Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Complexity and Careful Leadership

by the Reverend Kenneth Gordon Hurto, Lead Executive, UUA Southern Region

We all use tools. That is a defining trait of being human. Tools are good. Yet, as this adage from Abraham Maslow suggests, it is important to have the right tool when faced with a problem.

We on the Region’s field staff like tools. We are eager to make them available to congregational leaders to help them cope with the challenges of the modern church. Here are a few:

We like “small group ministry” as a way to help our people go deeper with one another and in their understanding of life values and commitments.

We think “program budgeting” is a necessary tool to align a congregation’s Mission with its resources.

Oh, Mission: we believe it vitally important to have and review every few years a congregational “Statement of Mission.” We really want it to be short, memorable, and reflective of the congregation’s core values.

Perhaps more than others, perhaps, our team needs to review congregational web sites. We know they are better tools if they are fresh, colorful, addressed to the next guest who may look you up before coming to worship, and if address, telephone number and directions are prominent on your splash page!

In the same vein, we have learned the good results from an active, well-monitored Facebook page. Learning how to effectively use social media is a must have tool.

Our work often includes congregational transitions. We have tools to help recruit your religious professionals, to work out letters of agreement, or lead a “start-up” workshop for clarifying roles and responsibilities.

Leadership development is a large tool we use in many settings. The Southern Unitarian Universalist & Dwight Brown Leadership Experiences (coming July 24-29 & August 7-12) and the annual Presidents' Convocations (July 8-10) are mega-tools, at which participants learn in depth about faith development, self-differentiation, conflict management, and congregational growth. This is in addition to the daily consultation our team provides Board Presidents and clergy. We also have a tool called “Extended Leadership Experience” which utilizes area clusters over several months of engagement.

We also like to use something called Appreciative Inquiry, another, Polarity Management, or Compassionate Communication to help congregations move forward in times of change or when tensions build. More recently, we’ve added a tool for inter-cultural and multi-cultural competence called Differences That Make a Difference (May 21) to further our ability to be more inclusive and manage diversity well.

As the song suggests, these are just a few of our favorite things in our tool kit. But make no mistake: tools are of no value when wrongly applied — either because the tool is not apt for the problem or it is used with the wrong intent. This is why I often tell leaders, “how” you lead is more important than anything you do! I am also fond of saying most any tool will work if there is mutual trust, respect and good will, but no tool will work if those qualities are absent.

A growing congregational leader will expand the repertoire of responses (i.e., tools) for addressing problems.  

So, don’t be a one-hammer slammer. Think of yourself as a multi-tool. It will help you in the complex role of leading your congregation.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Florida's Spring Gathering 2016

Florida's Spring Gathering A Chance for Hearts and Voices to be Heard

By Margie Manning, Southern Region Regional Elder Development Team

Unitarian Universalists from throughout Florida turned out for our first Florida Gathering - a chance to worship, learn and grow our spirits in community, while having a great time catching up with friends.
Rev. Kenn Hurto, our Southern Region Executive Lead, and Congregational Life Staff Members Connie Goodbread and Rev. Carlton Smith, as well as Rev. Vail Weller, our UUA's Congregational Giving Director, joined the ministers, congregational staff, lay leaders and all those seeking connections who spent the full day Saturday, March 12 at Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater.
It was the first all-state gathering since April 2015, when congregations in the Florida District and throughout our UUA Southern Region voted to dissolve our district governance. Although we no longer have annual assemblies, and the business that comes with them, such as voting on district officers, we know how important it is to keep our relationships strong, and the Florida Gathering allowed us to do that.
"This was a great opportunity to meet and socialize with UUs from all over Florida," said Elizabeth Anthony, a lay leader at Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville. "I think events like this are awesome times for intercongregational fellowship and learning, and I hope to see more of them in the future."

Rev. Carlton with Jacksonville and Buckman Bridge UUs and friends
The entire group took part in the morning session, which focused on covenant, in a presentation that also was a demonstration of our commitment to shared ministry. Connie walked us through the basics on systems theory, which helps us understand how each of us are connected to our congregations and our congregations are connected to each other. We talked about the importance of trust and the historical roots of covenant in our faith tradition. I - as a member of our Southern Region's Regional Elder Development team, or RED Team - talked about my own experiences with developing a covenant, examples of covenants, and how congregations can deepen their covenant to each other.
Building on the importance of the solemn promises we make to each other, we heard from Rev. Weller about the Generously Investing for Tomorrow (GIFT) program in our Southern Region (the Annual Program Fund elsewhere), and how our congregations' gifts allow our Unitarian Universalist Association to provide the resources that make a difference in people's lives.
For the afternoon, we broke into three smaller groups.
Carlton's workshop, "Social Justice/Witness/Black Lives Matter," was both empowering and refreshing, said Terri Neal, who describes herself as a lapsed Catholic/agnostic who is drawn to Unitarian Universalist churches by our commitment to justice and freedom of thought. As a Black member of a diverse but predominantly White Catholic parish, Terri said she experienced resistance for taking part in social justice actions and found few allies, and she has Black friends who have felt the same in other integrated congregations.
"It was so validating to hear Rev. Smith discuss UU work for racial justice. And, it was incredibly healing to voice frustrations, fears, and suggestions to a mostly White audience genuinely open to listen and act," Terri said. "My heart, as well as my voice, had been heard."

It was enlightening to hear how other Unitarian Universalists understand - or don't understand - the Black Live Matter movement, said Elizabeth. "This was a reminder to me of how we have to make sure that we are taking the initiative to make sure we understand the causes that we choose to support."
Connie led a discussion of "Leadership as a Spiritual Practice," touching on many of the topics explored in much greater detail at the Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Institute, and the Dwight Brown Leadership Experience.
Kenn's workshop, "The Zen of Stewardship," helped participants understand that there's much more than asking for and receiving money involved in successful stewardship efforts. We need to share our stories to build the relationships that are the foundation for financial success. Kenn also showed us how to make a budget that helps everyone understand how our contributions help our congregations live their missions.
This Gathering was made possible by lots of people who worked behind the scenes to make it happen seamlessly, including Harriet Ha-Sidi, a member of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater who pulled together a team of volunteers for registration, setup and food service. Our thanks to UUC for hosting, and to all who took part, for helping Unitarian Universalism continue to grow in the Sunshine State.
-Written by Margie Manning, a member of the Southern Region Regional Elder Development Team and a member of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater

48 participants representing 17 congregations attended the 2016 Florida Spring Gathering event.