By Tamica Smith-Jeuitt, Senior Communications Specialist
Photo right: The Rev. Johniel Henry Jr. expressed his desire for information about SLI just before the lunch break.
The three-letter acronym, SLI, was recently introduced to Mississippi United Methodist clergy under the age of 40. Spiritual Leadership Inc. (SLI), focuses on developing spiritual leaders who model a community that loves, learns and leads together, creating environments that foster transformation, and establishes processes that bear fruit. Within this process churches and other organizations first grow in their faithfulness to God and then their fruitfulness for God.
The clergy gathered at the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation office in Jackson for the presentation led by SLI co-founder Greg Survant and SLI coaches Missy Johnson and David V.W. Owen.
Survant explained that the SLI process is a new way to think about how to do church and how to move a church to a new level of fruitfulness. He said churches will unlearn some bad habits developed over time; relearn some fruitful habits based on Biblical principles that come with a high level of accountability.
"So a church would enter this (SLI approach to ministry) because they are aware of a problem, they are aware their church needs to do something different and they have a desire to do so. If they don't have the awareness or the desire then they are not going to enter this. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of time but it is an important ministry," said Survant.
After discussions on the L3 concept, (loving, learning, and leading) the Rev. Ben Butler of Madison UMC realized he was already familiar with the practice. In fact, he is leading a small group of laity at his church in the Lay Mobilization Institute, which is an Asbury Seminary program inspired by SLI creators.
"It is exciting, I think if people are willing to give God a chance and realize that there are people already in the congregation that would love to engage this process. When you start getting them into it and they start doing spiritual formation stuff and they start doing some of the leadership thinking, people get excited about it," said Butler.
When asked to share her thoughts about the SLI presentation, the Rev. Anna Fleming, pastor at Hazlehurst UMC said, "It is almost like a revival movement within itself except that they (SLI coaches) are doing it through coaching which is sort of a corporate model to me...I think it has some good possibilities, especially in the area of training up our lay people and giving them more of the ministry instead of us hoarding it as clergy pastors."
Since June 2014, Spiritual Leadership Inc. has been coaching the Mississippi Conference appointive cabinet and a Bishop's Operational Team in monthly gatherings to strengthen each leader in her or his spiritual life and in collaborative leadership.
For this reason, the Rev. Johniel Henry Jr. of St. John UMC in Laurel said he arrived to the clergy under 40 gathering enthusiastic.
"It is a tool. Everybody knows that churches will have problems but this is an opportunity for us to do something about it and learn the tools that we have at our disposal to see growth...I am excited about it," said Henry.
United Methodist Bishops Engage SLI Coaching
Photo right: United Methodist Bishops pictured from left to right: Greg Survant (SLI co- founder), Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball (West Virginia Conference), Bishop Lindsey Davis (Kentucky Conference and Red Bird Missionary Conference), Craig Robertson (SLI coach), Bishop William McAlilly (Nasvhille Area) Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett (North Alabama Conference), Bishop James Swanson Sr. (Mississippi Conference) and Bishop Gary Mueller (Arkansas Conference).
Back in February, the episcopal office of the Mississippi Conference hosted several United Methodist bishops who were in Jackson for an SLI learning group.
"These bishops are working hard together to figure out how to raise the fruitfulness of their area. That starts with the individual. So they are re-grounding themselves spiritually in this process. They are connecting with each other in a unique way and then they are learning how that transforms their leadership within their organization and then ultimately to the community," explained Greg Survant, SLI co-founder.
Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Kentucky and Red Bird Missionary annual conferences has organized his cabinet around the SLI method for the last 10 years. Many other leadership teams throughout his conference use it as well. Davis said the accountability component has helped him. He needed a group of leaders to hold him accountable for the work he was called to do and that he could hold them accountable as well.
"The truth is none of us has enough strength, intelligence or commitment to be able to do it on our own. So we have to invite others in, a team to help us do it. In fact, that kind of leadership, I think can be generative in the future. It can generate other healthy leaders and other healthy teams," he said.
Like Davis, Bishop Debra-Wallace Padgett of the North Alabama Conference is experiencing great support of SLI.
"This process is helping us to focus on renewal in our annual conference. We are focusing on spiritual leadership, starting with deep change within ourselves. Through our personal growth and development as spiritual leaders we anticipate that we will be able to more effectively lead the annual conference in experiencing greater vitality."
For more information about Spiritual Leadership, Inc., visit http://spiritual-leadership.org