Q.  Why should an executive director think about spiritual needs of their staff?

A.  First, for God to use us on a larger level, our hearts have to be formed by Him so that our hearts are trustworthy.  Secondly, younger people who are on staff want more than a knowledge of God; they want an experience of God; they want a spiritual community with a missional purpose. It has to be more than just a job; it is more than just a job. Thirdly, ministry is very difficult. If we are not spiritually prepared and on top of our spiritual game, it’s easy to be taken out.

Q.  Did you always see yourself as a spiritual leader?

A.  I converted to Christianity from being an atheist … so from the beginning of my Christian walk I was a very desperate person, seeking God very hard to fill the emptiness. This desperate need led me to being a spiritual leader as did my choice to become a reader. I adopted a goal to read one book a week for the rest of my life. And I followed James Houston’s advice to read the classics.

Q. How do you provide spiritual care within your staff?

A. We’ve made it a priority to have an extensive time of prayer at each staff meeting. Over time, our prayer time together has gotten more sophisticated. Also, before every major event (banquet, retreat, starting school year, etc.) we get together for a morning and pray specifically for that event.
During staff meetings, we also discuss a book that we are reading together.
Once a year, we do a spiritual retreat just for our staff. And we host a conference where we’ve had the luxury to bring in some of the top spiritual leaders. Though we run this conference, our staff benefits from the spiritual leaders with whom they get to interact.

Q.  What books have you read recently with your staff?

A. Larry Crab’s The Papa Prayer,
Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy,
Brennan Manning Abba’s Child,
Henry Nouwen’s Spirituality of Fundraising are a few of the recent ones that were very good.

Q.  How might I help staff members who are on different spiritual levels?

A.  The spiritual assessment discussed in Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross has guided me in this process. He discusses the need to move deeper within our spirituality. The first level of spirituality is very dependent upon our senses, upon how we feel. Much of how we feel about our spiritual walk in this initial level is based on what’s going on externally to reward us, on what’s happening to us, on what’s seen as opposed to what’s unseen.
The second level of spirituality is referred to as the  “dark night of the spirit.” In this stage, a person moves from being dependent on emotions and external experiences to being dependent on walking deeper with the Spirit of God. You are less concerned with what’s going on in the seen world and more concerned with being faithful to God irregardless of your circumstances and outward results. Spiritual formation is about learning to live and function in the unseen world... to function with the unseen characteristics of faith, hope, and love. To move into the deeper arena of ministry and leadership, it’s important to become a person that works within the realm of unseen world, not mostly focused on  what’s going with your circumstances and senses.

Q. What sorts of things would indicate that staff have gone to the second level of spirituality?

A.  How staff members are reacting when they are in the valleys is telling. Also, seeing how they are responding when life is not that exciting. Are they people who are still being faithful in the mundane?Are they faithful in the deep, dark times of life? It’s similar to a romantic relationship. In the newness and excitement it’s great, but when it slows down and emotions wane, it’s hard to be faithful to your lover. When all the external things are not going their way, do the staff members still keep going?

Q. Final comments?

A.  I think a lot of people function in ministry, but are not spiritually connecting to God. We need to know two things as leaders, both for our own lives and for the lives of those we’re leading:
1 – What is the spiritual path that leads you to a deeper relationship with God?
2 – What are the skills or disciplines that you can do to help connect deeper with God?
A lot of people think the more active you are and the more you do, the closer you are to God. That isn’t the pattern in Scripture. It sets people up to be disappointed because it keeps them focused on the external senses for their spirituality. It’s too easy when using external things to determine your spirituality, to get very discouraged. Inside you are pretty empty spiritually, and long-term this leads to burnout and ineffective ministry.


Bob Arnold served as the executive director of Metro Maryland YFC and recently moved himself into a role of Leadership Develop Director. He is also sharing with Executive Directors at most YFC regional conferences this year on the topic of Spiritual Leadership.

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