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Boundaries and Confidentiality Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Congregational leaders
  • Religious professionals

Goals

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of various boundary issues
  • Become comfortable talking about issues of power, privacy, confidentiality, and secrecy
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of various boundary issues
  • Develop educational strategies for your congregation to address issues of boundaries, power, and communica-tion

Materials

  • Copies of “Boundaries and Confidentiality” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Copies of Handout 7, Three Case Studies, for all participants

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
  • Distribute “Boundaries and Confidentiality” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering        5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 458 by Walter Royal Jones Jr. in Singing the Living Tradition and read it aloud together. Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop agenda with the participants.

Focusing       5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting        20 minutes
Invite participants to think about the information their committee is privy to in the course of its business and pose the following questions for discussion:

  • Are there ways in which respect for the privacy of individual members and the need for transparency in conducting congregational affairs come into conflict? Can you identify possible conflicts and how they can be addressed?
  • Do you find the typology for different kinds of secrets outlined in “Boundaries and Confidentiality” helpful? Can you think of either real or hypothetical examples of each type of secret that might exist in a congregation or in your area of church business or activity?
  • Do you think the four guidelines from William Rankin (page 31) are helpful in deciding whether or not to keep a confidence? Do they offer guidance about how to resolve the potential conflict areas identified in the first question?
  • What do you think of the notion that some gossip can be “holy” and strengthen communal bonds?

Exploring        10 minutes
Ask your group to develop step-by-step guidelines for how it will handle sensitive information in your congregation. Record the steps on newsprint.

Closing        5 minutes
Express gratitude for the meaningful work that lies ahead and ask for mutual responsibility and shared guidance in this work in order that your actions do not bring harm to an already hurting world.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Congregational leaders
  • Religious professionals

Goals

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of various boundary issues
  • Become comfortable talking about issues of power and privacy, confidentiality, and secrecy
  • Develop educational strategies for your congregation to address issues of boundaries, power, and communication

Materials

  • Copies of “Boundaries and Confidentiality” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Copies of Handout 7, Three Case Studies, for all participants

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
  • Distribute “Boundaries and Confidentiality” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering     20 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 458 by Walter Royal Jones Jr. in Singing the Living Tradition and read it aloud together.

If you have time, play “Pass the Secret” as an inclusion exercise and ice breaker. To play, whisper into the first person’s ear a complex sentence starting with “Someone told me . . . (For example, “Someone told me that Joe doesn’t like the new pulpit cloth that Moe gave the church, and he wants it removed and replaced with a World Religions one.”) Each person whispers it, once only, to the next person until it has gone around the group. The last person shares what they heard. Compare the last sentence to the beginning sentence. Did the message change? What does this say about how information is shared?

Focusing        15 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting and Exploring     40 minutes
Have participants reflect upon the second paragraph of “Boundaries and Confidentiality.” Do they think there is an inherent tension in your congregation regarding the handling of sensitive information? Why or why not?

If your group is large, divide into smaller groups of five to seven people; if it is small, act as one group. Have the group(s) discuss in turn each of the three case studies, answering all the questions. If your are working in small groups, have someone in each group take notes so they can report to the large group. Compare responses to each of the three case studies across groups.

Integrating       40 minutes
Ask the participants what the next step might be for initiating a congregation-wide conversation around the issues raised in this session. Record responses.

Closing       5 minutes
Ask for closing thoughts. End with a reading of Susan Manker-Seale’s “Benediction” from Awakened From the Forest:

Much of ministry
is a benediction
A speaking well of
each other and the world.
A speaking well of what we value:
Honesty
Love
Forgiveness
Trust
A speaking well of our efforts
A speaking well of our dreams
This is how we celebrate life
Through speaking well of it
Living the benediction
And becoming the word
Well-spoken.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

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

Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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