5 Ways the Walk to Emmaus Can Help Your Church Discover, Develop, and Deploy Passionate Spiritual Leaders

By Joe Webb

Many West Virginia United Methodists have attended the popular Walk to Emmaus weekend retreats. Emmaus has been described by many as a “mountaintop” spiritual experience where people become more deeply acquainted with God’s grace. A number of people have dedicated their lives to Jesus on Emmaus weekends.

However, the primary purpose of Emmaus is not to introduce people to Jesus for the first time, but to motivate Christian leaders to take up the incarnational call to the church to be his hands and feet in the world.

Here are 5 ways your church can use the Walk to Emmaus as a leadership development tool:

  1. Grooming new leaders: One reason many people give for not serving in church leadership is a lack of confidence in their knowledge of spiritual matters. With its 15 biblically based talks on various aspects of the Christian life, Emmaus offers participants both in-depth instruction and access to resources for continuing growth. The intensive exercise in covenant community is also a way to help new leaders live into the accountability necessary for church leadership.
  2. Re-energizing burned-out leaders: Do you have folks in your church who have “been there, done that,” and are no longer interested in serving? Many times the reason is that church leadership often becomes more of an obligation than an exercise of God-given gifts and passions. Experiencing the love of Jesus as the motivation behind both Christian action and the work of the church during an Emmaus weekend can help those leaders (including clergy!) rediscover their desire to serve.
  3. Missional focus: The church exists for mission. Period. But in too many cases our churches become little more than social clubs. Emmaus can help focus your leaders on God’s mission to transform lives and renew the world.
  4. Empowerment of laity: We all know how deeply modern consumer culture has infiltrated the church. Pastors are often viewed as purveyors of religious goods and services, and many congregations expect their clergy to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to not only the spiritual growth of their people but also all the programs and ministries of the church. With an emphasis on the priesthood of all believers and strong reinforcement of the idea that clergy and laity work as equal partners, Emmaus helps create healthier clergy/laity relationships and empowers laity to take initiative in the work of the church.
  5. Ecumenical relationships: How often do churches of different denominations find themselves duplicating efforts in the same communities… or, worse, seeming to compete for members and attention? Emmaus encourages participants not to share their local church/denominational affiliation (or, for that matter, occupations) until the last hours of the weekend retreat. Not knowing one another’s church or occupational background helps people know each other on a personal level first without the artificial filters of church or vocational labels that can often create false biases. Churches in communities with active Emmaus participation from across the denominational and socio-economic spectrum can often find innovative ways to cooperate in mission and outreach efforts.

If you’d like to learn more about the Walk to Emmaus (or its youth program known as Chrysalis), visit emmaus.upperroom.org. There are four active Emmaus communities serving the WV Conference area:

Mid-Ohio Valley Emmaus – midohiovalleyemmaus.org

North-Central West Virginia Emmaus & Chrysalis – ncwvemmaus.org

Kanawha Valley Emmaus Community – kvec.org

Eastern Panhandle of WV Walk to Emmaus – westvirginiaemmaus.org

Rev. Joe Webb is a Provisional Deacon who has served as both a lay and clergy member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Emmaus board of directors and is a veteran of 10 Emmaus weekend leadership teams in the past 12 years. Contact Joe at faithrants@gmail.com.