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


…Meaningful change is hard, especially as it relates to identity and power. It raises essential questions about whose voices are heard, who is asked to take risks, how we negotiate our relationships, and what our priorities are as a community. False divisions like “political correctness” versus “inclusive speech,” or the question of whether to focus critiques inward in our communities versus outward toward the world, distract from the core calling of our faith to move toward equity and compassion in every way.
—September 2019 letter to congregations from leaders of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Allies for Racial Equity, Association of Unitarian Universalist Administrators, Association for Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries, Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries, Liberal Religious Educators Association, Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together, and Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association

In this workshop, participants practice looking at the structures, committees, and formal and informal groups of the congregation as an inter-related, interconnected system. They will identify relational and emotional patterns within the congregation as they examine congregational changes and challenges. They consider how leaders can build the system’s health and resilience by focusing on strengthening and supporting relationships within the leadership team and with the congregation. A leadership team that nurtures authentic relationships and stays in touch with the people they lead can more effectively help the congregational system respond to conflict, challenge, and change.

Participants reflect on how leaders might move a congregation from the habit of engaging in proxy fights where a seemingly intractable conflict really is a stand-in for a larger issue. They learn to recognize how a “fake fight” can reinforce the status quo and prevent conversations about deeper issues. Instead, participants are invited to embrace the practice of leaning into conflict as a pathway to spiritual deepening and transformational change. As they conclude the Harvest the Power program, participants set forth to lead a congregation or community to meet dilemmas, disagreements, and conflicts with faithful curiosity and attention to relationship, so that the congregation might grow as covenanted community living its mission in the world.


This workshop will:

  • Introduce the concept of systems thinking
  • Explore the roles of relationships and connections in strengthening a faith community
  • Offer an opportunity for leaders to consider real-world dilemmas and conflicts facing their faith community and to apply their learning to chart a way forward
  • Invite leaders to become aware of their own role in the congregation and to develop an approach and leadership skills to guide a community toward a faithful response to conflict.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Be introduced to the idea that paying attention to relationships and to the congregation’s mission will steer a congregation away from proxy fights that damage congregational life
  • Use a scenario to learn about some systems that are in play in a congregation and to gain an understanding of systems thinking
  • Learn about and reflect on Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership Lessons for the Real World
  • Develop a deeper understanding of themselves as leaders and their role in the community
  • Use all they have learned in Harvest the Power to examine dilemmas and conflicts in their own faith community and to plan a way forward.






Activity 1: Story, Tapping Out of “Fake Fights”


Activity 2: Congregations as Systems


Activity 3: Leadership Lessons for the Real World


Activity 4: Faith and Conflict


Faith in Action: Through a Systems Lens



Alternate Activity 1: Alternate Systems Thinking Scenarios


Spiritual Preparation

Consider a challenge facing your congregation right now. Read Activity 2, and use this process to identify some of the emotional and relational systems at play in your congregation. With your co-facilitator, talk with your parish minister or congregational president about your observations.

Ask yourself: How are you attending to relationships and connections in your role as the workshop facilitator? In meditation or prayer, express compassion and a wish for spiritual and emotional health for yourself and for all the participants in this workshop.