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Searchable Leader Lab Library
  • Do you have "Committee Alphabet Soup?"

    I often use General Motors as an example of the top-down model of organization and leadership that is the opposite of what our congregations need to be nimble and vital (and I might add, attractive to Gen-Xers and Millennials). A story from Bloomberg "GM Recalls Stalled in 10...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 3/13/2014
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  • Think "Strategic," Not "Long-Range"

    There is a quote that guides me in my work: “We create the path by walking.” How many of us knew exactly who or what we wanted to be when we “grew up?” Instead, many of us made choices that led us in a certain direction. As we started down a particular path, our choices helped...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/21/2014
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  • Do You Have Zombie Programs?

    The new year offers a new opportunity to take stock of how your congregation is serving its mission. Invite your leadership team to take stock of your current program offerings. Is the program bringing in new life in the form of new participants? Is the program a brain-drain or...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/7/2014
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  • Adaptive Measures

    Your congregation is committed to growth and understands that growth in numbers results from other kinds of growth. You also know it is important to set goals and measure how well you are doing. ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/18/2013
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  • The Gift of Being Called

    It was mid-afternoon and my sixth grade classmates and I were in the middle of a lesson. Suddenly, the deep voice of the principal boomed over the loudspeaker. “Mr. Doyle, I need your help. Mrs. Jones will be out the rest of the day and I need someone to be in the office to...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/3/2013
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  • You Talkin' to Me? Targeting Your Communications

    As leaders of a congregation, it may be tempting to assume everyone else has (or should have) the same level of commitment to the institution of the church as we have. This can have unfortunate results in everything from volunteer recruitment to stewardship conversations--even...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/19/2013
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  • The Dance of Shared Ministry

    I'm sharing my "charge to the congregation" for the installation of Rev. Meredith Garmon at the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains, NY on November 10, 2013. ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/14/2013
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  • Committee on Shared Ministry

    How do Committees on Ministry function? Rev. Nancy Bowen shares an overview.
    By Nancy Bowen, Pacific Western Region of the UUA | 11/13/2013
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  • Show and "Tells"

    "Your actions are speaking so loudly, I can hardly hear what you are saying." This is a quote from a webinar on the presence of leaders that I took recently. A leader's presence reflects their underlying values—it's how they wear their values. A leader with integrity embodies...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/31/2013
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  • Could the "Nones" Become Unitarian Universalists? Part 2

    The descriptions of the values of many "spiritual but not religious" people line up pretty nicely with what our UU religious communities could be, or at least what they should at least aspire to be. We have young adult UUs living out UU values in newly-formed "beyond...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/17/2013
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  • Could the "Nones" become Unitarian Universalists? Part 1

    Young Adult ministry has been a challenge for congregations of all liberal protestant denominations for decades but the game is changing in ways we couldn't have imagined back in the post WWII church building boom. There has been a lively conversation on the UU-Leaders email...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/16/2013
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  • Hide it under a Bushel? No! Share Your Awesomeness

    Are all of the members and friends of your church aware of all of the outreach ministries of your church? Is the wider community aware of who you are serving and how? Churches need to tell their stories, advises a recent article in the Christian Century. Author George Mitrovich...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/9/2013
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  • Speaking with One Voice

    One of the most important keys to congregational health and vitality--along with a clear purpose--is a cohesive leadership team. Many of our UU congregations struggle with power and authority to a point where they don't empower leaders to lead, i.e. to make decisions in the best...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/19/2013
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  • Vision: Make sure it "tastes good"

    Congregational leaders are often tempted to go through the motions of creating mission, vision, planning and covenant documents without taking a holistic view of the process. Do the congregations systems support the process? How do we reflect the core values and personality of...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/10/2013
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  • Assessment: "Edit"ability vs. Accountability

    Assessment of a congregation's ministry is a very important aspect of religious leadership and is one of the roles of a Commit tee on Shared Ministry . We often use the term "accountability" as in "accountability to mission" to describe the purpose of such assessments. The word...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/5/2013
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  • GenX: The Adaptive Generation

    In my last blog post I wrote about the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. I received a few requests to write about the generational cohort labeled Gen X (rough birth years 1960-1985), sandwiched between the two and much smaller than either. Most of the ministerial settlements...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 8/16/2013
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  • Let's Not Say "Show Me the Money"

    There can be a significant cultural divide between baby boomers and millennials in our congregations, which is obvious to the millennials, but often invisible to the boomers. I was reminded of this after seeing various reactions on Facebook to a recent article on...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/30/2013
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  • Volunteer Roles: Your Trash, Another's Treasure

    How do we find volunteers for the different jobs in our congregation? How do we fire a volunteer who doesn't perform? How do we renew a committee stuck in stale ideas and that repels any new committee members and their potential energy? Volunteer recruitment and dealing with...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/23/2013
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  • "Cruel Summer" Services

    Has something like this ever happened to you when you're travelling during the summer and decide to check out the local UU congregation? You check their website, find out the service time and see that the topic is "The Secret Life of Bees," the title of one of your favorite...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/12/2013
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  • Here Comes the Judge! Learning to Cultivate Curiousity...

    I grew up eating a lot of ethnic northern European foods. I would often get comments in the workplace lunch room about the leftovers I had brought in that day. I remember one comment about "what a strange food combination" I was eating (sauerkraut with a dollop of sour...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/26/2013
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  • Radical Relationship II: The Theology of Covenant

    Our choice to organize around our promises among ourselves and with that which invokes our ultimate commitment is our greatest strength. Using Process Theology, we offer a framework as well as practical spiritual practices showing how living in covenant can create space for...
    By Renee Ruchotzke, Jeanelyse Doran Adams, Douglas Zelinski | 6/21/2013
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  • Radical Relationship I: The Science of Covenant

    If Unitarian Universalism’s crux were reduced to a few points in space and time, they would be those potent moments just before and just after we keep promises, or break them. The power of those moments is simple, shocking, and science-based. Explore that power—its science,...
    By Douglas Zelinski, Jeanelyse Doran Adams, Renee Ruchotzke | 6/20/2013
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  • Putting the "Shared" in Shared Ministry

    One of the most important factors in a vibrant congregation is a high level of covenantal trust between the minister and the lay leaders. When I say covenantal, I intentionally mean the promises made between the leaders and members and in service to that which is greater than...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/10/2013
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  • Details, Details!

    Imagine that your congregational leaders are talking to the bank loan officer in anticipation of a major capital campaign project. The loan officer asks who has the authority in your congregation to sign for the loan. "Why, our president!" ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/7/2013
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  • Measure in Church Time Dog Years

    Church leaders that I work with are often frustrated with the slow, almost glacial speed of change in congregational life. What might take a month or two in the workplace takes a year in the church. ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/28/2013
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  • Think of Yourself as the Visitor

    Many years ago, I was working with employees of MBNA Bank at their branch headquarters in Newark, Delaware. Over every door in the building, in big block letters, were the words, THINK OF YOURSELF AS THE CUSTOMER. I was struck by that phrase and with the idea that putting...
    By Mark Bernstein | 5/24/2013
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  • Lead other Leaders with Honey, Not Vinegar

    If I could give one piece of advice for congregational leaders who wish to grow others into leadership, I would say, "Have one-on-one, personal conversations. Ask about their passions. Ask how they are doing. Focus on the positives while encouraging them to stretch and grow." A...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 4/30/2013
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  • To Be "Seen" - Recruiting Leaders

    We are heading into the time of year where some nominating committees are scrambling to recruiting potential leaders for governing boards and other elected positions to be offered for election at Spring congregational meetings. Hopefully, your congregation is transitioning...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 4/24/2013
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  • The Power of Symbolic Language

    Unitarian Universalists tend to use a lot of words when we attempt to explain our religious beliefs and values. We have a complicated faith that does not fit into typical questions about religion from outsiders. This makes sense at a national level. We have a big tent that makes...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 4/9/2013
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  • The Data Trap

    Attempting to reconcile liberal religion to the scientific method has a long history among Unitarian Universalists. From the Biblical Criticism of the 19th century, to the Process Theologians of the 20th, to Thandeka's Affect Theology today, we yearn to quantify...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 3/26/2013
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  • Learning as a UU Virtue

    ...self-culture is possible, not only because we can enter into and search ourselves. We have a still nobler power, that of acting on, determining and forming ourselves. This is a fearful as well as glorious endowment, for it is the ground of human responsibility. We have the...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 3/5/2013
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  • Meetings that Matter

    I have a love-hate relationship with meetings. Some of my best experiences have been when I was in a room with engaged, creative people doing important work or solving a difficult challenge. Some of my worst experiences have been when I was in a room where people talked at--or...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 2/26/2013
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  • The Exceptional Moment of Our Unique Faith

    If the crux of Unitarian Universalism were reduced to a few points in space and time, they would be those potent moments just before and just after we keep a promise, or we break it. All that is exceptional about being human and becoming whole is crystallized in these decisive...
    By Douglas Zelinski, New England Region of the UUA | 1/29/2013
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  • Working At Cross-Purposes

    Your mission is what is hanging on the wall, Your system is what is happening down the hall. — Andy Stanley, North Point Ministries Sometimes leaders have an "aha" moment where they realize that they have been doing (or avoiding doing) something that is working at cross-purposes...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/22/2013
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  • Avoiding Drama Trauma - Part 2

    Here are some more tips for the savvy leader to learn how to recognize and respond to drama both in themselves and others. (adapted from the book The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers and Boss by Jim Warner & Kaley Klemp). ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/11/2012
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  • Avoiding Drama Trauma - Part 1

    Because of our strong attachments in our congregational communities, emotions can run high during times of change. The energy produced can be creative or destructive. The savvy leader learns to recognize emerging drama both in themselves and others—and more importantly, learns...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/4/2012
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  • The "Snap" of Emotional Triggers

    As we head into the holiday season, it's a good time to bring attention to the practice of self-management. Time together with relatives often elicits old memories and deep emotions. The practice begins by first becoming self-aware when ugly emotions start to swell up and our...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/20/2012
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  • Don't Lead from a Bubble

    As I watched the election results roll in on Tuesday night and the responses of the various commentators, it became apparent that many of the Republican leaders and spokesmen (e.g. Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and George Will) were flummoxed by the results that conflicted with their...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/8/2012
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  • Outrage, Not Anger

    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/30/2012
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  • Making Space for the Quiet Voices

    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/23/2012
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  • Financial Barriers to Leadership

    "Volunteering to host coffee hour is a great way for newer folks to get involved." "We used to have potluck dinners, but we have so many dinners offered in our service auction that we don't seem to have the interest to plan potlucks anymore." "Attending Leadership School helped...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/16/2012
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  • Feeding a Spiritual Hunger

    If you’ve ever been to a Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, or a District Assembly, or read many of our blogs and Facebook pages, you know we are very focused on the idea of growth. We love our faith, and we want others to love it with us! We get a little stymied in the “...
    By Tera Little | 10/12/2012
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  • Bored with Board Retreats?

    Are you planning a board or leadership retreat for the fall? Do you want something engaging and relevant to the challenges you are facing this upcoming year? Here are some ready-to use resources for you! ...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 8/21/2012
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  • Something Epic...

    A good mission—articulated gracefully and served faithfully--can help the members of your congregation feel like they are part of something epic.
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/30/2012
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  • All the world's a game....

    All the world's a game....and we are just players... This paraphrase of the line from Shakespeare's As You Like It comes to mind as I am reading Jane McGonigal's book...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/23/2012
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  • The Free *and* Responsible UU

    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/18/2012
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  • The Mission-Driven UU Leader

    What is the role of lay leaders in a mission-focused congregation? What is the role of the minister? The Rev. Brent Smith has experience and success leading mission-focused congregations. In this post he shares some of his insights. The distinction between lay and clergy roles...
    By Brent A Smith | 7/9/2012
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  • Leadership "Cairns" for Next Generation

    I spent several days hiking in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for my vacation. (It was a good opportunity to get away from the technology that is my constant companion during the rest of the year, since there are few cell phone towers in those mountains.) Many...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/6/2012
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  • Summer Reading for UU Leaders

    One habit of leaders in vibrant congregations is to choose a book that they will use as a group study resource for the church year. They read a book in common over the summer, then discuss it by chapter or by theme during the August-May months. I often get requests for suggested...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 7/2/2012
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  • To Be “Bona Fide” - Authenticity as a Way Toward Growth

    There has been a lot of press lately about Generation Y—often referred to as the Millennials—since they started to come of age around the year 2000. It’s a generation that doesn’t fit the old stereotype of rebellious youth that began with the Baby Boomers; articulated in the...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/28/2012
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