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Speaker: Peter L. Steinke
Dr. Peter L. Steinke continued his topic of "Congregation as Emotional Systems," begun in his opening keynote, in the first workshop in the Congregational Leadership Track for UU University participants.
Steinke began by defining health for congregations as balance. The concept of health applies only to living organisms, and like other living organisms, the congregation's "immune system" is activated when challenged. The "mind affects molecules" in human health, and we've learned that thoughts and feelings are important to health. Health is enhanced when the congregational community functions well; "poorly functioning congregations don't attract people."
Steinke then outlined the characteristics of health congregations:
Steinke continued with ten principles of healthy congregations. A version of this list is also in his book, Healthy Congregations.
In the question period, Dr. Steinke responded to several questions on lay/clergy authority issues, pointing out that actually such tension is "pretty ecumenical." Pastors and congregations, he added, don't spend a lot of time defining how leadership and authority will play out.
Steinke also spoke to issues of differentiation for congregation or board presidents. Clarity that the role is being assumed for a limited period of time is helpful, and it's important to stay connected and to be a leader.
He also spoke to issues of democracy. Groups that are Episcopal want to be more congregational and congregational groups want to have bishops; there are built-in tensions. What's important, said Steinke, is to gain and implement clarity, and not violate principles.
Several questions were about how to deal with individuals who'd helped congregations stay together by over-functioning, and now that over-functioning was getting in the way. Steinke pointed out that we can't take care of people's feelings, if they continue to feel dismissed.
In answer to other questions about time, urgency, and those individuals who see the need for change early, Steinke noted that resistance and rejection are part of the process, and it's not possible to avoid misery. Leaders will attract bullets. A congregation has to ask whether the anxiety of those whose tendency is to nay-say (usually about 16%) is going to determine the congregation's future. And if one or a few have a vision, and can find others with the same vision, they should begin to take action. If their vision's not accepted, they may not be re-elected - but that's the risk of leadership. He added that change missionaries need to mobilize change agents to foster the change; this has the advantage of delegating the anxiety and "sharing the bullets."
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Last updated on Friday, July 20, 2012.
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