Southern Region Leadership Experiences
Youth (ages 15-18) are invited to participate in Ships Ahoy!, an amazing journey into Unitarian Universalism which will prepare them for membership and leadership in congregations and the Association at large.
The Southern Region hosts several Leadership Experiences (LEs) each year; one residential and some extended over the course of multiple weekends. All LEs provide a full five days of Unitarian Universalist leadership for teams from congregations.
Our Leadership Experiences are full-immersion experiences. Participants are invited into a covenanted religious community that is a living expression of Unitarian Universalist core values. Each day begins in worship. After worship, participants engage learning and group work. Evenings are spent exploring different spiritual practices which can enhance and anchor our individual spiritual lives. Our days end in Chalice Circles, which are our daily small group meetings which offer a space to deeply practice our covenant and process the day’s learnings and experience. Chalice Circles are safer/brave spaces where each person can allow the still small voice within to speak its truth in an environment that honors its presence.
The core pedagogy of the Southern Region Leadership Experiences rests on the philosophy that leadership is about discernment, presence, and functioning of the self. Each individual brings their own gifts and talents to the experience, and over the course of the week, each individual gets an opportunity to see how those gifts can manifest as a leader in a spiritual community. To augment this individual discovery and growth, knowledge of systems and group dynamics are taught to shed light on how each individual can play a unique and important role in creating a vibrant religious community.
Most participants who complete a Southern Region Leadership Experience leave feeling uplifted, challenged, fulfilled, and awakened. Rooted in Unitarian Universalist theology and covenant, participants are invited to be co-creators of our shared Faith through the incarnation of its core values and the fulfillment of deep, abiding, and complicated relationship.
Sending leaders to a Leadership Experience is an investment in the future of the 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.
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 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. Congregational team members must be willing to do the homework prior to taking part in the Leadership Experience. Ministers and Religious Educators are particularly invited to attend Leadership Experiences as part of the congregation’s team.
Congregations are strongly encouraged to invest in the leadership of marginalized persons by nominating leaders of color and different ability statuses, youth, and young adults as part of their teams. As we deepen our commitment to the Movement for Black Lives, we affirm that black leadership matters. All Leadership Experiences in the Southern Region welcome participants ages 16 and up, and the Southern Region Staff is committed to assuring that Youth and Young Adults are fostered in leadership positions not just in Youth and Young Adult Groups, but in the congregation as a whole.