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Activity 4: Giving the Work Back (35 minutes), Workshop 11: Keeping Distress Productive

In "Harvest the Power," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 3 for all participants.
  • Read Handout 3 and consider the ways the congregational leaders effectively "give the work back to the people" in each scenario.
  • Post blank newsprint.

Description of Activity

Explain that this activity will explore some ways to discern underlying issues that feed conflict or difficult behavior. Point out that leaders who are prepared to seek and address underlying issues can encourage healthy disagreement as a route to solving congregational problems.

Read the first set of scenarios in Handout 3. Invite observations about what the items in Set 1 have in common. Guide participants toward the idea that, in each case, the congregation (or a subset of the congregation) engaged in learning new ways to meet an adaptive challenge. Be ready to write these points on newsprint as they surface in the conversation:

  • In all these scenarios, underlying conflicts and tensions can be identified and brought into the open.
  • People are encouraged to listen deeply to one another and work together toward solutions.
  • Rather than absorb the anxiety that change or conflict has created in the system, the leaders introduce a mechanism for the members of the congregation to explore the tensions around an issue.

Note: The language participants use to express the key concepts may be different—listen for concepts. If no participant raises these points, raise them yourself. Allow 15 minutes for this part of the activity.

Now, read the second set of scenarios in Handout 3 aloud, one at a time. For each item, invite participants to comment on why the second scenario demonstrates a less effective model for dealing with congregational challenges. Ideally, participants will consider these items in a group of six to ten people. If the group is larger than ten, form smaller groups and ask each group to record their responses on newsprint and post for a large-group discussion.

Participants may observe (in their own words):

  • In some cases, leaders set too broad an agenda.
  • In some cases, leaders do not provide a safe process or provide appropriate support.
  • In some cases, leaders treat the issue as a management rather than a leadership issue.
  • By using a survey or vote, leaders ignore emotions about a topic and create winners and losers.
  • When leaders provide information that supports an already-made decision, they sidestep others' concerns or emotions about the issue.

Allow 20 minutes for this part of the activity. Encourage participants to bring their own congregational experiences into the conversation as appropriate. If you have formed two or more groups, allow 15 minutes for small group work and five minutes for sharing insights in the large group.

Invite general comment about "giving the work back," and how congregational leaders might make this a regular practice.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

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