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Potential 1001 New Worshiping Community leaders identify gifts, potential blind spots

Discerning Missional Leadership assessment focuses on spiritual maturity, missional behaviors and leadership capacity

By Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Discerning Missional Leadership participants in Pittsburgh: Chris Romine, Sarah Lee, Brett Foote and Laura Foote. 1001 New Worshiping Communities

PITTSBURGH – When the Rev. Sarah Lee attended a recent Discerning Missional Leadership (DML) assessment here, she believed she was answering God’s call.

“It’s very helpful to look at oneself,” said Lee, who is pastor of Watertown Multi-Ethnic Community in New York, which is one of the PC(USA) 1001 New Worshiping Communities.

“Discerning Mission Leadership is paramount in helping leaders understand who they are — who their congregations will be and who the church is as a whole,” said DML co-facilitator the Rev. Ken Fuquay.

As pastor of M2M Charlotte, Fuquay benefited from the DML process — it helped him figure out both where he is gifted and what some of his blind spots are.

“We actually see ourselves as providing a service to NWC leaders in the presbyteries,” said the Rev. Michael Gehrling, the 1001 associate for DML assessments. “It helps their relationship flourish.”

During the three-to-four-day assessment, Gehrling and a team of co-facilitators — who are also leaders of new worshiping communities — look at each person, assessing their spiritual maturity, missional behaviors and leadership capacity.

“Do they have friends outside the church? Can they grow and build a successful team? Do they have the ability to develop other leaders?” are just some of the questions the DML team explores with participants.

When potential NWC leaders engage in the DML assessment, they learn more than just about themselves. They learn about other people, too — and how to go into a community. DML leaders go trekking through each city where the assessment is held — watching how participants interact with people — both those who are in church and those who are not.

“This is critically important for the formation and foundation you need in starting a new worshiping community — to stand on those tough days when you’re planting a church and it’s just you out there by yourself,” Fuquay said.

Brett Foote, a Princeton Theological Seminary student, and his wife, Laura, participated in the event. They hope to one day start a new worshiping community in a coffeeshop that employs people with disabilities. Foote said he feels like the DML process has refined them — and will help them integrate his “amazing seminary education” with their dreams.

“When is the last time you walked around your neighborhood and asked your neighbors questions about what they need?” said Foote.

The Rev. Laura Bentley, a DML co-facilitator and pastor of Sanctuary Faith Community, says one can’t overstate how important it is to have self-aware leaders in the church, especially for those who are out ”blazing a new trail.”

One of those leaders is Chris Romine, who is working on planting a new worshiping community on the west side of Manhattan, with Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.

“It takes a lot of training — and a lot of self-awareness — to discern if God is calling you to start something new,” said Romine. “This huge cohort of people who are doing similar work are incredibly helpful in that process.”

Laura Foote came to the DML assessment with a lot of self-doubt. But now she has the confidence to say, “‘No, this is who I am. I can go for this dream. God is calling me to do this.’”

“To hear what other people are asking of themselves and where God might be leading them is super encouraging to me,” said Romine. “It’s a beautiful thing to read Scripture together, to have prayer time and learning. That’s only going to benefit the presbyter and the presbytery.”

The Discerning Missional Leadership team encourages:

  • Potential worshiping community leaders to do a DML assessment as soon as possible in their journey of starting something new
  • All presbyteries to send their new worshiping community leaders to DML — and to host a daylong Exploring Mission Leadership event.

For more information about DML assessments, and to apply, go to

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