All institutions have practices that shape how work gets done and how people develop.

Christ-shaped leadership is about developing a fundamentally Christian background in an institution so that Christian thought and practices are done by habit, as second nature.

This page will explore the idea of Christ-shaped leadership, through essays and stories that illustrate what it looks like in practice. We recommend you read the essays in order before turning to the stories and recommendations for deeper study.

Exploring the idea

Becoming a Christ-shaped leader »

New Testament scholar C. Kavin Rowe explores the “backgrounds” that help us make sense of our lives and how we can think Christianly in our institutions. This is the first in a five-part series Rowe wrote.

Learning about failure »

The most startling aspect of Jesus’ ministry is that it ended in failure. Thus, learning and teaching others how to fail is what Christ-shaped leaders have to offer the world.

Success follows the pattern of Christ »

Christ-shaped leaders include, rather than deny, the reality of failure and death, and thus establish patterns of life that hope in, live out and anticipate resurrection.

Making connections as the work of Christ-shaped leaders »

Christian leaders cannot compartmentalize their lives, because Christ is the Lord of all -- so all things must be seen in relation to Christ.

Cultivating resilience »

Resilience in the Christian sense is a kind of lived hope, a way to keep getting up again that has its roots in God’s permanent faithfulness.

Seeing the Idea in Practice

Boston College

Maintaining and institutionalizing an identity

Boston College expects all of its faculty members to articulate how their research “elaborates upon the Catholic tradition.”
Read more »


A congregation and its members develop a deeper Christian background

Recognizing that congregants were not moving toward deeper faith and service, Methodist pastor Mike Slaughter urged them to give to Sudan sacrificially. That effort transformed the church. Read more »

On Mission

Embodying God’s love in a clinic for the poor

Lawndale Christian Health Center has ensured that every employee models its motto – Loving God, Loving People – in caring for those in need in the community. Read more »


Acknowledging failure, establishing hope

A successful program to help women leaving prison is decidedly Christian -- and unusual – in its willingness to hand over trust, acceptance and mercy to those who fully understand that they’ve thrown away those opportunities in the past. Read more »

Recommended resources to learn more

Love made me an inventor

During Burundi’s civil war in the early 1990s, Maggy Barankitse witnessed horrific acts of genocide -- in one night she saw 72 people slaughtered. Out of this experience she created Maison Shalom, a place for Burundi’s orphans to survive and thrive.
Learn more about this recommendation »

Practicing our Faith

Edited by Dorothy Bass, this book is a call to a life shaped by practices. 
Purchase this book »

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Pastoral study grants

The Louisville Institute Pastoral Study Project Grant awards grants of up to $20,000 to support individual or collaborative study projects on Christian life, religious practices and institutions, and ideas for the church, communities or the world. Clergy, lay leaders and staff working in diverse Christian contexts in the United States or Canada are eligible to apply. Deadline is August 1.

Learn more