Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experiences

Sending leaders to a Leadership Experience is an investment in the future of a congregation and in the future of Unitarian Universalism. Leadership Experience graduates return to their congregations more grounded in Unitarian Universalism and hear a deeper call to serve. They function at a high level and are able to inspire and invite others. Because this experience is so valuable for individuals, teams, and congregations, the Southern Region staff recommends that congregations build leadership development, in general, and sending teams to Leadership Experiences, in particular, into their budgets. In addition to the cost of registration, congregations may want to consider committing funds to reimburse participants for their travel.

Four Types of Leadership Experiences in the Southern Region

The Southern Region hosts several Leadership Experiences (LEs) each year.

The goals of the Southern Region Leadership Experiences are:

  • To grow religious leaders who are able and feel called to steward our Unitarian Universalist Faith
  • To support congregations by giving leaders the skills, tools, and framework they need to lead both the congregation of Unitarian Universalists and the formal organization of the church
  • To strengthen Unitarian Universalism through healthy, vital congregations who are the incarnation of our core values
  • To offer an experience of deeply covenantal community, spiritual study, and justice-making which serves as a vision of the Beloved Community

Core Curriculum of the Southern Region Leadership Experiences

Southern Region Leadership Experiences Core Curriculum
Section Content Concrete Tools

One: The Center

Core Values, Covenant, Mission, Vision, Goal Setting, Strategic Planning Core Values Discovery, Mission Building, Yearly Goal Setting Strategies, Strategic Planning

Two: The Source

Individual and Organizational Development, Faith Development as the Core Mission of Religious Organizations, Intercultural Competency Development, Implicit and Explicit Curricula

Curriculum Mapping, Leadership Development Plans, Membership Plans, Liturgical Years

Three: The System

Systems Thinking, Polarity in Congregations, Leadership as Practice, Adaptive and Technical Challenges

SHIFT Analysis, Polarity Management, Adaptive Leadership

Four: The Structure

What structure supports our purpose and brings our core values to life? Governance, Polity, Change in Congregations, Growth and Size Dynamics

Governance Models, Organizational Charts, RASCI Charts

The Pedagogy of the Southern Region Leadership Experiences

Stage One: Partnership

Our journey begins with partnerships with the congregations. Participants entering any leadership experience are expected to have a basic working knowledge of the following areas, which are considered standard in a congregational membership and leadership path:

  • The covenantal nature of Unitarian Universalism, to the end that participants feel comfortable in a covenantal community
  • The nature of Congregational Polity, to the end that participants understand the authority of the congregation within Unitarian Universalism
  • Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist history and topics, to the end that participants understand the stream of living tradition in which they are operating
  • The necessity of dismantling systems of oppression and dominant white supremacy culture within Unitarian Universalism and in society at large

Stage Two: Pre-Work

Once accepted into a Leadership Experience, participants are asked to do a series of online readings for pre-work. This series covers the basics of what will be taught in detail at each Leadership Experience and points participants toward topics that may interest them for more personal study.

Stage Three: The Experience

While the exact schedule of events at each of the different types of leadership experience varies, every experience has the following elements:

  • Lecture to present new information
  • Workshop-style discussions to process new information
  • Working group time to practice using the tools given in lecture
  • Worship to focus us on our core values each day
  • Spiritual Practices to keep us grounded in our holy work

In addition, a Chaplain is present at every Leadership Experience to help participants with their serious theological reflection.

Stage Four: Congregational Re-Entry and Ongoing Support

Staff and participants will also work together to determine working goals for re-entry into the congregational setting, which will include management of expectations, methods for teaching the information to other leaders, and what the congregation’s priorities may be in the upcoming 1 to 3 years.

A cornerstone to the Leadership Experience is the congregational team

Each congregation is asked to send a team of two to four individuals to each experience for support both during the week and after returning to the home congregation. Participants from each team have time during the course of the experience to process the information in the context of their own religious community and make a plan for carrying what they have learned into the future. Congregations are asked to carefully consider whom they nominate for their Leadership Experience team. Ideal candidates have five or more years of experience in a Unitarian Universalist congregation; have a working knowledge of Unitarian Universalist history, polity, theology, and governance; and are currently serving the congregation in a leadership role such as board member, committee chair, team leader, youth advisor, or staff member.

The Southern Region staff encourages you to consider the following groups when inviting your team to Leadership Experiences:

  • People of the Global Majority: Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color
  • Members of the LGBTQ Community
  • Board Members
  • Committee Chairs
  • Team Leaders
  • Youth Advisors and Religious Education Teachers
  • Youth
  • Young Adults
  • Church Staff and Religious Professionals: Ministers, Religious Educators, Administrators, and Music Ministers
  • Worship Associates