Spiritual Graduation: An Attainable Goal

Leadership 101 for Christian Women Series - Pt. 4

Graduation. Does the church ever graduate anyone? Schools and workplaces have systems in place to help people progress in their intellectual and professional growth. So what are we doing as church leaders to help people know if they’re ready to “graduate” spiritually? In this fourth post in my Leadership 101 Series for Christian Women, I’ll show you how Jesus’ model for ministry gives us a pattern for helping people succeed in their journey toward spiritual growth.

Leadership Principle No. 4: Great leaders intentionally provide processes that move others toward success.

Matthew 10 shows us one of the boldest things Jesus ever did: he delegated his ministry to others!

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. . . . These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-6 NRSV)

In Matthew 5-7, we heard Jesus deliver his message to his disciples. In Matthew 8-9, we walked alongside Jesus as he demonstrated his method to his disciples showing them how his power and grace and mercy could overcome any barrier. Now, in Matthew 10, His disciples were ready for their mid-term exam. Jesus knew they were not ready for the “go-into-all-the-world” final exam, yet he wanted to give them a taste of success in familiar territory–among the Jews, their own people, and not yet among the Gentiles.

Leadership Practice No. 4: Christ-following women leaders purposefully foster spiritual growth in others by guiding them through attainable steps toward measurable goals that help them see their progress.

After Jesus identified those ready for the next step, we can see in Matthew 10 how he set them up for success by:

  1. Giving them specific responsibilities and the authority to fulfill them.
  2. Providing instructions and expectations, ones he knew they could accomplish.
  3. Being honest in his warnings about any challenges or difficulties he knew they would face.
  4. Reminding them of the reward awaiting them.

He gave them tasks that helped them see their own progress. We get a glimpse in Luke 10 of Jesus’ reaction to the disciples after another time he sent out 70 of them on a similar mission:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority. . . . Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 10:17-19a, 21a)

These opportunities for spiritual success were accomplished while Jesus was still physically with them. He was training them with confidence so they could fulfill their ultimate mission when he would no longer be physically present with them. He knew the stages of development they needed to experience before they “graduated” to go into all the world.

Leadership Promise No. 4:  

Those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39b NRSV)

“Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24 NRSV)

Leadership Proposal for Women:

Who are you setting up for spiritual success? Identify someone you can bring along with you to give her more responsibilities and the authority to fulfill them. Be intentional by providing some opportunities for her to see her own spiritual growth and then listen to the results with great expectations and joy.

Who has helped you grow spiritually? Did they have a method or a process that tracked your progress? Please share your experiences or questions in the Comments section . . . 

Laura Savage-Rains--coach, speaker, writer--is the founder and author of WomensMinistryCoach.com who is using her 30+ years of ministry and leadership experience to teach women how to lead with passion. She is a native Texan who has also lived in foreign places such as Alabama and Romania. She makes her home in Lakeway, Texas, with her husband, Mark. She loves to write, speak, and teach the Bible. She is also a women's ministry team member, choir member, stepmom, and Grammy to 3 little girls. She loves dark chocolate with caramel, "The Sound of Music" movie, and Barbra Streisand's music.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Spiritual Graduation: An Attainable Goal

  1. Great post – delegating authority (not just responsibility) is a critical leadership skill. I’m reading Growing Young (https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/announcing-our-new-project-growing-young). The authors found that one common characteristic of vital, growing churches is the willingness of church leaders to delegate authority. Delegation requires organization, planning, a willingness to cede control – someone else may not do it as well as you do – and a certain amount of courage. Delegation often implies mentoring; learning often includes failure. I’m thinking of Peter’s 3 denials of Jesus. A leader who delegates should also be prepared to practice grace as Jesus did with Peter. Look at how Peter grew from his failure.

    • Sounds like a great book, Richard. Thanks for sharing! Yeah, that “willingness to cede control” is so hard for us over-achievers. Yet, if Jesus is our example, then we MUST learn to do it! And offering that grace when the failures come is a lesson in itself! Thanks for being part of the conversation!

  2. Love this! Such a great reminder of how we can be true leaders. I find deligation to be the hardest out of these. I have this tendency to take on too many responsibilities that could easily be delegated to someone else. Delegating to others could ultimately be an opportunity for them to grow in some capacity that I am potentially causing them to miss out on. Another thought I had while reading is: Do we ever really meet true spiritual graduation? If we do, then when? My initial thought is that we are forever growing spiritually, no matter how much experience, education, etc. Then again, is there a point when we graduate to the command of “to the ends of the earth” great commission and purpose of the church. I guess the answer likely is determined by how you define “graduation.” I’m curious your thoughts. Maybe I’m way in left field here.
    Thanks for this site and all your wonderful posts!! Blessings!!

    • Good thinking, Kamitra. Those are exactly the questions I wanted to raise in my readers’ minds! I have the same trouble with delegating that you mentioned. That’s why it is so amazing to me that Jesus was willing to risk so much! And you’re right about how you define “Graduation”… I see it as a stepping stone to something greater or more challenging and not the FINAL step. Even though I’ve been through 5 school graduations, I am still learning and discovering how much I don’t know! I think a graduation is an acknowledgment that you’re ready for the next thing. I think the church could do better at helping people know those moments …when they’re ready and what the next thing could be. I am afraid that too often we allow the person in the pew to think that’s all there is…as if our faith is a spectator sport.

  3. While Jesus was with the disciples physically, He gave the them “authority” to cast out demons and heal the sick. As I read these words I was reminded that even though Jesus is not with us physically, He has given us this same authority through the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we are just not bold enough in our witness to do even greater things in His Name.

    Graduate spiritually? Surely this does not happen in this life. I see the point you are making about spiritual growth, but we should never stop growing to the point where we “graduate” as in “we have arrived spiritually”. But then, I am sure that is not what you meant.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Barbara. Good point! You are absolutely right about never “arriving” spiritually–that will happen on the other side. Yet, all graduations are a step to the next thing. Just as we have the opportunity to progress from one level of education to the next, which is often marked by a graduation ceremony, so we can progress in our understanding of our spiritual growth and responsibilities. One of the things I think the church could be better about doing is helping people understand the expectations for spiritual growth and provide them with specific opportunities to measure their progress. No matter how much we grow spiritually–as you stated–we can always grow even more!