You might not think that an historic resort on an isolated island would be the perfect place to talk about dynamic, innovative and faithful teamwork; but you’d be wrong! Last summer, 160 UUs came together for Lifespan Religious Education Week on Star Island and had a transformative experience in shared leadership that is now going viral.
Under the weekly theme of “Collaborative Leadership: Stronger Together,” we dreamed, learned, played and sang our way into a new model for UU faith development. We started by talking about how religious communities are changing in America. We recognized that religious education has been a big attraction families to join our congregations. And we noted that religious education is a team sport – it takes volunteers, staff, parents and kids to make it happen. But the magic of the week was that we brought these three strands together in a vision of how faith development can lead the way forward for UUs, fueled by creative and committed teams. Our mantra for the week was “the world is changing, teams are a key, and religious education is a growth strategy.”
I served as the week’s “emcee,” working with the other presenters to embody the collaborative spirit. Our framework was the best-selling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, which we UU-ified by translating those dysfunctions into the Five Values of Great Teams. Here they are: Trust, Engagement, Commitment, Accountability and Achievement.
Throughout the week, we realized that, even though UUs often talk about the ways groups and leaders fall short, we rarely say what great teams look like. Our discussions particularly honed in on the first value, Trust. As we built trust together that week, something shifted and the students became the teachers. As workshop leaders we stepped back, and watched creativity emerge from the group that led to an evening vespers service that I’ll always remember. We left the week on fire with our passion for building great teams that can help our congregations adapt and feed the spirits of team members.
For one week on Star Island, we didn’t just talk about collaboration – we felt collaboration deep in our bones. That feeling is a better guide for building great teams than all the analysis and theories in the world, because we know how teams can empower their members to achieve great things.
If you’re thinking “wow, I wish I had been there,” then I’ve got good news: you can listen to an audio podcast of the week. Supported by a grant from the LREDA 21st Century Fund, it includes theme presentations, exclusive conversations and interviews with workshop leaders. Download the week’s podcast here.
About the Blogger
Carey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach.