copastoring part 2 – a video conversation

copastoring part 2this is part 2 in a 5 part series i’m doing here on co-pastoring & shared leadership.  if you missed it, you can watch the first video conversation with my friend & refuge teammate karl wheeler.

one of the things we talk about in this piece is the difference between roles & relationship.  this is a place i think needs the most work when it comes to considering co-pastoring.  if we focus on roles, then we look at “who can do this or that function” instead of looking at the bigger picture–relationship.

through relationship we learn each other’s giftedness, strengths, weaknesses, and figure out how to live and learn together.  if we focus on roles, it becomes a rectangle on an org chart that needs to be filled with someone with those same skills. that means that if a person in that rectangle is called out of the community for some reason that we’d have to find someone to “replace” them in their role or function.  this is so typical, really, in most every organization.  we assume that we need someone who can do this or do that as opposed to finding people dedicated to learning to live and love and lead alongside one another in community.

this is a really hard shift to make when we are focused on building churches instead of cultivating communities.  building churches  often tends to point toward task, objectives, and strategies.  cultivating communities, however, is about creating containers to practice the ways of Jesus. in this model, relationship & commitment to practice in community is more important than role and function.

this sometimes means there are gaps in filling the needs and that some of the work won’t get done in the way we hope for.  in different ways over the years  this has happened at the refuge with music & kids & administrative stuff.  but instead of recruiting for it outside of us, we live with what we have in our community & respect the gap.  it’s not easy, we feel the absence sometimes, but we try  to learn to live with what we’ve got instead of working to find someone who can fit that “role” just to fill a spot that seems like it’s supposed to be filled.

the pushback to this usually is “but we need to make sure that we have people who can do this or that or otherwise the ministry won’t work.”  my response is that maybe the part that needs to be learned isn’t how to make sure we have every angle covered but rather to trust, wait, and learn how to live without certain things together.  in all kinds of ways, i think that’s leadership.

and practice isn’t about perfection. it’s about practice.

i also love how karl says that after all his years of seminary & pastor-training he had never even one class on how to be a friend, the actual skill that’s really needed in life together in missional community.  shared leadership, to me, is somehow about real friendship.

so here you go, another 10 minute or so conversation about co-pastoring:

co-pastoring part 2 from kathy escobar on Vimeo.


what do you think of this idea of putting relationship above function when it comes to shared leadership? 



Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Hmm…the thing that stuck from this for me (right now, anyway) is the being-taught-how-to-be-a-friend thing. It reminded me of the last few months I spent in the church (cult – really) I was last a member of. We were so discouraged from having “close” relationship with each other that we were in a state of fear (example: I remember one night my friend and I wanting to pray together and we felt like we were sneaking around and being bad because we had not gotten ‘permission’ – it wasn’t an approved meeting). Anyway, between that and the way I grew up, I had an idea of what I wished friendship could be, but it went against both experience and indoctrination. Then God put this above-mentioned wonderful, honest, genuine person in my life. And she was in trouble and she was a target for the pastor (cult leader). And I wanted to be her friend. And God told me to be her friend (He had to reassure me it was okay to be her friend). We were warned by our ‘superiors’ not to get too closed. And I had to ask God what being a real friend was – HIS way. I didn’t think that my way (that I felt in my heart) could possibly be the ‘right’ way….and He took my through the Bible and instructed me. I don’t remember all the verses, but ones that stuck with me are Genesis 18:17 – friends don’t hide things from each other (this takes practice), and especially Proverbs 17:17 – a friend sticks it out through whatever comes – does not bail when it gets bumpy. What a surprise. What I had wished friendship could look like was exactly where God was leading me. 🙂 But it is embarrassing that I had to be instructed….

    • thanks katherine, when i hear stories of so much control it always makes me so sad. instead of loving guidance and encouragement to learn how to be free and healthy people, many have received messages of shame & fear. it has really messed with so many people’s ability to be a friend. i’m glad you listened to God and not man.

  • hey kathy,
    I’ve read Carnival for a while on and off – always love what you’ve got to say and you often get me thinking, or surprisingly are already thinking about stuff I’ve been wondering about.
    This shared leadership stuff is right where I’m at right now, especially in the leadership of our intentional community.
    I’m thankful for your initiative to put topics out there, share your opinion, and say whats on your mind.
    these posts and videos are helpful and close to home.

    • thanks kelly, thanks for reading and i am glad that it’s stirring up some good stuff for you! i really always appreciate hearing that somehow this crazy stuff matters to some folks.

  • Love this series! I really resonated with what Karl said about how it used to be about better sermons and more more more. I used to totally feel like that, well, still do in some areas, with the golden handcuffs of productivity. It has been such an intersting paradox, ;), as how I lean more and more into myself and my role on the team, that I hopefully bring more by doing so. While obviously the “work” is important, it is truly secondary, at least my experience, to really living out our faith and *being* 🙂

    • yeah, the pull toward our worth being about “the job we do” is so strong in all kinds of ways, not just in church leadership but in work & families & all kinds of other relationships. if we only get our value from productivity, we’re hosed.

  • I really enjoyed these two videos. It is interesting hearing about some of the “behind the scene” stuff that shapes the refuge.

    One word that comes to mind is that the refuge is DYNAMIC.

    There is an energy there that is amazing to experience. Each time I have come has been interesting — sometimes exciting! — and new. I think that part of the reason this is so is BECAUSE of the co-pastoring. Also, the fact that each and everyone of us there is equal in importance — and that we can participate — is an awesome thing. We are a community, a family, each and every one of us, and that creates something that is unique and wonderful and amazing to experience.

    • i love that you chose that word! i hope that will continue to be embedded in all that we do because it implies life, change, movement, energy, and hope. i am so glad you are here!

  • Ah! So thankful for this, again. I feel like I have so many questions, but I’m eager to see where you go with it, too, because you’re raising things I hadn’t thought about.

    As I said before, in the intentional community/non-profit I’m working for, we are between Executive Directors. Our first director was a strong, visionary leader. Our second was quite insecure and left after a year, with lots of pain. We’ve been without an official director for a year now, and I feel like it’s really working, we’re doing something like co-pastoring. But some of us still seem to feel like we need a REAL leader, someone with vision to take us forward into the next steps God has for us, someone to “manage” us and keep us accountable.

    Has this issue of vision and forward-thinking come up for you guys, in terms of leadership? Do you do a co-visioning process? And do you have some kind of system of mutual accountability, or a board structure that offers guidance and accountability?

    Also, as you talk about relationship over roles, the question that is coming to mind (though which is still kind of fuzzy) is… how do you know when to invite someone onto your co-pastoring team? If everyone is gifted, and everyone belongs, should everyone lead? Or do you still believe that some are particularly gifted for leadership roles?

    That’s what’s coming to my mind right now. Let me know what you guys think.

    • hey beth, sorry i missed responding to this until now. i am glad that karl did & i agree with what he shared. i think we mistake “we need someone who will help us hone & live out our vision” to mean it has to be one person. on a healthy team or in shared leadership, the vision will be honed & shared together (which is trickier to do because sometimes some of what we think we want we may not actually get) but in the end, i think something stronger emerges & i also think that’s where the giftedness piece really clicks in because we all know there are strong visionaries who don’t have the actual stuff to make the vision happen. the balance that comes from sharing i think really strengthens the overall body. i also believe strongly in each of us are wired very differently and have different passions and that we need to find ways to step into those and fan them into flame instead of trying to be who we aren’t. all have leadership giftedness on our team but it is lived out in different ways because of our different backgrounds & personality types & passions. that feels so important because it is what we each uniquely bring but then that means we must submit to it and honor each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) instead of expecting each of us to be the same. i also personally think that everyone is a leader in some way but it’s okay to say that there are certain leadership gifts/passions/etc. that are needed to cultivate a community. it does not mean that one is more valued or important than others but it does mean that it is maybe more needed in certain seasons in the life of a community or organization. we are processing down we go in our wednesday eve house of refuge and someone shared with me afterward about how the diffusing power thought really keeps the leadership thing too far in the forefront. i really challenged him, though, that leadership doesn’t have to mean hierarchy but rather it is being catalysts. i think every group/organization/community/whatever-we-want-to-call-it needs catalysts and cultivators, people who are gifted to nurture and support the people/mission/purpose. i think often we are afraid of leadership because we’ve had so many bad experiences with it or we lean into expecting too much of leadership because we want someone to save the day. okay there’s my ramble for the morning! peace to you and some copastoring interviews are coming soon, i am just behind!

      • Thanks so much, Kathy and Karl. I especially like your words “catalyst” and “cultivator,” Kathy, and your description of a visionary as part of a team, not necessarily as the “boss,” Karl. More food for thought…

  • thanks beth for your questions and interest. kathy may want to add to my comments, but i will give it a crack.
    i am sure i will sound a bit confused and not particularly clear, but i am still trying to work this all out.

    lets start with the vision/leader piece- i think most orgs need a strong visionary leader. but is it not interesting how that always equates to “boss”? why? can a visionary person be just a part of a team and be no less visionary- i say yes.
    i often get to bring my dreams for the future to our team, and often they feel inspired to know more and eventually it even happens. sometimes, my “vision” is not such a good idea and that becomes clear as we process together. i live in that world more than some other team mates.

    on how to add to the team, again i would say yes, that a talent for leadership seems to be noticed by the team before someone would be invited to sit in that role. i mean leader in the sense of being a strong presence with their own talent ( you can insert any gift or talent you can think of and it will be needed on our team)

    it is late, but i will keep thinking, again- thanks, karl


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.