Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What can BRAVING do for you?

Written by: on April 9, 2019

I was recently having a discussion with a local interim minister.  In the PCUSA, interim ministers are often called to serve a congregation during the “in between” time, the time a church takes after a pastor leaves and before they call a new pastor.  These interim ministers are specially trained in systems and family theory, conflict resolution, and in walking a congregation through the entire process of welcoming in a new pastoral leader.

The interim was having a difficult time with their new call because the previous pastor had been very controlling.  I remembered having a conversation with the previous pastor about children’s moments in worship.  His mantra was to never ask a question during a children’s moment because there was no telling which way the child could take the question.  I shared this story with the Interim with the additional line that this had demonstrated such a strong desire to never demonstrate any vulnerability.  The interim’s eyes lit up, and said, “That lack of vulnerability has permeated throughout the entire congregation.  Every experience in the church is grounded in one word, and that word is, control.”

This weeks reading is not the first time I have heard of Brene Brown.  I was introduced to her work by a former colleague and I have enjoyed her work for years.  Not only does she write and speak in a fashion that (to me at least!) is clear and poignant, but she also is very inspirational.  When I read something Brown has written or hear something that Brown says, I often feel encouraged to take on a new challenge, or maybe even revisit an old one.

In her recent book Dare to Lead, Brown shares an amazing tool for people who are seeking the courage to take on their next challenge in leadership.  It is a tool that helps foster trust among the members of a group and that tool is the acronym BRAVING.[i]

B stands for Boundaries. Set boundaries that are comfortable for all.

R stands for Reliability. Do not over or under promise.  Be confident in your responsibilities and deliver what you promised.

A stands for Accountability. If you make a mistake, own it.  But then do your best not to repeat it in the future.

V stands for Vaulting.  Only share certain things with certain people.  “Vault” all the things you shouldn’t share with others.

I stands for Integrity. Live out your best expectations for others yourself.

N stands for Non-judgment. Show compassion when others make mistakes.

G stands for Generosity.  In the church world, the “G” may stand for grace, as Brown encourages us to act graciously with those we encounter.

According to Brown, leaders need to be brave enough to be vulnerable and the courage needed to be brave often stems from vulnerability.  I found this book to be an amazing read for this cohort the week of a thirty minute discussion during our Zoom Chat about whether or not any of us should take a year off of the program, a phenomenon locally referred to as a “gap year.”  Some students take a gap year after high school and before college. Some take it after their second year of college and before their third.  Some take a gap year after their first year of a doctorate of ministry.  But the one thing that Brown made incredibly clear to me is the courage and bravery each member of this cohort is exhibiting by merely signing up for the LGP journey.  We have learned things about ourselves that certainly weren’t there a year ago this time.  Our lives have changed and we have become more vulnerable AND more daring.  For that, and the friendships we’ve made, I am ever grateful.


[i] Brene Brown, Dare to Lead, (New York: Random House, 2018), 225.

About the Author

Rev Jacob Bolton

9 responses to “What can BRAVING do for you?”

  1. Amen to that brother. I’m feeling the stress and anxiety of LGP, especially these next few weeks when major papers are due.

    I thought Jason’s encouraging words to us were super helpful. Being vulnerable is not something I look for. I like Brown’s definition of vulnerable: the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. That’s where I am at the moment. God have mercy.

  2. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Me too, Harry!

    Jacob, I appreciate your post. Controlling leadership is far more prevalent in the church than ever should be. Control is white knuckle response to keep vulnerability locked far away and everyone suffers for it. Unfortunately, spiritual abuse is a close next step with devastating effects. That alone should make us all as spiritual leaders brave enough to lean in to vulnerability. I see it as the response to Acts 20:28 to watch over ourselves and over the flock of God entrusted into our care.

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks for your reflections on Brown’s work as well as the dynamics of our cohort. The photo of our cohort praying for me is my screen saver. When I feel discouraged, I look at that picture an am reminded we are all changing and growing together. This always gives me strength and prompts me to pray and ask “I wonder how others are doing?” I appreciate your bravery through our DMin process.

  4. Thank You Jacob for sharing about the controlling pastor because we often find ourselves in similar traps when we do not want to be vulnerable. It reminds me of Berger’s book, simple habits for Complex times and how asking open questions puts in a posture of humility to listen to others but also to receive feedback. Jennifer Berger illustrates this with how in doing appraisals on our juniors, we ted to correct their mistakes but we do not allow them to give feedback on how as their leader can facilitate for them to do better, we fear to be vulnerable. I totally agree with you about all the learning that we have received in the last one year together.

  5. Mary Mims says:

    Thank you, Jacob, for your post. I felt very vulnerable last week during our chat because I went out of town for a conference and thought I would be able to still get my work done, which did not happen. I thought I should just quit the program. I was very grateful for Jason’s remarks and now yours. I really appreciate the relationships formed in this cohort and glad we can let our hair down a bit with each other. Blessings to you!

  6. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Awesome blog, Jenn. I appreciated the added focus on the BRAVING tool. And I also liked your thoughts about taking a ‘year off’ for reflection and recuperation of direction. Sometimes, that can be a valuable asset. I did so when I was in my Master’s program in counseling, as it was a busy year and I felt so overwhelmed. I came back the next year refreshed and renewed – and was ready to tackle all that God had planned for me with renewed strength. Prayer holds the key to knowing God’s best direction for our lives. Thanks for sharing, my friend!

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Sorry, I meant Jacob. So sorry about that, guy! The comments are all regarding your post – it’s the name that I mistyped! My bad! Be blessed, my friend!

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