Lead With the Spirit: A Manual for Associate Leadership

Lead With the Spirit: A Manual for Associate Leadership Cover A large part of the mission of NACAR is in developing and delivering resources and providing ministry training to those who minister to and work within the Associate-Religious relationship in North America. As professional leaders within this movement, the need for resources and ongoing training is critical. This manual has gathered knowledge proven by experience and is organized in a way that makes it easy to use. It addresses the broader questions of charism and relationship, yet it is both prudent and practical. Most importantly it is designed to grow as we as leaders grow in our shared experience and wisdom.

NACAR desires to join our collective wisdom in service of God and one another as we strive to identify trends and growing edges with the Associate-Religious relationship.

This manual does not contain all the answers to every question but is meant to be a living document a "work in progress," in which the collective wisdom of our experience will be written for the benefit of all of us.

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Please note: The physical mailing address for ordering the manual is the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Cincinnati, Ohio. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to get NACAR mail at this time. We ask that as much as possible you order the manual online until further notice. We are able to mail out, but not pick up mail sent to our mailing address. Thank you for your patience.

Individual sections are available below.

Prayer as Sanctuary: Designing and Leading Prayer Experiences Index pageThis leadership manual chapter addresses what is at the heart of associate gatherings: prayer. Associates in leadership, be it the director position or one called to gather a group, recognize the desire for and call to pray. This chapter begins with a discussion on the role of prayer and the kinds of prayer.

It specifically outlines different kinds of prayer services and provides examples of each, both those unique to associate gatherings as well as general prayer services frequently used.

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Building and Sustaining Vibrant Groups Index pageThis chapter addresses the concept of groups and offers practical wisdom on group dynamics to facilitate leaders in ensuring that the groups which they oversee are vibrant and life-giving.

The groups with which this chapter addresses are those that have repeat sessions with defined purpose and agendas. Some have a specific beginning and end, especially when tasks are to be accomplished; others are on-going. These groups also are small in nature—usually between 5 and 9 participants. The dynamics of large group gatherings are not the focus of this chapter.

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Foster Our Future Index pageWhen asked what they find most challenging about the future of the associate-religious relationship for their religious institute, the 2016 CARA Report shows that many associates, vowed religious and directors/coordinators of associates said that the age of the associates and vowed religious is their greatest concern.

Yet the perspective on age varies. While some vowed women and associates see the aging and diminishment in numbers as a challenge, others see it as an opportunity. As one respondent of the Report said, “Our community has burgeoned with new energy, faith, prayer, spirituality and good works because of our associate relationship. There is a sense of growth and energy, even as we age and diminish in numbers.”

The associate population has grown significantly since the 2000 CARA Report. We know, however, that we are facing a future of unknowns in the continuation of religious institutes and those unknowns lead us to wonder how we might support the future.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide a process of reflection to prepare us to invite others to the associate relationship.

  • How might we assure that the charism of religious institutions continues?
  • What today continues to attract individuals to the associate relationship?
  • How might each of us become attractors, inviting others to live in association?

This section of the leadership manual addresses these questions. It provides a brief background of the associate relationship and addresses the challenge and opportunity to invite others to association. Then it offers suggestions on how to invite others to the associate-religious relationship, followed by reflection questions to help advance thought and action. Each part includes italicized comments from the CARA Report which highlight and emphasize the discussion.

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Associate Spirituality Tab 5The spiritual path of the laity, as well as all others, is not simple or easy. There is always an opportunity for spiritual movement and growth. As a person who provides leadership for associate relationships, it is important to have an appreciation where an associate is in her/his faith development in order to minister to her/him. Understanding the flow of faith development also allows an associate leader to anticipate the needs and questions of an associate without taking it personally. This chapter is designed to address both of these elements: what is a lay/associate spirituality as compared to the traditional model and what is common faith development of people, including associates. In addition, direct applications for associate leaders will be suggested.

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Ongoing FormationFormation for associates does not end once they make their first commitment. It is important to have an intentional process for ongoing formation, inviting those who have entered into this relationship to expand their understanding and experience of the charisms and spirituality of the congregation.

This process should be framed to help associates:

  • deepen their spiritual lives,
  • make a stronger connection to the community's mission and vision,
  • discover ways to be of service to others,
  • unite themselves to the prayer life of associates and vowed members,
  • and gather in companionship and celebration.

This section of the manual will help those who direct the process with information about adult faith formation, ideas for individual journeys and group experiences and three appendices of resources.

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InitialFormation Each religious congregation is unique and formation offered for Associates in each congregation will vary according to these differences. Also, as we all know, there is no "one way" to do associate formation in any situation. Each religious institute must determine the most appropriate way to offer formation for their prospective Associates or Affiliates.

In light of that, NACAR offers another section for the Leadership Manual.

This section, entitled "Essential Steps in Associate Formation," is offered as a starting point for discussion and creativity for your community.

Based on the popular NACAR Workshop, "Ins and Outs of Associate Formation," this section offers insights on these topics: Inquiry, Invitation, Application, Formation Objectives, Commitment, Renewal, Withdrawal and Termination. There will also be a section on the three identified steps of Formation – Information, Integration and Discernment.


  • Chapter One: Inquiry, Invitation, Application
  • Chapter Two: Initial Formation Objectives, Guidelines and Responsibilities
  • Chapter Three: Three Essential Steps of Initial Formation
  • Chapter Four: Commitment, Renewal, Withdrawal, Termination

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Lead with the Spirit Manual Introduction Section
Fundamentals of Associate Leadership

This section contains two parts, the Introduction and Fundamentals of Associate Leadership.

In the Introduction you will find:

  • NACAR Mission & Vision Statement
  • A Letter from the Board Chair
  • A short history

The Fundamentals of Associate Leadership includes the following Chapters:

  • Chapter One: Associate & Religious Relationship
  • Chapter Two: Charism, Mission, and Vision
  • ChapterThree: ProfessionalConsiderations
  • ChapterFour:
  • SupportforAssociateLeadership

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© 2018 North American Conference of Associates and Religious.