LeaderLab

Right Relationship Teams The Tenders of the Covenant

votive candles arranged in the shape of a heart

Creating beloved community requires intention and practice. Our covenants articulate our intention, but how do we live into the practice? Right Relations Teams are lay leaders entrusted to help the congregation practice faithful communication and creative conflict based on values of mutuality and consent.

What is the Role of a Right Relationship Team?

Right Relationship Teams (RRT) are still a fairly new concept within congregations. It has been common for some time that a Committee on Shared Ministry be tasked with addressing conflict as it rises. However, the skill-set and orientation required for the kind of balcony view analysis and evaluation does not always translate to the kind of skill set and orientation required for covenant tending and conflict engagement. Ideally, a congregation would separate those out into two different teams: Committee on Shared Ministry and Right Relationship Team.

Right Relations Teams are lay leaders entrusted to help the congregation practice faithful communication and creative conflict based on values of mutuality and consent. Their roles can include

  • Tending to the covenant by articulating and modeling its practice
  • Provide training and other learning opportunities around the tensions needed for creativity in congregations
  • Model and coach communication processes that promote mutuality and consent (i.e. small group ministry, discernment circles)
  • Model and coach creative conflict
  • In low level conflict, create brave spaces where people can move from defensiveness toward resolution
  • When conflict does become more heated, they also can offer opportunities for deep listening and restorative processes.
  • Create low-anxiety/high-learning experiences for the congregation around conflict and covenant

What a Right Relationship Team Can Offer

A RRT can help change a congregation’s overall understanding of conflict, covenant and their own personal and collective narrative.

A RRT provides healthy communication and conflict engagement training to the congregation using UUA and tailored resources.

A RRT offers conflict engagement services to individual members. Sometimes a member needs a sounding board and coaching as to how to bring their better self to a situation. Sometimes, when a smaller group of the congregation is feeling stuck in a situation, the RRT can hold the container in the form of listening circles to help them hear each other more effectively. By providing these opportunities, a RRT can set expectations of communicating openly and honestly and help the congregation to do just that.

What an Right Relationship Team Cannot Offer

A RRT cannot offer mediation between family members or on marital issues.

A RRT cannot offer facilitated conversations to address conflict with people not bound by the congregation’s covenant, because covenant is at the center of everything the RRT does.

When a conflict involves staff, it is essential that the staff supervisor take the lead on the situation. Staff are employees bound by contract, not by the congregation’s covenant. If they are both employees and members, they are employees first.

When a conflict involves the minister, contact your UUA primary contact.

Resources for Your Right Relationship Team

Below you will find a collection of resources to create and support a RRT in your congregation.

About the Authors

Tandi Rogers

Rev. Tandi Rogers is a multi-vocational minister: a Learning, Innovation, and Growth Strategist; affiliate faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School; and a Spiritual Director in private practice. Tandi served the UUA for 20 years in many roles (2002-2022.

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

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