Building Spiritual Life Teams: A Program For Lay Spiritual Leadership In Your Church That ALWAYS Works!

This week’s blog post is by Rev. Bobbie McKay, Ph.D., a UCC  minister, author, and licensed psychologist. Rev. McKay co-created The Spiritual Health Center, NFP and conducted a research study on Spiritual Life in the United Church of Christ. Based on the findings of this study, “Spiritual Life Teams” were born and the study has been extended into the Episcopal Church, the Catholic Church and the Reform Jewish Community in the greater Chicago area, as well as to Islamic populations in New York, Illinois, and Florida. Rev. McKay currently works as Pastoral Associate in Spiritual Life at the Glenview Community Church in Glenview, Illinois.  

Imagine this picture in your church: Six to eight lay people sitting around a table. One member of the group reaches out her hands to the member on either side and says: “Who wants to start?”- an automatic signal to begin our Spiritual Life Team meeting with a spoken-out-loud prayer from every member of the group. In that simple act of hands reaching out to the people on either side, the Spiritual Life Team meeting begins.

For the last ten years, people in UCC churches in Florida and Illinois have been transformed by an amazing program entitled:  Spiritual Life Teams: Building Lay Spiritual Leadership in the Church. This unique program creates a powerful understanding that God is “real”, present with us and calling us to grow as spiritual people in an increasingly non-spiritual world.

AND IT IS 100% SUCCESSFUL! Large churches, small churches, thriving churches, churches in transition have all responded to this remarkable program with its agenda to grow “Spirit” in the church through empowering lay spiritual leadership. 

Based on solid research findings that people have transforming experiences of the presence or action of God (see in previous post Spiritual Life in the UCC and Beyond) but never talk about these experiences for fear of being seen as weird, crazy or too religious, this program gives powerful meaning to the words: Spiritual Transformation. God becomes “real” for everyone.


I created this program to include a workbook on spiritual life which everyone reads together at each session. The workbook enables the “team” to engage in a process of spiritual growth from learning to pray out loud, identifying and sharing God experiences; to bringing these experiences to the congregation and beyond as a means of creating the church as a “Spiritual Destination” in the community. In churches where there are multiple spiritual life teams, the teams act as a crucible of spiritual leadership multiplying the message throughout the entire congregation.

Today, spiritual life appears to be attracting considerable attention in mainstream congregations. If this trend continues, this well documented program will provide an approach to spiritual life that can offer the church a new strategy to attract those populations of baby boomers and younger generations who have felt disengaged from religion but attracted to spiritual opportunities.

Also available is a program specifically designed for people sixty and over to learn about and experience the surprising Spiritual Gifts discovered only in the aging process. Based on a separate study in Spiritual Life in the Aging Process, this program is an important vehicle to attract that population of older people who have left the church or no longer find a valued place for themselves in the congregation.

Interfaith Spiritual Life Teams in this program have met in New York State, Florida and beginning soon in Illinois as unique and powerful opportunities to discover our common spiritual roots and create spiritual dialogue that connects us as the people of God joined to bring peace to the world.

A surprising and unexpected bi-product of this program is the outpouring of love generated by these spiritual life team experiences.  Because this program is not concerned with therapeutic solutions, psychological issues, or the “business” of the church, the experience is infused with Spirit and interactions between team members become deeply accepting and supportive. It is as if Spirit, when released into a group setting with no other agenda, spontaneously and effortlessly unfolds, creating powerful spiritual connections through which God becomes even more REAL.

The universality of this response is truly mind boggling! Can you imagine the life of a church leadership committee that proceeds from the depth of a Spiritual Life Team experience? Can you imagine a church that brings in new members through the “door” of spiritual life? Can you imagine a church in which the constancy of God’s Love is reflected in multiple opportunities for God to be made “real” in the church?”

Based on solid research and beta tested for ten years, Spiritual Life Teams will bring new Spirit to life in your church and in your community. The program is entirely inclusive, Spirit focused, and lay directed. For more information about the Spiritual Life Team Program contact Dr. Bobbie McKay: or visit her website:

Interested in learning more about these Spiritual Life Groups?

Join us at Glenview Community Church in Glenview, IL on Saturday, May 19 to experience a group and learn how your church can offer these life changing experiences to your community. For more information please contact Rev. Ivy Beckwith at or at 216-736-3875.


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