Loving, Learning, Leading with SLI

Loving, Learning, Leading with SLI

December 09, 2016

Loving, Learning, Leading with SLI
By Roxanne Strike*
Conference leaders are starting to see the impact from their Spiritual Leadership Incorporated (SLI) coaching as they come closer to the one-year anniversary of SLI’s implementation in the Iowa Conference.
“It has been a fruitful experience in the sense we have been given the opportunity to be a community,” said the Rev. Dr. Lilian Gallo Seagren, district superintendent for the Southeast District. “A community that is loving together, learning together and leading together.”
SLI, which is an organization that seeks to help church leaders grow and put their ideas into action, began its relationship with the Iowa Conference in December 2015. Two teams were created: the Bishop’s Operating Team and the Bishop’s Appointive Cabinet.

Click here to see the video conversation with Rev. Dr. Lilian Gallo Seagren and Dr. Art McClanahan.  Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the conversation.
The Bishop’s Operational Team (BOT) consists of the Bishop, two assistants to the bishop, the conference treasurer, the communications director, the human resources director, two clergy and two lay leaders. It focuses on looking at the processes in the conference and strategically aligns what it’s doing with focusing on creating new faith communities and renewing congregations.
The Appointive Cabinet Operational Team includes the Bishop, the eight conference superintendents and the assistant to the Bishop. This team is focused on creating operational teams in each district where the principles learned from SLI are carried down to the very grassroots level in local churches.
SLI’s process helps to “build a team that has love, trust and respect for one another,” said Rev Paul Smith, Conference Superintendent for the South Central District.
“(SLI) welcomes the greater sense of collaborative ministry,” said Smith. “It teaches values, concepts and strategies of how to do adaptive leadership and adaptive change. We practice what they call the Three Ls: loving, leading, learning aspects of it.”
For the past 12 months, spiritual leaders have met for eight hours each month to practice this style of spiritual loving, learning, and leading. “There is a basic understanding that no one person knows the answer to everything,” said Smith. Just as the secular business world is creating a more collaborative team environment where each team member contributes to company’s goals, SLI helps faith-based organizations create an environment where clergy and laity alike are equal players in fulfilling their mission.

Click here to see the video conversation with Rev. Paul Smith and Dr. Art McClanahan.  Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the conversation.
“(The Three Ls) is very much a component of spiritual accountability for each other, holding each other in prayers,” said Smith. “Also, we are committed to learning together important spiritual concepts and important organizational Ecclesiastical concepts and how that can apply to our districts and to the conference.”
From there, the Appointive Cabinet takes these leadership skills back to their districts and implements the strategies both locally and at the conference level.
Local Impact
Gallo Seagren took what she learned from the Appointive Cabinet sessions and applied it to her district ministry. When asked if the SLI approach has made an impact, she said it has helped shape the district’s agenda.
In each district team meeting, the group takes time to share where they have experienced God lately, take the time to pray for each other and focus on each other’s strengths so they can apply those strengths to the common good of the district.
“We learn to see what (individuals) are contributing to overall work,” she said. “We always set aside 20 minutes’ time of learning something that is new to incorporate our work into the churches.”
Gallo Seagren noted that people in general tend to do things the same way over and over again without paying attention to the fruit of their labor. With the SLI approach, clergy and lay members continually reflect and readjust where necessary while keeping focused on their mission.
“It’s good to see that if we stop at the end of a meeting and share reflections, we can see transformation happening in the leaders at that table,” said Gallo Seagren.
Continuing on the Path
SLI typically is a yearlong learning process. Bishop Laurie Haller joined the Iowa Conference in the middle of that process. Prior to her Iowa appointment, Bishop Laurie never heard of SLI. Since her arrival she has been impressed with the transformation she has seen.
“Over these last several months I’ve been deeply immersed in both the Bishop’s Operational Team and the Cabinet Team,” she said. “And I have to say that I’m really impressed with the process we’re going through.”
She is particularly happy with the emphasis on spiritually mature leaders. She has taken it upon herself to grow as the Episcopal leader of the Iowa Conference.
“I’m trying to focus on myself and learning to be a better leader in this process so that throughout the Iowa Conference we can all learn how to focus on the needs of our community,” she said.

​Click here to see the video conversation with Bishop Laurie Haller and Dr. Art McClanahan.  Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the conversation.
Bishop Laurie believes it is important to continue with the SLI process past the one-year mark since she sees the Bishop’s Operational Team and Appointive Cabinet Operational Team making steps forward and as she and others continue to grow as spiritual leaders.
“If we continue into next year, then I’m convinced we are going to bear much fruit,” she said. “I’m really excited to see where God is going to lead us.”
For more information about SLI visit their website at  

*Roxanne Strike is the newest member of the Communications Ministry Team focusing on news and features reporting and social media strategies.