Ministry Skills: Looking at Spiritual and Emotional Maturity

Published on: October 12, 2016

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The Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) Ministry Skills & Transition Support team shares a purpose statement with the UWM Member Services, of which it is a part. That purpose statement is: UWM Member Services [Ministry Skills Team] cultivates relationships and a feedback-rich environment with Unity ministries and leaders. Through leading edge services and resources, we collectively prosper and evolve in spiritual community.

In the spirit of providing leading-edge ministry skills services, one of the areas of focus often creates “excitement” when presented in leadership training sessions is the concept of spiritual and emotional maturity. This concept is brought forth in Module 1, Essential Elements for Ministry, which is the first of four modules in the Unity Worldwide Ministries curriculum for ministers and ministry leaders, entitled, “Creating Dynamic, Thriving and Sustainable Ministries.”


Module 1, Essential Elements for Ministry

Module 1, Essential Elements for Ministry, initiates a dialogue around spiritual and emotional maturity with the question: “What qualities and attributes are present when a board and/or a team are exhibiting spiritual and emotional maturity?”

Before we look at those qualities, let us take a moment to review the spiritual sojourn and its impact on an individual’s spiritual evolution. Simply stated, the first step of the journey is to become aware that there is another way to consider life and its experiences—and that often is initiated by a question or series of questions that arise and include, but not limited to:

  • Who am I?
  • What is life all about?
  • Surely, there is more, to do here than ______ (make money, strive for success & etc.).

After that initial awareness, something stirs inside and we start to spiritually awake. We begin to accept a new understanding and knowledge about who we are, as the Divine in expression. Accepting that we are greater than we could have previously imagined begins to grow our sense of individuation, which as a counterpoint, strengthens our sense of ego identity and we move from victims of life to victors in life.

There comes a point on the spiritual journey where the soul starts to speak to us, and says, “OK, you have gained enough ‘knowing’ capacity. It is time to surrender and let go of all that you thought you knew in order to unlearn and dance at the edge of mystery.” To step into surrender and to be present to not knowing, while holding the space for possibility, takes great spiritual maturity and wisdom. Why? Because of our ego—our small self!

Our ego wants to know, it wants answers, and it wants to give answers—not only to be right, but to also be seen as right. All of this is still very important to the ego that has not been tempered through the spiritual wisdom of unlearning and unknowing.

When one has awakened and matured their Adverse Ego, as Charles Fillmore, Unity co-founder called it, they begin to realize that the soul works and thrives from the space of the Unknown, and from sitting in the question, while dancing at the edge of mystery. The soul desires to be present to what is emerging, now, even if it looks like discomfort. In Unity language, dancing at the edge of mystery is the capacity to be present in the midst of discomfort and disagreements and show up as one who exhibits the qualities and attributes of spiritual and emotional maturity.

Spiritual and emotional maturity is a result of a conscious practice that arises from the capacity to be in a space of not knowing, of being willing to be present to a time of conscious unlearning. Which is the capacity to be present to what is happening in the space around us and being willing to surrender into the idea of—What if something greater is desiring to emerge and I don’t have all the answers to what is or what it might look like?

When one is displaying the following attributes of spiritual and emotional maturity, it reveals that there has been an initial movement beyond adverse ego needs and wants—and its basic survival mechanisms focused on me and my way—in order to assure I am safe, I am right, I am being seen, etc.


Spiritual and Emotional Maturity Markers

The following are a few spiritual and emotional critical markers we discuss in Module 1, Essential Elements of Ministry. As you read through them, take a moment for self-reflection and self-observation to assess how often these are present in your experiences and interactions with others. Spiritual and emotional maturity (S&EM) markers include the ability to:

  • Embrace tension and polarities, without labeling either side as wrong or bad.
  • Give and receive feedback, and to see feedback as part of an evolutionary system that grows and supports people and organizations.
  • Know that my degree of spiritual maturity is in direct proportion to my capacity for non-reaction.
  • Communicate authentically and with transparency.
  • Engage self-observation, without the need to defend one’s position.
  • Be accountable, without fear.


Real-Life Scenarios

Here are a few scenarios that we as a Ministry Skills team have been present to. Reminder: This is not about right or wrong. That is where the ego would go, to judgment. However, what is really being asked here, from a spiritual and emotional maturity perspective, is that you review these scenarios and honestly and objectively discern if any of these scenarios have arisen in your ministry, in your teams, on your board, and/or are currently present.

Scenario 1

S&EM Capacity: Has the capacity to be the presence of all is well, regardless of circumstances or discomfort. Engages consciously in seeing things through for the greater good for the whole.

Weak Capacity: Teams use spiritual principles or tools as a way to make themselves feel more comfortable. What does this look like?  When tension starts to arise in a space, rather than allowing the tension to be present and being willing to sit in the discomfort, and inviting authentic dialogue that might support a movement through the tension, a team member will want to jump right into prayer—to alleviate his/her discomfort. If one is present to the energy arising in the space, you can sense the “need” to remove oneself from the tension as paramount, rather than being present to what wants to emerge and working through it, for the greater of the collective whole.

Scenario 2

S&EM Capacity: Has the capacity to engage in honest self-observation and non-attachment to outcome.

Weak Capacity: Fear of the unknown, and unwilling to dance at the mystery for the greater good of all. What does this look like? This often occurs when a minister is getting ready to leave or retire. When a long-term minister is preparing to leave a ministry or retire, the UWM Transition Consulting team is contacted and most often we are asked, “What is the most appropriate way for the ministry to move forward in the process of their minister retiring?” What we share is that the process, when done in excellence, calls for the minister to leave first, in order that the ministry (boards, teams, etc.) can, with the support of a Transition Consultant, learn how to self-organize and determine who they are without the minister. Why? Because, the minister, who has by virtue of being spiritual leader and holder of spiritual consciousness, has impacted the consciousness of the ministry. Again not right/wrong, good/bad, but like anything, when the old leaves, a space must be consciously prepared for the new.

What we see over and over is that as the time approaches, the minister and/or the board gets antsy, meaning they start not to trust themselves, the process, or a combination of things. They decide they can’t do this, so they jump into finding a minister to replace the minister who hasn’t even left yet. This often leads to the new minister being an unintentional interim, because dancing at the edge of mystery was too uncomfortable. However, it is necessary in order to embrace the natural changes occur in life and in ministry.

Scenario 3

S&EM Capacity: Has the capacity to seek clarity and accountability for actions.

Weak Capacity: Lack of clarity around decision-making processes. What does this look like? When there is not stated clarity and agreement on a board or team for what constitutes how a decision is made (will a decision constitute 51%, 66%, or … majority), it is usually the loudest voice that proclaims it is victorious and then people get upset and feel they were not heard.


In Summary

Spiritual and emotional maturity is the willingness to unlearn all we thought we knew, to surrender our personal agendas, and to be present to the discomfort in the space. These are just a few of the keystone capacities required for leadership in the 21st century and UWM is here to support you and your board and teams in greater development of those qualities.


Ministry Skills Training

Module 1: Essential Elements of Ministry Supports the identification of the basic best-standards of practice for ministries and invites key leaders into an understanding of what it means to be spiritually and emotionally mature, and what that means for the ministry.

Module 2: Accountability and Team Building Are you aware that effective leadership, through the consciousness that leadership holds, determines the level of accountability and success of the ministry?

Module 3: Conscious Culture Identification “Culture trumps vision and eats strategy for lunch.” What’s alive in your culture?

Module 4: Conscious Neutrality Being the presence of all is well is a developed skill set.

For more information on the four Modules, contact Rev Toni Boehm at 816.304.3044 or [email protected].

Toni G. Boehm
Peace and Transitional Ministry Support Consultant at Unity Worldwide Ministries

Rev Toni G Boehm, PhD, is Ministry Skills & Transition Ministry Support Coordinator for UWM. She has supported nearly 300 Unity boards and ministries in leadership skill development. She is the 2017 recipient of the Charles Fillmore Award for visionary leadership.

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