Home Equipping Leaders CONTENT LIBRARY Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition

Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition

Steven W. Manskar"Christian leadership is defined, formed, and shaped by, as well as rooted and deployed in accordance with, who God is, where God is, what God is doing, and what God would have individuals and communities be and do. Leadership in the Christian community is a sharing in the life and mission of the triune God, which means that it begins, continues, and ends in communion with, obedience to, and praise of the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Such leadership is much more than institutional direction and management."

This densely packed statement about the character of Christian leadership is from a new book written by Bishop Ken Carder and Dr. Laceye Warner. Both these authors teach at Duke University Divinity School. Their book, Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition, is a clear and concise guide for the formation and practice of Christian leadership. As the title indicates, the book focuses on approaches to leadership derived from the theology and ministry of John and Charles Wesley.

When Carder and Warner look at the life and witness of the Wesley brothers and the movement they led, they see that leadership is rooted in doctrine and mission. This is countercultural for much of the leadership literature circulating in the church today. It teaches that leadership is rooted in technique, relevance, and power. The goal of leadership is organizational success; with success judged according to market standards. When applied to the church, this market-oriented approach to leadership is dependent upon programs with broad appeal and satisfying the perceived needs of members -- all with the goal of attracting as many people as possible. An alternative to such market-oriented leadership strategies is to focus on the historic doctrine of the church that directs the church toward participation in God’s mission for the world. This shifts the telos, or goal, of leadership from institutional success to missional faithfulness. It shifts the focus of ministry from the church and onto God and God’s mission in the world.

The works of John and Charles Wesley reveal that leadership is derived from a life steeped in grace -- the power and presence of God in the world. Leaders are people who habitually open themselves to this grace and freely share it with others. This means that leadership and discipleship are inseparable. In the Wesleyan tradition, leaders are people who practice the disciplines of love known as the "means of grace." These practices form their identity and worldview in ways that conform them to the image of Christ. One implication of this, according to Carder and Warner, is that authority for leadership is derived more from baptism than ordination.

Grace to Lead is the best book on leadership in the Wesleyan tradition I have encountered. It is an excellent resource for small-group study. The authors include questions to lead discussion at the end of each chapter. My prayer is that Grace to Lead will be on every bishop’s "required reading" list in every annual conference in 2011.

Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition by Kenneth L. Carder and Lacey C. Warner is published by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. It is available from Cokesbury. (You can read an excerpt online at www.faithandleadership.com.

Time to Revise Your Group’s Covenant?

Is there a clause in your CD group’s covenant that everyone is having difficulty doing? Is there a clause that has become routine?

If you answer is "yes" to one or both of these questions, then it may be time for your group to revise its covenant. The start of a new year is a good time to evaluate your group’s covenant. We recommend that groups do this at least once a year.

The covenant is a living document. Its purpose is to help the group to grow in holiness of heart and life so that the members help the church to participate with Christ’s mission in the world. For the covenant to serve its missional purpose, it must contain acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion all members are willing and able to do. It can also be used to stretch the group in parts of the covenant that are routine for everyone by making them a little more challenging. For example, if you have a clause that says something like, "We will pray and read the Bible every day"; and this is routinely accomplished from week to week, you may make it a little more challenging by revising it to something like, "We will pray and read the Bible every day and record the words and phrases that speak to us or questions they raise."

Here is a process to help your Covenant Discipleship group revise its covenant:
  • Identify those clauses that everyone agrees need to be revised or replaced. Give the group a homework assignment: Bring to the next meeting either a new clause as a replacement or a revision of the existing clause. Before the next meeting, everyone sends his or her new/revised clause to the group in an email. Everyone prints the email and brings it to the next meeting. During that meeting, set aside time to discuss the recommended clause change. If most are in favor of replacing the clause with something new, then work together to perfect a clause that all can agree upon based on the clauses contained in the group email. If most are in favor of revising the existing clause, work together to craft a revision that all can agree upon.
  • Repeat this process until the group reaches consensus on revisions and/or replacement clauses.
  • When consensus has been reached, distribute copies of the revised covenant to all members and sign and date it together at the opening of the next meeting

If you have any questions or comments about this covenant revision process, please contact me at [email protected] or call 877-899-2780, ext. 1765.

Please post your comments at the Wesleyan Leadership blog:http://wesleyanleadership.wordpress.com

Steven W. Manskar is the Director of Wesleyan Leadership for the Discipleship Ministries.

Recommended Reading

A Disciple’s Journal is available from CreateSpace.com. Readers of the Covenant Discipleship Connection get a 20% discount. This book is sold online only. To get the 20% discount, go here: https://www.createspace.com/3494021. Select the quantity of books you want. On the order review page, enter the discount code: 5CJQXYAS

Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation through Mutual Accountability
David Lowes Watson has updated the original handbook for covenant discipleship groups. This new version should prove valuable in leading existing groups to a deeper level of discipleship, and newcomers to a fresh discovery of the best of the Methodist tradition.
Available from
Wipf & Stock Publishers for $17.60.

Accountable Discipleship: Living in God's Household
This book focuses on pastoral leadership in the Wesleyan tradition. Those who read and study this book will be invited to discover their own ministry as pastoral leaders.
Available from
Cokesbury for $12.00.

A Perfect Love: Understanding John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
What makes this version unique is that the author has edited Wesley's text and updated his language for the contemporary reader.
Available from
Cokesbury for $11.20.

Mainline or Methodist: Rediscovering Our Evangelistic Mission
Trying to be both mainline and Methodist is a deadly combination. In fact, it's a leading cause for the denomination's spiritual and numerical decline.
Available from
Cokesbury for $10.40.

A Blueprint for Discipleship
This approach builds on the foundation of the General Rules and the practice of "watching over one another in love" through small-group accountability.
Available from
Cokesbury for $12.00.

Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Community
by Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker
Delving into the widespread, contemporary longing for a more serious and communal experience of Christianity, this book provides important theoretical underpinnings and casts a vision for a new monasticism within the Wesleyan tradition.
Available from

Discipleship Resources

Roxburgh Missional Network:

The United Methodist Way

This 20-minute Flash presentation shows how following John Wesley's rules in both doctrine and practice leads to transformed lives and a transformed world. (
Also available as a download for use in your church

John Wesley's Sermons

Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition

Methodist Review: A Journal of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies

Upcoming Events

Put these dates on your 2011 calendar:
Leave for Leaders

3 sessions for 2011:
January 31-February 4
April 25-29
October 24-28
For details go to

Wesleyan Leadership Conference: "A New Vision for Wesleyan Community"
with Dr. Elaine Heath
October 13-15, 2011

Wesley Pilgrimage in England

November 7-17, 2011

Sarum College Salisbury, England