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

Activity 5: Adaptive Challenges

(10 minutes)


  • Newsprint, markers, and wall-safe tape


  • Write this definition on a sheet of newsprint, and post it where all participants can see:

An “adaptive challenge” is one that requires developing the organizational, cultural, and spiritual capacity to meet problems successfully, according to our values and purposes. It often requires clarification and integration of competing values.


Introduce the concept of adaptive challenge to the group. Point out the posted newsprint, and read the definition to the group. Tell them that this definition comes from the work of Ron Heifitz, director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Read the definition a second time, this time underlining the words developing, capacity, meet problems, and values.

Invite participants to suggest some adaptive challenges faced by our society. Ask, “What are some events or issues that could lead to a turning point in how we proceed as a society?”

After they have considered some of society’s adaptive challenges, invite them to name some adaptive challenges facing their congregation. Ask: “What are some challenges that will require our congregation to develop some new organizational, cultural, or spiritual capacities? What events or issues could lead to a turning point in how we proceed as a congregation?”