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Who Holds Your Heart?

We cannot lead alone
by Sarah Ciavarri | September 9, 2022

What would you do in ministry if you knew when you fell doing it, you’d have a soft place to land? What if there were a few good heart-holder companions who would help pick you up, brush you off, and help you get steady on your feet so you could keep showing up and taking holy risks, being bold in faith, using your gifts so that the joy of the Lord resonated within you and through you?  

Have you ever experienced that synergy that comes when you are in a group that gets you – truly, gets you? In a group like this you may feel bigger than your “regular” self, more free, more of who God has made you to be.  

Maybe it was an experience at a church camp, or a ministry you were involved in as a young adult, maybe it was your neighborhood book club, or an online group of parents of children with autism. These are the people that you believe will just get it – whatever the it is. They will understand because, somehow, through hardship, shared experience, or a deep desire to love others in the love of Christ, they know how to show up for you and you know you don’t have to compare against, compete with, or win over these folks because they are your heart-holders.

Created for connection

God has created us for connection. Real, honest, deep connection. To God. To others. To ourselves. For some church leaders, whether in congregational ministry, chaplaincy, or a bishop’s office, after COVID and all the stresses of ministry that existed before the world was flipped on its head, this sounds too good to be true. Or it sounds like something someone else gets to have. But not us. Why do we say that? Maybe because we haven’t found those heart-holder companions or we haven’t showed up in our lives or calls fully in a long time. For some of us, it has been such a long time we have forgotten what it feels like to have our hearts held in loving care and be encouraged to dream big and bold, beyond what we see on the horizon.

Dr. Brené Brown has studied the power of supportive connection, empathy and trust, for over 2 decades along with other human realities like shame, courage, and vulnerability. I’ve facilitated application of her research for over a decade. I’ve facilitated workshops all across the nation, in-person and online: three-day deep dives and bite-size intros of 90 minutes. In addition to the great content and new skills participants gain, an unexpected bonus for many is the depth of connection with other people. New friendships are forged and continue after the class ends because once you’ve shared some of your struggles in church leadership and you’ve been empathetic with others in theirs, the Holy Spirit will weave hearts together.  

Last fall through Faith+Lead, I led a Dare to Lead class. We met for 3 hours a session over 7 sessions. Some of the participants wanted to continue integrating Brown’s courage building tools into their lives together. They formed a small group, did a Rising Strong training, then a study on my book, Finding Our Way to the Truth: Seven Lies Leaders Believe and How to Let Them Go. And they wanted to keep meeting. Now they meet every other week and have no plans to stop! These are church leaders from the USA and Canada, from the west to the east coasts, from three different denominations, from small rural churches to urban to larger congregations with staffs. In summation, they have become heart-holders for each other because they have woven their stories of boldness, daring experiments, boundary-setting and boundary-keeping, flops, exhaustion and vulnerability together with laughter, love, and empathy.

There are many challenges in ministry and communal life right now. Enough to take your breath away and make you want to go back to bed. Going it alone is seductive for lots of us because relationships take time and vulnerability is, well, risky, and maybe we’ve been burned before.  I get that. I get all of that. But the challenges are easier faced with people who catch us each time, love us well in Christ, and want the best for us.  

We all need heart-holders. Who is holding yours? 

Find out more about the next Dare to Lead course happening soon!

About the Author

Sarah Ciavarri

Sarah Ciavarri, M.Div. is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Consultant, Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, and a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. For eight years, Rev. Ciavarri has been a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on a variety of topics including resilience, vulnerability, and shame. She is a faculty member with Coaching4Today’s Leaders, as well as the author of Find Our Way to Truth: Seven Lies Leaders Believe and How to Let Them Go. Rev. Ciavarri has been the Director of Spiritual Care at Augustana Care in Apple Valley, MN for over 12 years.

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