DMin Leadership in Community Spiritual Formation (DMS)
The Challenge: How to Form a Community Spiritually
People must find several things for spiritual formation to happen, including:
Finding a Community
Though spiritual formation involves individual experiences, it is typically a community activity. Environments of grace where people feel safe are essential for them to be open and transparent so they can receive support for growth. The many “one another” passages require mutual support.Without community help, no one has support for their weaknesses.
Finding a Place
Children in different grades need different instruction. Similarly, Christians in different stages in their spiritual journey, and with different struggles, require different support. A one-size-fits-all program will not work. What’s needed is a journey model that has entry points all along the way.
Finding Role Models
Pastors and parachurch leaders must be examples. They are not able to give individual direction to everyone, and so must live as examples of spiritual formation so others can see what it looks like.They must display grace if they are to make developing a community of grace top priority. Finally, they must serve if their followers are to grow spiritually for the sake of others rather than for themselves.
Finding a Purpose
Spiritual formation is “a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” (Robert Mulholland, Jr). The goal of spiritual formation is to serve. Therefore, spiritual disciplines must be learned with a goal of serving. Growing in Christ is what enables us to serve. People need to ask, “How will this spiritual discipline help me serve using the gifts God has given me?”
Finding the Way
Spiritual traveling, like physical traveling, requires that you:
- Know where you are
- Know where you’re going
- Know how to get there.
Know where you are is critical. It requires that you make an accurate assessment of yourself—neither less than you are nor more than you are. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3 NIV). We are warned by Jesus’ words: “You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Only a proper diagnosis will lead to correct treatment.
Know where you’re going means to understand that developing a relationship with God is for the purpose of being used by God to serve Him and others where He leads. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).We are called to be like him in order to serve like Him. Spiritual formation prepares us to serve.
Know how to get there makes the connection between spiritual formation and service. Just as different sports require different training for the unique demands of each sport, so everyone needs a regimen of spiritual disciplines that fit who God has made them to be. That means “how to get there” is different for each person.
Finding a Focus
There are two foci: leadership and community spiritual formation. People need both leaders and community to be spiritually formed. Because the whole church or parachurch organization needs to be spiritually formed, leaders need to lead the way. The community must be developed in such a way that everyone can receive the support they need. Because leadership in community spiritual formation is different from guiding individual spiritual formation, people need leaders who are effective in both.
For leaders to understand the help their people need, they too must experience transformational help. In our program, students have mentoring relationships in which to practice what they learn. The practice is guided by eight seminars on leadership and on community spiritual formation. The seminars are molded by a biblical leadership paradigm. The goal is to develop leaders whose experience prepares them to understand and develop the resources to help their entire community find what they need to be spiritually formed.