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Important Note: As we deepen our commitment to dismantling white supremacy, we must reckon with bias in all areas of congregational life, including leadership development resources. This summer, LeaderLab will undergo a content review with the goal of lowering bias and broadening perspectives on healthy, vital leadership. Ongoing revisions will be an essential part of this work, and we invite your feedback: conglife [at] uua [dot] org

 

  • Connecting Leadership

    Have you ever had a friend suggest you meet someone because they thought the two of you would benefit from getting to know each other, maybe because of a shared interest? If so, then you know what a connector is. And if you’ve ever made a similar suggestion to a friend, then you...
    By Phillip Lund, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 4/19/2018
  • Networked Leadership

    How can we be 21st century leaders without taking part in the social network revolution? When congregations endeavor to explore their vision and mission, they often hold workshops to explore the bigger, deeper questions of “why” they exist and “what” is the difference they...
    By Nancy Combs-Morgan, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 4/19/2018
  • Communication Skills for Leadership Development

    Communication Skills—one of the recommended leadership development competencies—include: Understanding different styles of giving and receiving information. Being able to communicate across different communication styles. Understanding differences in communication...
    By Renee Ruchotzke, Central East Region of the UUA | 4/12/2018
  • The Peril of Anonymous Feedback

    Communication of any kind is a tricky thing for us humans. Even if we speak the same language we are lucky if our words are met with the same understanding as our intended meaning. Add on top of that our discomfort with giving and receiving feedback, and we can being moving into...
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 2/28/2018
  • Creating Healthy Communication Channels

    The flow of information in an organization is a bit like the flow of water after a rain. Ideally, the information is shared evenly, and the members are able to absorb it like loamy soil. But information that triggers anxiety can be like a heavy rain. Without established channels...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 2/10/2018
  • Confidentiality and Healthy Disclosure for Boards

    Balancing transparency and confidentiality can be challenging for congregational board members, staff, and other leaders who have access to sensitive information. Healthy, vibrant systems need as much open communication as possible. White Supremacy Culture sometimes uses "the...
    By UUA Congregational Life Staff Group | 2/9/2018
  • My Love-Hate Relationship with Surveys

    One of the questions I am asked most frequently regard use of surveys in congregations. I include here a somewhat patchwork version of advice I have given recently on the topic. I have a love-hate relationship with surveys, especially surveys used as a part of congregational...
    By Ian Evison, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 2/9/2018
  • A Quick Look at Written Congregational Surveys

    Surveys that work best come out of an understanding that the job of leadership is not to “make people happy” but to help the congregation live out its mission.  Surveys that are useless at best and divisive at worst typically seek to honor personal preferences about various...
    By Jan Christian, Pacific Western Region of the UUA | 2/2/2018
  • Characteristics of a Mission-Based Congregation

    Creates a shared vision of the church, an effective mission statement and dynamic mission-centered goals to implement the mission. Develops and affirms a clear identity and purpose with a strong sense of mission. Mission(s) used as a compass in decision-making....
    By UUA Congregational Life: Growth Strategies For Congregations Office | 1/17/2018
  • Channeling Your Success Through Good Communication

    The opportunity is great in our congregations for rumors, miscommunication, gossip and, of course, conflict. Examine the barriers to open communication processes and will explore ways in which lay and ministerial leaders can open up channels of communication and create...
    By Mark Bernstein, Central East Region of the UUA | 8/31/2017
  • Effective Meetings: Tips and Techniques

    Smooth and efficient meetings require planning, structure, transparency...and practice!  It takes a lot of practice to be a good facilitator. Even more importantly, good facilitators don't go it alone--they ask other leaders to take on different roles to keep the meeting on...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/7/2017
  • Creating Meetings that Matter

    In many congregations, meetings are considered a necessary evil.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Learn spiritual and practical ideas for running efficient, effective and faith-based meetings. (2014).
    By Mark Bernstein, Central East Region of the UUA | 6/7/2017
  • Compassionate Communication

    When conflict arises, there may be a tendency to avoid it or to let it fester until it becomes polarizing. What are the four elements of compassionate communication that may help us better understand one another and come to a better awareness of our needs in a relationship? How...
    By Carlton Elliott Smith | 1/10/2017
  • Social Media Hygiene

    Social media is a great outreach tool for today's congregations, but congregational leaders need to be savvy about how to balance the open-source nature of today's interactive internet with the need to articulate a consistent message in alignment  with your congregation's...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/16/2015
  • Want to Develop Church Leaders? Stop Training Them!

    Let me share a fable of two congregations. Alpha Congregation has several corporate trainers who work in the not-for-profit world.  Three of them were asked to serve on the newly-formed Leadership Development Team (LDT).  They spent a couple of months designing a...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/12/2015
  • Thinking About Our Thinking

    In dealing with adaptive challenges (e.g. changing demographics or attitudes toward religious institutions) congregational leaders can learn some wisdom from the old folktale about the 7 Blind Men and the Elephant.  Each of the men could feel a part of the creature,...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/20/2015
  • Let Me Sleep on It...

    The congregational meeting was held right after the Sunday service to guarantee a quorum.  There were a couple of important issues to discuss, including passing a deficit budget to help fund a part time membership coordinator in service of their desire for...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/22/2014
  • Announcements: A Terrible Death to Die

      I remember my first church family camp, the Ohio Meadville Summer Institute.  At the end of the morning worship, one of the planning committee members would go up to the podium and start singing:     Announcements, Announcements, An-NOW-ounce-ments! A...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/5/2014
  • Art Doesn't Happen by Committee - Part 1

    Once upon a time there was a congregation that wanted a mission statement. They appointed a committee that worked hard. They held cottage meetings, World Café conversations, and got a real sense of the identity of the congregation, who they were as a "whole"—...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/7/2014
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/7/2014
  • 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--...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/19/2013
  • 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. You begin with your body leaning slightly forward.  It’s an intentional way to move in the...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/14/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/31/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/9/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/19/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/10/2013
  • 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 Committee on Shared Ministry.  We often use the term "accountability" as in "accountability to mission" to describe the purpose of such assessments. The...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 9/5/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 8/16/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/26/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 4/9/2013
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 1/22/2013
  • 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
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 12/4/2012
  • 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...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 11/8/2012
  • Outrage, Not Anger

      As election day is approaching, I'm noticing that many Unitarian Universalists are out in the community helping to hold the integrity of the democratic process, a value articulated in our fifth principle; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/30/2012
  • Making Space for the Quiet Voices

      Excitement filled the meeting room as ideas were bounced back and forth like ping-pong balls.  The chair of the meeting was as enthusiastic as the participants, noting ideas and responding with new ideas elicited by the lively dialogue. The project began...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 10/23/2012
  • 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
  • Shadows and Light

    One of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs (YouTube) begins: Every picture has its shadows And it has some source of light Blindness, blindness and sight… When I talk about leadership qualities, I find that many of the qualities can be either strengths or weaknesses—or...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/21/2012
  • How would you tweet your mission?

    Having a clearly articulated mission statement helps to guide a congregation’s leaders in deciding where to put their energy and resources.  But often such statements are put together by a committee and can be a bit….(I hate to say it)…wordy. Last year I visited Western...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/18/2012
  • Hacking into Congregational Leadership

    I've seen a disconnect between generations in our congregations when it comes to leadership.  Baby Boomers, who populate the majority of our leadership positions, ask me how they can recruit more younger people for their volunteer positions.  Younger...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 6/1/2012
  • Changing Mental Models for Growth

    The world around us is changing at an exponential rate, so it is often difficult to respond to the new reality.  What is true for individuals is even more true for institutions, including our "living tradition" Unitarian Universalist congregations.  I'm not saying this...
    By Renee Ruchotzke | 5/28/2012
  • Leadership Sometimes Means Taking a Stand

    Great leaders continually examine their motives. They ask themselves, “On what principle am I taking this stand? Am I acting for the common good? Am I trying to push a personal agenda? Do I just want my way or is there a principle at stake here?” Great leaders will...
    By Connie Goodbread | 1/22/2009
  • Some Basic Advice on Triangulation

    In the 1950s the family therapist Murray Bowen introduced many ideas about systems. The concept of triangulation is one of the most applicable to congregational leadership. It is, in brief, when John is frustrated with or concerned about Mary, John looks to Jane to deal with...
    By Ian Evison, Kenneth Hurto | 6/12/2007

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For more information contact conglife@uua.org.