Pagan Leadership: Community Building, Facilitation, and Personal Growth

Do you want healthier Pagan communities? Explore tools, techniques, and ideas for Pagan leadership and community building, facilitation skills for meetings, rituals, and workshops, and the personal and spiritual work that underlies all of this and that is crucial if we want to build stronger, healthier, more sustainable groups.

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Paganism and Problem Solving

I’m absolutely thrilled to be writing for PaganSquare. My blog here will focus on topics of leadership, community building, and facilitation skills for classes, rituals, and meetings, as well as the personal and spiritual growth work beneath all those skills and tools. My goal is to help more people become the leaders and community builders who can help foster more sustainable groups.

Why do I write about these topics? Once upon a time I realized that I wasn’t a very good leader. I enjoyed the energy of being with a group but when things fell apart, I was intensely frustrated. Since I like organizing events and big projects, I figured I should learn the skills and tools to do that well. I didn’t plan on teaching leadership, but after I began training in the Diana’s Grove leadership and ritual arts program, I noticed how few groups seemed to have access to those tools. I started teaching at local Pagan events, and then at festivals, and then I started writing.

When I went through a painful blow-up of a Pagan group, that further inspired me to teach tools that will hopefully help others from having to go through the same thing I did. When I travel and teach leadership, I hear from so many people who have faced problems in their groups. I want to help people to build stronger communities.

It’s true that these can often be uncomfortable topics, but I feel they are crucial to explore in order to build healthier communities. There are a lot of ways that we can work together to build the kind of magical and spiritually fulfilling groups that will serve us and empower us.

Talking About Problems

In the field of strategic design there’s a saying: before you can design the thing right, you have to design the right thing. There’s another axiom in strategic design: the solution is inherent once the problem is defined. In my experience as a design consultant and as a community leader, I’ve seen this play out fairly consistently. Often people solve the wrong problem, or never examine the problem at all.

The challenge is that many people don’t want to discuss group problems. There are a host of reasons why. One is fairly simple; talking about problems can be a bummer. Many Pagans, in their quest to focus on the positive, try to avoid what they perceive as “negativity,” and hashing out problems can be exhausting.

Yet, we can’t solve our problems until we examine them. An engineer can’t diagnose what’s wrong with a broken machine without taking it apart.

I’m not saying this is easy. However, it’s a necessary part of the process if we want to build healthy groups. There’s a particular magic, dynamic, inspiring sensation when a group is working well, when things are coming together and everyone’s in alignment, and it can take work to build that.

What Type of Group?

When I travel and teach leadership workshops, I hear some consistent problems come up. One is that many small groups never bother to set up any kind of a group charter or set of agreements, or even transparently discuss shared values. Why? Two quick reasons are that it can be a buzzkill to the new-group energy. Another reason is that many people aren’t even sure how to facilitate that. And yet, the sole act of discussing values, goals, mission statement, and general agreements for activities and behavior can prevent larger conflicts a year or two down the road.

Many group conflicts arise because everyone assumed they were all on the same page about the purpose of the group…except it turned out that Jane wanted an intimate coven, Barb wanted the group to start offering public rituals, and Fred wanted the group to begin teaching introductory workshops to the broader community.

When Jane reluctantly agrees to help support the public rituals but gets burned out and Barb gets upset, it’s not as simple as “Jane dropped the ball.” Jane and Barb had fundamentally different ideas about the intention of the group and what type of work they were signing on to do. When Fred starts teaching workshops, he gets ticked off because no one else in the group is attending or helping.

Jane, Barb, and Fred aren’t bad people, they just never articulated their expectations.

Now, the Pagan community doesn’t suddenly become a paradise where everyone’s happy and there is no conflict even if we all discussed bylaws and intentions ahead of time. However, we can begin to head some conflicts off before they happen, and address other conflicts as they unfold.

It’s not always fun. But, cleaning the bathroom isn’t always fun either, and eventually somebody’s gotta do it.

Communicating Expectations

Maybe Jane, Barb, Fred, and the other members of their group had a meeting early on and talked about their goals and visions before they started trying to run public rituals and classes. Maybe they addressed that all of them together didn’t share enough commonality to form a group at that time, or that they needed to wait before taking on bigger projects.

Sometimes realizing that you’re not all on the same page can be an unwelcome splash of ice water, but it’s far better than realizing (during an event) that half your event volunteers resent you.

In other cases, the disagreements between group members may be more interpersonal or based on values or politics. And of course there’s the ever-present challenge of romantic relationships within a small community. Lots of problems can (and do) come up, but there are ways to work through many of them.

My goal with this blog is to articulate some of the challenges that Pagan groups face, and hopefully help offer some solutions as well. Sometimes there are clear tips and tools that can help, and sometimes it’s just the long-term process of doing our own deep personal growth work and looking in the mirror. Often, we ourselves are the root cause of problems in our groups. Taking a look into the mirror at ourselves is often quite a challenge but this too is crucial if we’re going to see more sustainable communities.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or ideas on topics you’d like to have me address for future posts!

Last modified on
Tagged in: community Paganism
An artist, author, ritualist, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for Circle Magazine, and her writing also appears in several anthologies. She’s also the author of several fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces. Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.  


  • Tamarra Lynn-Richmond
    Tamarra Lynn-Richmond Monday, 16 February 2015

    It is wonderful to finally see that someone intends to tackles these issues head on. I've seen a lot of groups rise and fall over the years when I felt that some of them could have really offered something for the community in a larger sense long term. I look forward to reading more.

  • Sheilia Canada
    Sheilia Canada Monday, 16 February 2015

    What a great article. I look forward to learning more leadership skills & suggestions. I run an open Pagan Community group & have faced many of these challenges. Thank you for giving back to the greater community & helping us leaders keep our groups thriving.

  • Rick
    Rick Thursday, 19 February 2015

    So looking forward to more. The problem in our area is relationships between the groups. It has caused a lot of people to go solitary simply because they don't want the drama. Our group does not talk about the other groups but encourages newcomers to investigate the various opportunities for themselves.

  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight Wednesday, 25 February 2015

    Thanks! I've been writing on topics of Pagan leadership and community building for a while, and I hope that these articles offer some useful tips for people struggling with issues like these.

  • Rick
    Rick Thursday, 26 February 2015

    One of the topics I might suggest is the art of managing volunteers. It is so much different from managing people you are paying!

  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight Thursday, 26 February 2015

    Rick, you're very right about that. Volunteer management is absolutely different. I can certainly do a post about that, though I know of others who are better at it and I might enlist their aid in speaking to it. I'm good at some aspects of volunteer management, not so much in others. But that's part of leadership too--recognizing what you're good at and what you aren't. There's a great essay on volunteer management in the leadership anthology Taylor Ellwood and I are putting together for Immanion Press.

    Thanks for the idea, and feel free to send along suggestions any time! :)

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