeying together that has been heartening to see. The intentional spiritual formation focus transformed the culture of the staff, as well as enhanced each staff member’s relationship with God and relationships with one another.
Here are some comments from staff people who have gone through this spiritual formation team building experience:
What impact has b had on our Ministry Leadership Team?
“Since August 2009, Larry and b have been leading a process of discovery with our Ministry Leadership Team that is rippling out to our larger church. Through individual spiritual direction, facilitated meetings and retreats, shared reading and discussion on spiritual formation, the relational dynamics of our leadership team have changed and are changing. Our personal relationships with one another seem more open and authentic; people who formerly shared at a surface level have begun to share about deeper and more personal aspects of their lives. Our ministry conversations are growing deeper and we are able to voice things previously unspoken in meetings. We are growing in our trust in God as we embrace the realities of change and transition. In the face of pending challenges for our church, we are discovering once again that God is present and that God desires us to know and love him, and know and love others in our community and world. By slowing down, and by making ourselves available to God through spiritual practices and rhythms, we are being formed into people who look more like Jesus, and are discovering God in our midst. While we don’t know the exact landscape or topography of our future journey together, we are reassured that God is with us, pointing us in the right direction like a compass on an undiscovered terrain. I am looking forward to the continued journey as we increase in these relational dynamics with God, with one another and with a world we are learning to give up our lives for."
"Our leadership team contracted with b to provide a year of intentional focus on spiritual formation. Since we are all leaders, we purposely determined it would be most helpful to bring in someone to lead us that had a unique understanding of our ministry challenges. Over the past year, we have met for extended retreat times, monthly book studies, and individual spiritual direction. Larry has a gracious ability to create sacred space in the midst of our demanding and exhausting schedules of professional ministry. We have learned to trust Larry, as he helped us build trust with each other. His spiritual gift of knowledge and ability to use scripture to ground every aspect of his teaching creates trust. His gift of discernment and expertise in group-direction has required us to explore the depths our relationships with God, ourselves and each other. We are deeply grateful for the ways b has entered into our life together demonstrating his own love for God and enveloping us into that love with grace and integrity."
As the staff of the Church intentionally embraced their partnership with God in their spiritual formation it was natural to gradually invite the Church on this same journey in formal and informal ways.
"In partnership with Larry Warner and b, we have introduced both the concept of spiritual formation and a rich variety of spiritual practices to our congregation. Over the past couple of years Larry has served as a teacher, pastor, and consultant for the leadership and congregation of SBPC. Working with b, we worked with the theme, Journey with Jesus, and created a one year strategy that was multi-layered to create experiences at all levels of the church organizational structure. The strategy included incorporating themes of spiritual formation in the weekly sermon series, a weekly spiritual practice through the small group curriculum, leadership training for small group leaders, elders and deacons, an intensive relationship with staff, and retreat opportunities for the whole congregation. It has been exciting to see how God has made us ready for this season at the same time as we have developed the relationship with b. As our Spiritual Guide, Larry brings his deep appreciation and grasp of Scripture combined with a freedom and openness of the Spirit to the staff, leadership and people of SBPC. What God has been doing in our midst has become so fruitful for us that as we come to the end of the one-year strategy, we are seeking to extend the relationship for another year.”
We, at b, believe this intentional journeying together spiritually as a staff is hugely transformative for a staff collectively and it’s members individually. It is a means of bringing the opportunity to get to know God, self and one another in an ever-deepening way. It is a way to encourage staff members to be open to God, themselves and one another in an intentional way that helps each one to know, appreciate and understand one another. It is an approach that opens each up to God by providing tools and opportunities to draw near to God, be still and listen to God. This is not about learning more about God and spiritual formation (although that does take place). This is about creating opportunities to draw near to God, to incline one’s ear to God’s still small voice, to be still and know God.
Because of our experience we have added this component of journeying with the entire staff for the express purpose of spiritual formation to our b offerings. Now you may be wondering what is this program that we take the church staff through. I can tell you what we have done, but the practical incarnation of what we do is a by-product of our interaction with the staff itself and has an amorphous organic reality to it that develops as we journey with a particular staff – for each staff is unique and spiritual formation is never about prepackaged products, but dynamic incarnations of God’s spirit in harmony with the distinctive make up and circumstances of the staff we are working with. That being said, there are some components that form the skeleton upon which we build. These are monthly spiritual disciplines, reading through a couple of books together, a monthly staff gathering for about an hour and a half to two hours, 3 – 4 one day retreats and 2-3 overnight retreats.
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of beginning this journey with your staff please email Larry Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do not do more than two of these types of journey at a time so that we are able to give the creative energy needed to allow it to organically develop as we journey together.