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.