We Are Not Alone!
The board meeting was tense. There was a difficult issue under discussion, and no clear answer was presenting itself. Greg, a young adult and newer board member, mentioned that he had recently been on a web meeting as part of the Healthy Leadership 101 course he was taking, and that a leader from another congregation who was on the call said that his congregation was dealing with a very similar issue. The mood in the room shifted. “We are not alone!”
Congregational leaders often feel isolated. The challenges they face can sometimes feel overwhelming. From experience, we have seen that we get congregational leaders from different congregation in the same room telling their stories, “magic” happens. This was the genius of the Fall “President’s Day” (started by former UUA Moderator Gini Courter) that morphed into “Leadership Day.”
The problem is, you can’t get much depth of content in a 6 hour Leadership Day that provides opportunities for interaction and connection.
For depth and interaction, the region used to offer week-long residential leadership schools: EAGLES, Uni-Lead, and UULTI. (Similar schools are offered in other regions.) These experiences were transformative for those who were able to take a week’s vacation and pay hundreds of dollars to attend.
For the last year, the Central East Region has been Beta Testing a new model of leadership school that offers both depth and interaction at a fraction of the cost of a residential leadership school. Originally named H-UULTI (the Hybrid/Online UU Leadership Team Institute), the UU Leadership Institute uses a “flipped classroom” model where the content is made available on-demand online and the interaction happens locally, in “communities of practice” organized locally and supported by the UU Leadership Institute Dean with materials and training for the local facilitators (known as “Peer Hosts”).
Several clusters of congregations in the region (and beyond) have been trail-blazers in the program. The New York Metro North cluster ran the pilot in the Spring of 2014. In the Fall of 2015, the Cleveland, OH cluster, the Indianapolis, IN cluster, the New York Southern Tier cluster, and the Philadelphia, PA cluster organized communities of practice. In the Spring of 2015, the Capital Region of NY, the Central Region of NY, the Toledo OH/Detroit, MI Region, the Pittsburgh cluster, and the Northern VA cluster joined in, and the Indianapolis, IN cluster, the Philadelphia, PA cluster and the Cleveland, OH cluster offered a second semester.
Here is what some of the participants had to say:
“This course was hugely valuable for me as a member of the congregation and as a leader in any capacity in the rest of my life. Thank you!” “I think we are learning to build community together.” “I wish more of our members would take this course. I think it's essential information!” “I expected folks to whine about the full day Community in Practice. They did not. They thought the time was important to build community.” The UU Leadership Institute is offering 12 different courses for the Fall Semester:
- Healthy Membership 100
- Healthy Leadership 101
- Unitarian Universalist History 111
- Theological Plurality in Our Congregations 201
- Stories of Power and Passion: An Introduction the Juicier Parts of the Hebrew Bible 220
- Being Faithful: The Importance of Small Congregations 110
- If a Tree Falls in the Forest: Marketing, Branding and Communicating Your Message 120
- Leading Change in Changing Times 211
- Leading Adaptively 401
- The Bountiful Heart: Finding Your Best Stewardship Strategy 151
- Guiding Our Journey: Building a Faithful UU Identity 121
- Process in Plurality 221
Fall Communities of Practice are still forming.
Have questions? Please contact the Dean, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke at info [at] uuinstitute [dot] org