UU Value words, Love, Justice, Hope, Faith and Community, projected on to a building for light show.
Vision: Make sure it "tastes good"
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 the congregation as well as invite them into articulating their aspirations of who they want to be as a faith community? I was recently reminded of the story of Crystal Pepsi, a product from the early 1990's that received a large marketing launch, including a Superbowl ad, but that flopped. In a 2007 interview, the Pepsi executive whose idea it was reflected:

It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think, "They don't get it; they don't see my vision." People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it.

There is only one chance for a person to make a good first impression.  Similarly, we leaders have one chance to introduce a change or a process in a way that will give it a high probability of success. Here are some suggestions to make the processes of creating mission statements, shared visions, strategic plans and covenants "tasty."

  • Communicate how the end product will enable the congregation's leaders to lead with purpose in a shared direction
  • Avoid the bitterness and shame of bringing up old conflicts as a reason to do this work
  • Make sure that the leaders who are facilitating the process have integrity and trust of the congregation
  • Set up a reasonable timeline and stick to it -- your people will be willing to provide input along the way, but don't want to feel like they're mired in an unending process
  • Once the guiding documents are created and approved, communicate regularly how they are guiding the leadership of the congregation

About the Author

  • Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. She serves congregation in Northeast Ohio and Western New York. She is part of the LeaderLab Design team providing Leadership Development resources and other trainings to congregations.

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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