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Practicing Spiritual Formation as a Leader

Updated: May 16, 2022

Leading others well begins with being spiritually transformed yourself

"The leader’s first job is to be spiritually transformed, regardless of the type of leadership he or she exercises. We must all ask for mercy and learn to receive forgiveness. The transformed leader sees life from another perspective. It does not matter whether others see us as leaders or not; what matters is whether we believe we are leading them." —Henri Nouwen

When it comes to spiritual formation, there are many ways to grow. But for those seeking this kind of intentional growth in community, there are five practices that can help you develop a spiritual foundation: solitude, silence and stillness, community, rest and repentance.


Solitude is not just a state of being, but a lifestyle choice. It’s embracing the biblical truth that it’s not good for man to be alone.

Not only did God create us to be in relationship with him, but he also created us to be in community with others. God didn’t say “It’s not good for man to be alone with me, so let me make him a helper … an Instagram account to follow that seems perfect and unattainable.”


In a spiritual-teacher-like tone:As a leader, you can certainly benefit from practicing a few minutes of silence each day. But how do you go about doing that? Here are some tips:

  • Practicing silence is simple in concept, but it might be more difficult than you realize. If you're not used to experiencing silence regularly, the purposelessness and apparent lack of productivity may cause discomfort. However, the aim of this practice is not to force yourself into submission by enduring discomfort. There's no competition involved; there's no goal (other than perhaps creating a space for God). Simply engage in the practice as often as you can, for however long your daily life allows.*

  • Try to create an environment conducive to practicing silence—even if it's only for one minute at a time. The most important thing is your posture and breathing.*

  • If thoughts or concepts are crowding your mind when you close your eyes or try to sit still and focus on your breathing, imagine that they are clouds passing through the sky overhead. Don't concern yourself with them; just let them drift by until they vanish.*


Stillness, in a world of constant movement, is crucial for spiritual formation. The practice of stillness requires a commitment to understanding life from God’s perspective. This can only be achieved when we intentionally carve time out of our busy schedules to slow down, disconnect from the world and daily routines, and quiet the mind so that we can hear the voice of God.

It is in these still moments that we create space for God to speak and we listen closely for His voice as He reveals new insights into our lives. In order to understand these revelations, we must also learn to shut out all other worldly distractions—including those things with which well-meaning Christians would encourage us to fill our time (like Bible study or prayer).

With practice, you will realize that there are many ways in which you can engage in this practice of stillness.


Community is one of the most important elements of spiritual formation. It's good to have an individual practice, but having someone else to hold you accountable and help you grow is critical. If you're already in a community, make sure it's supportive and encouraging—if it's not, find a new one. If you're not in a community, now is a great time to join or start one. Community can be as small as two people or as large as several hundred—the best size for you really depends on your personality and needs. You could join or start an existing community at your church or in your neighborhood. We are Fermata seek to offer safe community where growth can happen. Find out more by reaching out for spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, or leadership development.

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