Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Harvest the Power, 2nd Edition: A Lay Leadership Development Program for Adults

Handout 3: Alternate Systems Thinking Scenarios

For Workshop 6, Faith and Conflict, Alternate Activity 1, Alternate Systems Thinking Scenarios

Note: These scenarios appeared in a different form in Workshop 3.

Accessibilities Audit Scenario

A congregation is planning to do some major work to repair the foundation of the building and to upgrade the space. After a successful capital campaign, they have raised nearly enough money—but not quite enough. Now they have heard from local government officials that they will not be granted a building permit until they have addressed some major accessibility issues in the building.

This project will be costly. The chair of the governing board believes that there is no more money to be had from the congregation. They convene a meeting of the governing board, which includes:

  • A member who is angry with the local officials for imposing this on the congregation and who believes that they have no right to do so. This member’s attitude is that the local government should support the building repairs and upgrades the congregation is undertaking, rather than undermine them.
  • A member who has arthritis in their hands and her knees and sometimes finds the front steps and the door handles difficult to negotiate. They have never told anyone about this difficulty and is not sure that they are ready to share her experience with this group.
  • A member who believes in their heart that making the congregation more accessible to those with mobility impairments is the right thing to do, and is convinced that a way can be found to do it. They are often seen as the “impractical” one in the group.
  • A member who wonders if the accessibility upgrades make financial sense. From this member’s point of view, the planned upgrades will benefit many people, and the accessibility upgrades will benefit only a few.
  • A member who has been the representative to the building task force and is exhausted. They have done all that she can do to get this project ready to the point where construction and renovation can begin, and she finds this news deeply discouraging. She is also feeling unappreciated.

Safe Congregation Scenario

A congregation’s insurance company has informed them that the congregation will no longer be able to purchase liability coverage unless they have a policy in place to address the prevention of sexual abuse and misconduct. The prevention policy must include the use of criminal background checks for volunteers and staff. As the governing board convenes to consider this challenge, members of the board are of several minds:

  • The chair of the board believes that liability coverage is crucial to the well-being of the congregation and that the board has a fiduciary responsibility to see to it that a safe congregation policy is adopted.
  • One board member is concerned about finances, especially about the potential cost of criminal background checks. This board member is also concerned because a large donor has stated that they view background checks as an invasion of privacy.
  • Another member is concerned about the implementation of any safe congregation policy. Who will be responsible? How will they get training? Do the current staff members have enough time and bandwidth to take this on?
  • One member has been reading the latest news about child sexual abuse among volunteers and professionals entrusted with the well-being of children, and believes that a safe congregation policy cannot come soon enough.
  • One member keeps thinking about the first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person. How does this Principle apply when it comes to protecting children? What about our volunteers? Do background checks violate their worth and dignity?
  • A long-time member trusts everyone in the congregation. Required background checks and other policies seem unnecessary. This member wonders if liability insurance is really needed—and resents the insurance company for pushing the congregation around.