Harvest the Power: Developing Lay Leadership

A Tapestry of Faith Program for Adults

Many Unitarian Universalists experience a deepening commitment to their faith and congregation as a call to accept a position of leadership—as a lay worship leader, a leader of children or youth or a member of a task force, committee or governing board. Harvest the Power provides leadership skill development that goes hand-in-hand with faith development. The program helps lay leaders grow in spirit as they grow as leaders. Harvest the Power addresses the reality that today’s leaders operate at a time of rapid cultural change, both in and outside our congregations. Leaders need a broad range of skills, both technical and visionary. The program’s 12 workshops offer opportunities for both new and experienced leaders to enrich the skills they bring to their leadership and to experience their leadership journey as a Unitarian Universalist faith journey.

About the Author

Gail Tittle, M.S.W., is the manager for curriculum development at the Protective Services Training Institute of the University of Houston (Texas) Graduate College of Social Work. She holds an M.S.W. from the University of Illinois and served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force.

The Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle, a retired naval officer, serves as the minister of the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston, Texas. He holds an M.Div. from Meadville Lombard Theological School and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Illinois.

Gail Forsyth-Vail is the adult programs director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Lifespan Faith Development staff group. She is a master’s level credentialed religious educator with an M.A. from Rivier College. Gail is the 2007 recipient of the Angus MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education and the author of Stories in Faith.

Preface

Many Unitarian Universalists experience a deepening commitment to their faith and congregation as a call to accept a position of leadership—as a lay worship leader, a leader of children or youth or a member of a task force, committee or governing board. Harvest the Power provides leadership skill development that goes hand-in-hand with faith development. The program helps lay leaders grow in spirit as they grow as leaders.

Harvest the Power addresses the reality that today's leaders operate at a time of rapid cultural change, both in and outside our congregations. Leaders need a broad range of skills, both technical and visionary. The program's 12 workshops offer opportunities for both new and experienced leaders to enrich the skills they bring to their leadership and to experience their leadership journey as a Unitarian Universalist faith journey.

As one in the Tapestry of Faith series of curricula for adults, Harvest the Power weaves Unitarian Universalist values, Principles and Sources with four strands: spiritual development, ethical development, Unitarian Universalist identity development and faith development:

Spiritual Development. In Everyday Spiritual Practice, Scott Alexander defines spirituality as our relationship with the Spirit of Life, however we understand it. Our spirituality is our deep, reflective and expressed response to the awe, wonder, joy, pain and grief of being alive. Tapestry of Faith programs seek to form children, youth and adults who:

  • Know they are lovable beings of infinite worth, imbued with powers of the soul and obligated to use their gifts, talents and potentials in the service of life
  • Appreciate the value of spiritual practice as a means of deepening faith and integrating beliefs and values with everyday life.

Ethical Developmen t. When we develop our ethics, we develop our moral values—our sense of what is right and wrong. We also enhance our ability to act on those values, overcoming oppressions and despair. Tapestry of Faith programs seek to form children, youth and adults who:

  • Realize they are moral agents, capable of making a difference in the lives of other people, challenging structures of social and political oppression and promoting the health and well being of the planet
  • Accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith in the service of diversity, justice and compassion.

Unitarian Universalist Identity Developmen t. Participation in a Unitarian Universalist congregation does not automatically create a Unitarian Universalist identity. Personal identification with Unitarian Universalism begins when individuals start to call themselves Unitarian Universalist and truly feel a part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation or community. Identity is strengthened as individuals discover and resonate with the stories, symbols and practices of Unitarian Universalism. Tapestry of Faith programs develop children, youth and adults who:

  • Affirm they are part of a Unitarian Universalist religious heritage and community of faith that has value and provides resources for living
  • Recognize the need for community, affirming the importance of families, relationships and connections between and among generations
  • Accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith in the service of diversity, justice and compassion.

Faith Development . When we develop in faith, we develop as meaning-makers. Faith is about embracing life's possibilities, growing in our sense of being "at home in the universe." Faith is practiced in relationships with others. While faith has aspects that are internal and personal, it is best supported in a community with shared symbols, stories, traditions and values. Unitarian Universalist faith development emphasizes each person's religious journey, each person's lifelong process of bringing head, heart and hands to seeking and knowing ultimate meaning.

Each Harvest the Power workshop weaves these strands together, to help our leaders grow in their identity and faith as Unitarian Universalists as they grow in their leadership roles. May these values come to life through your facilitation of these workshops, in collaboration with those who bring their spirits, minds and hearts. May you enjoy a transformational experience of congregational leadership.

Gail Forsyth-Vail, Unitarian Universalist Association Adult Programs Director

The Program

One of the greatest roles of a leader in congregational life is not "being in charge" but ensuring that everyone learns to hear and tell the stories that shape our understanding of ourselves and one another. The narratives we tell tend to become the reality we are capable of living; they determine how we understand leadership and the sorts of leaders we can imagine or allow ourselves to be. — Wayne Floyd, contemporary educator and writer

The Harvest the Power program was created not only to strengthen the skills and the confidence of individuals who have accepted a leadership role in our congregations, but also to provide the intentional faith development of integrated leaders who model healthy personal, spiritual and leadership practices.

It is stating the obvious to say our world is in a time of great and rapid change. Social systems, including the ways we communicate, are changing rapidly. Congregational life competes with many other priorities on people's calendars. Institutions that once seemed stable are in flux. People struggle to manage the demands of family life, work life and outside interests, hobbies and volunteer work. It is truly remarkable that so many come forward and agree—some with great enthusiasm—to accept leadership positions in our congregations. What a gift they give their faith community—a gift of their time, their love and their talent. That gift deserves the best support and guidance the congregation can offer so that volunteers experience leadership as challenging, yet rewarding, and an opportunity for spiritual growth as well as skill development. This program helps congregations develop and strengthen leaders in a way that honors the gifts each brings.

Harvest the Power uses a spiral learning model. The 12 workshops are structured in three units of four workshops each. Within each unit, the workshops explore progressively deeper aspects of leadership. Workshops 1 through 4 comprise a unit on identity. Participants explore their own leadership and religious journeys, the meanings of power and authority, and turning points and change opportunities in their lives and congregations. Workshops 5 through 8 comprise a unit on purpose , or what ends we serve. This unit delves into the experience of leadership. Participants explore the choices they make and how leaders can honor their own needs along with the needs of others in the leadership group and the congregation. This unit invites careful consideration of how leaders care for their own spirits in order to keep them from being buffeted by congregational storms. It ends with an exploration of the importance of recognizing those who are on the margins of our faith communities so that their voices will matter in the life of the congregation. The third unit focuses on path, inviting leaders to learn skills and ways of thinking which will enable them to lead a congregation through change processes in a healthy way. This unit introduces congregational system theory and explores ways for leaders to respond to congregational conflict and difficult behavior. It looks at the complexities of leadership in a time of change and gives leaders tools for identifying effective and ineffective leadership responses. The final workshop of this unit and of the program invites participants to consider an array of metaphors for leadership and to work with a group to create their own.

The Harvest the Power program presents a model of leadership that has more questions than answers. In many cases, the job of the leader is to ask the right question and provide a framework that allows for answers to emerge from the congregation. May these workshops provide the basis for fruitful conversations and healthy decision-making among congregational leaders.

Goals

This program will:

  • Affirm the spiritual and emotional gifts as well as the skills that each person brings to a leadership position
  • Encourage congregations and participants to view holding a leadership position as an opportunity to enrich and deepen the leader's faith
  • Provide tools for leaders to work with congregations in times of change
  • Lead participants to develop an understanding of the importance of personal spiritual practice and integrity to healthy leadership
  • Explore reflection and deep listening as important practices of healthy leadership
  • Draw distinctions between management and leadership and invite participants to be intentional in creating space for leadership questions
  • Introduce system theory and provide some practice with system theory to explore congregational issues
  • Invite participants to look at conflict as an indicator in the congregational system and to respond accordingly
  • Provide opportunities to create narratives and metaphors that express participants' understanding of the practice of adaptive leadership
  • Deepen and enrich the experience of our congregational leaders, and by extension, the ability of our congregations to live out their missions and values, both in congregational life and in the wider world.

Leaders

A team of two or more adults who have experience as congregational leaders should facilitate the Harvest the Power workshops. Working with a partner allows workshop leaders to plan together and to share facilitation responsibilities. Be intentional about bringing different perspectives and experiences to your facilitation team. For example, consider co-facilitators of different genders and different ages. Workshop facilitators may be laypersons or religious professionals.

Facilitators with these strengths may be especially effective:

  • Experience in congregational leadership as a committee chair, a member of a governing board or a leader in a young adult group or in another leadership capacity
  • Time and willingness to prepare thoroughly for each workshop and to take appropriate action in the event of unexpected cancellations
  • Experience in facilitating a group process
  • Ability to create and nurture a supportive, respectful and safe community in the workshops and follow all congregational safe congregation guidelines and policies
  • Willingness to listen deeply and to let "answers" emerge from the group process
  • Integrity, and the ability to maintain strong boundaries, especially in the midst of challenging conversations
  • Respect for the congregation and its mission
  • Commitment to Unitarian Universalist Principles and to the faith development components of this curriculum
  • Respect for individuals, regardless of age, race, social class, gender identity, sexual orientation and ability, and willingness to modify the workshop plans to support the full inclusion of all participants
  • Willingness to support healthy group process by reinforcing ground rules politely and confidently.

Participants

The Harvest the Power program is designed for adult participants of all ages and stages of life, young adult through elder, who currently hold positions of congregational leadership or are considering a congregational leadership position. Possible participants include current and potential board members, committee members, task force members or small group leaders. Workshops can accommodate any number of participants, with six a suggested minimum. If you have more than 12, consider adding a third facilitator to your team.

Integrating All Participants

People of all ages have a range of abilities, disabilities and sensitivities. Be sure to ask individual participants to identify any disability or sensitivity-related accommodations they will need.

Find general guidance for accommodating disabilities and sensitivities in Workshop 1, Leader Resource 1. The Unitarian Universalist Association website and staff can offer guidance for including people with specific disabilities; consult the Accessibility section of the Leaders' Library on the UUA website. In addition, some workshop activities suggest specific adaptation under the heading, "Including All Participants."

Participants bring a wide range of learning styles and information processing preferences. With this in mind, the workshops offer a variety of activities. Review each workshop's Alternate Activities. Plan each workshop to best suit your group.

Downloading the Document

You can download this program, save it on your computer, edit it, and print it. Or, you can download individual sessions or workshops.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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