Play This Video on Smallscreen
General Assembly 2013 Event 4011
Speakers: Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Deb Chaney
To fulfill its mission, a congregation needs skilled and well-grounded lay leaders to partner with clergy and staff. We share two different models of lay leadership development and credentialing being used in the Central East Region (CERG). These frameworks both emphasize learning, serving and covenantal accountability.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: So welcome, everyone. This is workshop number 4011, which I'm also saying for the benefit of the recording. They're audio recording all of the workshops and we're going to attempt to videotape this one as well. So it'll be on the UUA website as well as the Central East Regional Group website hopefully sometime before Labor Day, depending on how my summer goes. So welcome.
I am the Reverend Renee Ruchotzke, I am the leadership development consultant for the Central East Regional Group. I'm joined by Deb Chaney, who is the commissioned lay leader at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Canton. She's been in that role for four years and was a commissioned lay leader candidate for a few years before that, so she's been a significant lay leader in that congregation. It's a lay led congregation that had a part-time minister for a couple of years. That was me. I was there when Deb became commissioned and we worked together, so I thought it would be great to have her talk a little bit about her experience as a lay leader-- commission lay leader as an example of that program. So she'll be sharing a story with you later. Thanks.
So I want to start out with a creation story. The creation story of me as a congregational leader. I joined a congregation back in 1995 . And this is what the existing lay leadership looked like.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: They were a little bit stressed. We had grown from around 70 members to about 130 members and none of the new people had stepped up into leadership. So there came a point where we had a crisis-- actually it was a $15,000 deficit in the budget. They just voted the deficit in and didn't do anything to really-- they were tired-- they voted it in but they weren't able to really gather the energy to do something about that. So I and a group of the other new people got our courage up and said, OK we'll try to be leaders. But we really didn't know what we were doing. So fresh, young faces, lots of energy not much experience, or at least not church experience.
Although we did have some corporate experience. I was an engineer in my previous career and I was an engineering supervisor for awhile, so I knew a little bit about corporate leadership. And other folks in this leadership group had similar kinds of experiences in the corporate setting. So we set to work, sort of learning on the job-- I don't know if you've seen this commercial by EDS, rebuilding the airplane as we're flying it kind of thing. So we jumped in and did things, made a lot of mistakes. But at least we had a group of people that were working together, so we weren't alone. It wasn't like one of us was taking the heat if things didn't go well. We did a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error.
As engineer I sort of take it apart, put it back together, and see how it goes. And one thing that happened to me-- I have a life preserver up here-- something happened early in my leadership that was really, really helpful for me. Our district at the time had a leadership conference up at-- I'm from Kent, Ohio-- it was up at the Shaker Heights Church, The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. And we were lucky enough to have an alban consultant come and lead that leadership conference. Larry Peers was the person. And I still have my packet of leadership materials from that one conference. A little bit of it's a little bit dated, but I still refer to that. And in some ways, I think that was my life preserver. I gained a lot of new knowledge and skills. I learned that, wow, you can't expect volunteers to follow through the same way you can paid employees. I mean some things are sort of "duh" moments now, but that was really helpful for me.
So what I'd like you to do is get your own leadership creation story. What brought you into a leadership position? What kinds of lifelines you got? Maybe it might be mentoring from someone or some sort of training. But for those of you who are experienced leaders, those of you who might be more recent leaders-- that might be a fresh story for you. But I'd like to just think about your own story and then share with the person near to you about-- close geographically in your seats-- to you about how you came into leadership, some of the challenges and also some of the things that were helpful to you. So I'm going to give you about two minutes for the first person and I'll ring the chime in between and then you can switch after two minutes.
OK thank you. So how many of you were invited into leadership by a minister or other congregational leader-- and church leadership? How many of you were invited into leadership by a minister or other congregational leader? How many of you already have leadership experience from your job or other organization? How many of you found it helpful? How many of you also had to re-learn something?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: OK, that's what I thought. How many of you felt like when you were invited into leadership the first time that you had gifts or skills that were recognized? How many of you were given or sent to training specifically for congregational leaders?
AUDIENCE: And this counts for laypersons?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Yeah this counts. OK yeah, you all should have been.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: And how many of you felt like other congregational leaders noticed and valued your growth as a leader? So they noticed that you were improving in your own leadership skills. OK well that's interesting, not as many.
So today I want to share-- my portfolio, of course, is leadership development. I'm blessed with having a position where I do a few other things, but it's my main portfolio. This is part of our experiment in the Central East Region. We have three consultants and we each have a specialty. So I get to spend my time reading leadership development books out of other faith traditions, out of the latest in the business journals, things like that. And my job is to curate that material and share it with you. Or one of my many jobs. So one of the things I'm hearing lately is how can we hold up leaders? How we make sure our leaders have the skills they need today to help be significant congregational leaders? And I have two different models of leadership formation that I have. One's a tried and true model-- which is the commissioned lay leader program-- and the second is a newer model that I'm going to share with you in a little bit. There's a couple of receipts here. Does that look like Jane Jetson to you?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: I saw that graphic, I totally love that. So commissioned lay leaders I want to talk about first. And then there's this idea of using a competency system or maybe a badging-- some of the universities are going with a badging system-- So there's another experimental model I want to share with you in a bit.
I have some underlying assumptions about any sort of lay leadership formation. The first is that one of our theological principles or understandings is that we believe in the priesthood and prophet-hood of all believers. So we believe that every member of the congregation has value, has something to give, that we're all theologians, that we're all able to be worship leaders. I think some of the most moving opening words are often by the lay people as we do things. I love lay led worship. And then the prophet-hood of all believers, the idea of having the prophetic voice, of learning how to speak theologically for social issues. So part of my understanding is that we want to grow leaders that have these abilities.
I call this workshop "The Teachable Heart," and this is a quote from the-- if any of you have read Alice Blair Wesley's Minns Lectures-- she tells the story of the Dedham Church and how they formed. And this is the language that was in the history of this about when they met and talked together, learned from one and other they did so, "so it were humbly and with a teachable heart, not with any mind of caviling or contradicting." So I think of this idea of having a teachable heart as having a kind of vulnerability as we're learning, knowing that we're going to make mistakes, we don't have to be perfect, being gentle with one and other as we're moving into leadership-- I've certainly been in congregational meetings where I felt like I had the big bullseye on the back of my shirt-- but creating a system where we hold people accountable, but we also hold them with love.
And then another underlying understanding that I working with is going back to our Cambridge Platform-- which again is basically the priesthood and prophet-hood of all believers, but with different language-- That we raise up people among the equals. So we have ministers, we have directors, we have professionals that the hold up somewhat from the main body of the congregation. But there's also, still, an understanding of equality there so there's kind of a tension in that relationship. But we also, back in the day, had elders and deacons. And there was some chat on Facebook recently about, should we have a Unitarian deacon? And it's like, well, historically we do. And so I'm hearing this word more and more about how do we have people who are lay leaders, who are not professionally-- are not making their living doing this-- but have abilities and skills and also are honored in a way that's recognized in a way that holds them up. So again they're equal and yet we acknowledge that they have a certain gravitas in the congregation and they have certain knowledge and skills and have done some work.
So another understanding is this encouragement for growth. We have our seven principles we talk about, we have different theological understandings we encourage people to pursue their own [INAUDIBLE] and go deeper with it. Whether it be humanism-- I think that's supposed to be Ralph Waldo Emerson-- or Christianity, or Buddhism, or whatever. But we invite people into that sense of growth. We just leave it open as to what that looks like. So for our religious professionals, we have credentialing processes. For ministers, we've got the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, which is a pretty rigorous process. We have the credentialing for religious educators, both at an associates level and, I think, a master's level. And we've recently come up with credentialing for our musicians. But we've been really skittish around having credentialing for lay leaders. And I'm not necessarily advocating for that but we have nothing right now. It seems like we should have something to recognize lay leaders. We have people with reputations, as such, but we don't really have any processes of recognizing lay leaders who've done a lot of things or grown in certain ways.
The Ohio Meadville District, back in the '70s Bucky McKeeman-- I don't know if you might remember him, he was the minister at Akron. Yay. He was the minister at the unit-- I almost said University of Akron-- Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron. And he saw that there were a lot of lay-led congregations that didn't have ministers, and they were kind of drifting theologically-- I believe wandering to the point of actually having them preach hellfire and brimstone in the pulpit in a Universalist Church. So he recognized a need to take lay-leaders in those congregations and give them the opportunity to get a little bit of theological understanding and training and things like that.
So he started a program back in the '70s that's been going sometimes strong, sometimes not so strong. But right it's a pretty vibrant program. We've tightened up the rules, just like the ministers and religious educators have tightened up their rules along the way. But it's an opportunity for lay leaders to be recognized by the district and their congregations. Again, this is in Ohio Meadville.
So this program is congregation-centered. There's a person who wants to be a commissioned lay leader. Let's see what else I have up here. In order to apply to the program, they have to already be proven leaders in the congregation. It's quite often someone who's served as a board chair or committee on ministry. And then what do you do next? Quite often our presidents leave afterwards. There's not anything for them to do, or there's not a way to go deep. So we're looking for people who've already had experience in congregational leadership.
They have to have a letter of agreement with their board of trustees. So what would be my role? What am I going to do? How am I going to serve the congregation in this role? Really lay out the roles and responsibilities of the commissioned lay leader once they're commissioned and during their training.
Part of it, it's a lay position, so it's an unpaid position. A lot of our lay leaders do perform weddings and they charge for weddings just like the ministers do, but they aren't paid at all by the congregation. They might be paid, or given professional expenses. So for example, there's a commissioned lay leader-- I'm probably getting ahead of myself a little bit here-- but there's a commissioned lay leader who serves as a chaplain at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus. And he really works just about full-time visiting members in nursing homes and things like that, and so they do cover his gas and his cellphone, because it's a pretty significant cost. But he doesn't actually get paid for the work, he does that as a volunteer.
And then the commissioned lay leader program is a three year commissioning, so at the end of three years, the person has to reapply, it expires. And they can reapply as many times as they want, but it's an opportunity to-- again, an accountability piece. Like how is it going? Do you want to change your focus? Are things working for you? Maybe it's time to step down.
So the process in order to become a commissioned lay leader is there's an application and a sponsorship of the congregation. They have to give references. And then there's an initial interview with a district wide commissioned lay leader committee. So I'm currently the chair of that in the Ohio Meadville district. So they come and they talk a little bit, we sort of get a sense of-- they've already had some references, but we want to get a sense of who they are and what they're like and if they're a good candidate for the program. And then they're assigned a liaison to the committee who tracks their progress as they're working on and going from the candidate status to the commission status. And there also-- and this is a really key part of this program-- they're also assigned a mentor, and the mentor is always an ordained minister. So this particular program is a mentor based program. The mentor's relationship with the candidate is how most of the formation happens.
So the actual training happens between the candidate and their mentor. There's a required reading list. If you go to the Ohio Meadville website, you can see the reading list there. It's pretty similar to the minister's reading list but maybe half the titles. The candidate is required to come up with a learning plan which includes how they're going to serve. So let's say they want they want to specialize in worship. Part of their learning plan might be going around and doing services at neighboring congregations. They might pursue additional academics, some of our commissioned lay leaders have take a seminary class or two. And also this idea of experience and reflection. So they do things, they meet with their mentor, they talk about it. What does it mean to be-- they're not professional ministers, but there's something that their relationship with the congregation is raised up a little bit. And we encourage similar boundaries that we do to other professional staff, such as we don't want them serving on the board of trustees necessarily. The committees that they would serve on would be in alignment with whatever their focus is as a commissioned lay leader. And then they're required to report into their liaison every quarter. So again, there's this accountability piece that's really important. Yes.
AUDIENCE: What're the roles and responsibilities that they might--
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: I'll get to that in just a second. So again there's a reading list, here's some sample titles. Again, they're similar to the ones that are on the minister's reading list. OK here we go. Usually the commissioned lay leader is not a generalist the way a minister is, but they pick one, maybe two areas of interest. So the most popular ones are worship arts, possibly adult religious education. They might have more training to teach classes, maybe able to go a little bit deeper theologically. They perform Rites of Passage like weddings and memorial services. Pastoral care is another really popular focus for commissioned lay leaders. And also kind of like the membership coordinator kind of thing-- a professional would be a membership coordinator-- but some commissioned lay leaders look at how they can incorporate people into the life of the church, so they focus on that as a specialty. Does that answer your question? Yes.
AUDIENCE: Do you find it [INAUDIBLE] back into their home congregation or is this as you're getting ready to go someplace else?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: No, this is only in their home congregation. So it's a relationship between them and their board. They have a covenant and it's not transferable. And of course, it's only in the Ohio Meadville district right now. It may be in the St. Lawrence District coming up. As regionalization happens, who knows. And I can talk about that maybe a little bit during the question piece or if you were interested in seeing about talking to your own district about doing something similar, we could talk offline. But that's what happened with the St. Lawrence District. So anyways I don't want to get too much into specifics since we're not actually doing this, but there's a code of ethics, there's a covenant, there's all of these accountability pieces that are embedded into the program. And the district board is actually the body, in our case, that legally says that the commissioning happened. So they get a certificate, then if they renew, then they get a letter saying the renewal happened so they have documentation from the district to do this. The ecclesiology doesn't match our congregational polity really well, but it's done what people need it to do for getting things like marriage licenses.
And then, even after their commission, there's accountability pieces. They're supposed to report into their liaison and create new covenants for their church board as they might renew. So this was originally started for small congregations who may not be able to afford professional ministry or have lay members who want to get some more experience. They just love the church and they want to be deeper Unitarian Universalists.
Large congregations, actually I think, are-- we have more large congregation commissioned lay leaders right than we do people like Deb who are by herself in a congregation. And they actually act like staff. And I've got a picture here. There's me, I'm not staff either. I'm an affiliated community minister, since I work for the UUA. And this is Christie Anderson. She is a commissioned lay leader at my home congregation. So we have the minister, the music director, the religious educator, and there's Christie and I on the page. So we're held up as staff even though we have responsibilities and accountability as staff even though we don't get a paycheck like staff. Yes.
AUDIENCE: And I noticed she's wearing a stole, [INAUDIBLE]
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Yes, she is. She actually sought ordination elsewhere. Although for Rites of Passage-- I mean this is a geographic thing, that's another workshop. Or actually, maybe The Commission on Appraisal's new book on authority might have something about that. But wearing a stole is not necessarily an ordained thing for different traditions. Some people are very strict about that though. And we, as a congregation, we want to stay within the UUA standards as far as ordination goes and she doesn't want to pursue fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. It's a lot to do, but our congregation recognizes her as a minister. So this is the bit where I have invited Chaney to share her experience. Because I've talked a little bit about the nuts and bolts, which is interesting, may be helpful if you're pursuing it. But there's something about what happens to the person who is commissioned, becomes a commissioned lay leader. I wanted to tell a story of how it changed her-- changed your life, right?
DEB CHANEY: Thank you, Renee. Welcome, all of you. It's encouraging and heartwarming to see so many of you here with an interest in lay leadership. Because it's something that's been of profound importance in my life and something which has fed me through many other ups and downs of life. It's been a wonderful source of support for me. Since my first finding of Unitarian Universalism, if you will-- didn't grow up into it, I've always been envious of those who did. Since my first finding Unitarian Universalism, I was a very staunch advocate and promoter and spokesperson. And I quickly found a place at the pulpit in my congregation. They welcomed me, they created space for that.
And at that time, we even did have a minister-- was not an ordained UUA minister but however, was a I think United Church of Christ minister, it was at that time. But one of things that then they allowed me to do-- as I had taken on more worship things and leading in that way-- we had in our community for naturalization, they have law week. And they do nationalization of foreign born citizens several times a year. But the one time of the year they added onto law week. And they celebrate the big event that it is. And they have a ceremony in a very prestigious theatre in our town, an old old wonderful theater with the sky on the roof and ceiling and all that. And they had a benediction and a recessional. No the opening prayer, what am I trying to think of?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Invocation.
DEB CHANEY: Invocation, thank you. Invocation and benediction. And they rotate the churches that they invite to take part in that. And it just so happened, probably within a year or two of my being a member and jumping in with both feet, that it was the honor of our congregation to take part in that. And I had the envious roles of doing the benediction, so I got to close up the show. So it was very, very wonderful.
And I searched and searched for a prayer that I though would say all that I wanted it to and that reflected our values, but yet still had a part of me in it. Read lots of stuff, couldn't quite find something that said what I wanted it to, so I wrote something and I it. And there was something profound for me that took place in the writing and then sharing and the researching of that story, and particularly of the sharing of that prayer, and then publishing in our monthly newsletter-- sharing that prayer with out congregation as well.
What I found in that process was there was something about being open about sharing it publicly, about saying it out loud, and there was a bit of living it out loud that I hadn't done before-- that expanded outside the doors of our congregation. That was moving to me. And I think that really started me, unbeknownst to me at the time, on the path of pursuing leadership. Pursuing lay leadership within out conversation.
I went through the process that Renee explained. She explained it, I think, pretty well. I hope it was clear. There is an approval involved. It isn't just something that you go through the hoops of. Because you need support and approval all along the way. You need the support and approval of your home congregation before you ever turn your paperwork into the district. You need the district. They approve your process of pursuing commissioned lay leadership during those years where you're studying and being mentored. Then they also approve your completion of the process.
So there are, if you will, three steps of approval along the way. And then, obviously, every three years you do that all over again, documenting the support both of your congregation-- your home congregation-- and the district-- the lay leadership committee within your home district. So I want to make clear that it's not just something that we self-proclaim ourselves to be, that there is definitely that accountability and mentoring process that enables us to pursue that.
It is something that has fed me, as I said. My areas have been areas of worship, primarily. That's something that I have felt called to, I'm moved to do. I do share my worship services with other congregations inside our district. We have a "guest in your " I don't know if other districts do that. But at ours, we have a site on our district website that's, I guess, where people can list services and list themselves to be considered for doing services for other congregations.
Let me see what else did I want to say. There's a responsibility that comes with leadership as well, certainly. There's transparency and accountability. In my sense, and I think in the sense of the whole commissioned lay leadership model, there's accountability I think in two areas. One, you enter into a covenant with your board and your congregation, where that's not an implicit covenant. That's an ink and paper covenant that's understood and agreed to and signed by your board president. Also I serve as an ex officio member of the Committee on Shared Ministries. So that body also allows me to report to them on what I'm doing so everyone's on the same page. So there's a transparency about what's involved.
Some of the other things that I've had the pleasure of being involved in as a commission lay leader is representing our congregation at an interfaith community Thanksgiving services this past year. I was very privileged and honored to be a part of that. And for the person who asked about, did we wear a stole? I wore a stole and there are occasions where I have. I'm certainly, by all means, not trying to pass myself as anything other than what I am, a lay leader. But however, I have gone through a formal process within our district that gives me a title and a privilege. And there are occasions where a stole, I think gives status, if you will, to our denomination, to our faith, and to our leaders. And I believe it's appropriate, I would never wear a stole on anything that I was doing personally that I was not representing my congregation and my faith. So just to be clear about that. Yes, question.
AUDIENCE: Can we have some size or sense of size into the congregation?
DEB CHANEY: The congregation that I serve probably has 50 to 55 active members right now. Yes. We're very well established, we're very committed, we're very active. And the lay leadership works well for us. Yes, question.
AUDIENCE: I guess, you know I'm from Florida, so all of this is kind of foreign. And I'm not really sure where we're going to get into commissioned lay leaders. And I was really more interested in the nuts and bolts of what actually you do. I'm currently the president, I'm actually just trying to take information back some of the people, the program committee chair and all of this other. So I'm actually interested in the nuts and bolts, and maybe you're getting into that--
DEB CHANEY: Well when I see lay leadership, my personal take on it is-- and Renee can certainly share her piece, which I expect to be a little different-- is lay leadership is a way for those of us that feel called to do so, to lead a congregation in a way that is not political. I don't have aspirations to be a board president. I have not served in that capacity. I've been extremely active within my congregation and have served in all different areas, worn different committee hats. But this allows me a way to lead- we're talking about the teachable heart- a way to lead from the heart. It's what I can bring, in a way, that guides our actions, and our activities, and our worship in a way that I feel strongly is mirroring and honoring our principles.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: We'll have time for questions at the end. Was there anything else? OK excellent, thank you. [INAUDIBLE] the questions, I want to spend some time on them. So I wanted to share, this is a model that's been working really well in the Ohio Meadville District. And we've had other other districts interested in doing something similar. There's another model that I've been working on which might be more what you're looking for. Which is this idea-- When I first took on this position of leadership development consultant, I was an engineer, as I said earlier in my first career. So I have this brain that sort of has big blueprint, little details, big blueprint, little details as I about things. So I needed a framework for myself to understand how to do leadership development. For how to offer leadership development? What do we offer? Who are we offering it for? What do we want the learning goals to be when we do leadership?
So I worked with that for about a year and then I worked with some groups of lay leaders from some of the districts in our region. So they're lay leaders, church president's, things like that. Some people were also leadership development professionals in the corporate world. So I reflected with them about what do leaders need? What do congregational leaders need? If you paid to send some of your people off to leadership school, what do you want them to come back knowing? And of course, it's not just about skills, right? There's [? things ?] embodiment of what it means to be a leader. It's the non-anxious presence that we want leaders to have. There's a lot of things. There's also the world is changing, right? That's been one of the themes of this general assembly. How do we respond to changing context?
So of course, being a little bit of a-- that engineer brain again-- I came up with 12 things, three groups of four items. And I'm just going to share these is a little bit. I'll go through and describe them a little bit. These are all on the UU website. We've gone into the UU website and actually reorganized the Leadership Development section using these 12, you can see them here, the 12 different-- I use the term competency just because people know what that means, but competency also implies that you'll achieve it someday, and of course, that's not really the case when it comes to these items. But I think of them as areas, I've called them The 12 Part Foundation of Faithful Leadership Formation. That's the committee title, but the working title is competencies. Anyways if you go to the UU website, you'll see of what all these are, a description of them. I'll share a little bit about some of them so you can get the idea. That's something you can look up for yourself. If you have a smartphone, that will take you to the website through our QR code. I'll go back there in a second when folks are ready. Let's see.
So part of the reason-- again this is the 12 things that I think about [INAUDIBLE]. The first one is multicultural sensibility. So we know that the demographics of the United States are changing. We know that most of our congregations are not very multicultural. We have the same class, the same-- we're very homogeneous. But the world is changing. So we have to understand what we need to do with our own sensibility and the sensibility of our congregations to help address that.
When you go to the web page-- I just printed off the descriptions-- here's an example of what it would say. So it's, "understanding how race and privilege operate in our lives and institutions, actively working to dismantle racism, and understanding how culture affects beliefs, values, and mental models, and having strategies to bridge them." So for example somebody asked me earlier today why I use the term reverend when I talk about my colleagues-- like Reverend Mary, Reverend Fred-- and I had to think about it for a second because I've developed this habit. And I'm like, you know, I started doing that intentionally because I know that when I work with African American churches, that they always use the honorifics when talking about people. So when we call our minister by our first name, it's odd to someone who comes out of an African American tradition. So I started using the honorifics when talking about the ministers. And it's now a habit of mine. I didn't even realize I do it anymore. So there's an example of where I worked on my own multicultural sensibility.
The other thing I have on there is different practices about how you can live into that practice in your own life. And also, I have a core value on each page. So for example, for multicultural sensibility, the course value is, "we are committed to the practice of radical hospitality, where we where we encounter each person as a gift. We are committed to the ideal of true diversity because we understand that each person has something to contribute. This enables us to encounter, experience, and integrate diverse ideas and values to work our way closer to our understanding of the 'truth'." And if any of you were in my Theological Understanding of Covenant, that's very similar to the process theology stuff I talked in that workshop.
And then it also has a whole bunch of resources. So there's links to videos-- and these aren't just UU resources. So if I find something that the Methodist's did, like a nice video, I'll link to that and you'll just have to translate. There's links to articles, blog posts, we have some recorded webinars that are available. So every time I find a resource in that area, I put it on the UU website, or so do my colleagues. So is this helpful? I want to [INAUDIBLE] OK.
So the next competency is generational sensibility. I know Kimberely [? Divas ?] is doing a workshop-- I think later today-- on the idea that how different baby boomers are from the millennial generation. I mean, their brains are just wired differently. So how do we as leaders develop understandings of that? How do you know when you're doing a capital campaign, how do you approach the baby boomer versus how do you approach the millennial. You have to have that kind of sensibility about different generations approach the world differently. And being 20 today is way different than being 20 when I was 20, so understanding that as well.
Contextual sensibility-- Twitter. How many people tried Twitter for the first time this GA? Some of you? Yeah, its kind of weird. I'm actually getting into it more. But not just Twitter but just other things in the world, how our brains are being wired differently from our interactions with the world. I'm thinking also, on the UU website I have a link to an article called "The Church as Wikipedia." I think this is a chapter out of a book called Open Source Church. This chapter in this book probably completely changed the way I think about church. Because if you think about it today, someone in their '20s grew up with the idea of not the encyclopedia that has the truth in it, but this interactive source that everybody goes to-- I mean most people go to these days for information-- that anybody can edit. And so they walk into our congregations and they have this board of trustees that locks themselves away in a room and you have no way of getting any idea even heard let alone acted upon. There's a different context there, there's an expectation of participation that's much different because of this Wikipedia experience. So I highly recommend that article to you.
Systems sensibility-- How many of you have taken a Healthy Congregations or Smart Church program? And some of you have. Leadership schools-- SUULE, DBLE Midwest Leadership School-- the systems understanding is how everything is interrelated, how [? affect ?] can make a big difference. If there's anxiety in the room, it's contagious. How to keep the anxiety low, those types of things. So those are all sensibilities, they're not really skills, it's just different lenses to view the world.
The next four things are things to do with the self. So the first one is embodying UU "DNA." So for those of us who walked in-- like both Deb and I did-- we walked into our congregations and said, these are our people. But really, what does that mean? What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist. I had some really strange notions. Because of my first few experiences I thought it was really a good thing to go up and make a political statement during joys and concerns that took three minutes.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Because that was happening. OK that's not really what we're about. So I had to sort of figure out what was the permanent and what was the transient in Unitarian Universalism. So giving the opportunities for people not only from a new UU class, but also about when and how to go deeper. So I know that the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York has a Wellsprings Program, which is kind of like Covenant Groups on steroids. So the people who've been through regular Covenant Groups get to do Wellsprings, and they've got another program that goes even deeper than that, so these opportunities to really understand what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist leader and not just a leader.
Mission focused-- this could have gone in any category, but I had to make it even. So this idea of what's my purpose? And what is our church's, our congregation's purpose? And really being focused on that. The Continuous Leadership books are all about living in division, communicating vision, having the leadership be cohesive around vision. So it's this idea of-- and if you've ever had a district staff person in your congregation, you would have this word at least a dozen times, I'm sure.
Spiritually grounded-- How do I achieve my center? When things are really going crazy, I need to be able to find that quiet place within myself so I can be centered and then be fully present to what's going on. Presence when we're dealing with, when we're working with one another, that attention, and that connection to where really my core is, however theologically you want to describe that.
And then just basic emotional intelligence-- knowing what's your baggage and what's not your baggage, knowing what triggers you. Learning how to pause when you need to pause before the thing you don't want to say comes out of your mouth accidentally. Forbearance is what they called it back in the old days. This one's my favorite-- skills to grow other leaders. It's really great to be up there leading the congregation but looking down the ladder and pulling other people up is just as important.
My favorite book-- again, this is on the website under the resources-- is a book called Multipliers. Has anybody read that, by Liz Wiseman? Man I just want to walk around with a cart filled with those books and hand them out to leaders. Because she talks about how there are leaders, managers, who have the ability to bring out people's capacity. And then there's other people that the same people can work for and they just wither up. What's the difference between the two different kinds of leadership? She calls the second kind of leader diminishers. And what's the difference between a diminisher and a multiplier? And most diminishers don't realize they're diminishing. So one of the things she talks about is, sometimes as leaders we're so eager to get our opinion out there, we don't make space for other people to have their opinions. So she has a lot of great case studies out of the corporate world but for me, that's been one of the best books that I've read on helping to grow other leaders and really appreciating people for their skills. Seeing them for who they are and then inviting them to use the skills and gifts that you see into a leadership role.
AUDIENCE: Title again?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Multipliers, Liz Wiseman. There's a free webinar. It's a little tricky to get to, but I put a link to it on the page, so if you wanted to get a sense of it but-- it's even probably good at the library too. Change and conflict skills-- I do a lot of change theory-- how to be in conflict, healthy conflict, five types of conflict. There's a lot of stuff out there. We're putting a lot of webinars out there on this, so just really important stuff as a leader. Communication skills-- how to listen deeply, but also how to get your message out.
And how do you-- Peter Morales, our president, was talking about this branding thing. But part of it is how do we articulate who we are in a way that people can understand? How do we articulate our mission so it's invitational to people who join our congregation? How do we have our website set up so it tells who we are to the seekers, but also has information for our members to use? All those kinds of skills and sensibilities.
And finally, management skills, which when we think of leadership development sometimes we just stop there, so that's why I left it last. But it's still important. You want to know how to run a meeting, you want to know how to take good minutes, you want to know parliamentary procedure when you have a really difficult topic and you want to be able to control discussion, those are still important skills. And so my thinking on this is everything sort of helps to feed into this. In the church of Renee, the perfect church that I get to design and start all the systems, I would invite everyone to have their own individual learning/serving plan. What would I want to do in the congregation that would match my skills and passions to what the congregation's mission is? And then, what do I need to learn in order to do that well?
The second is just a congregational leadership development plan as if you're doing leadership development, nominating committee work, how do you in your congregation identify and invite new leaders and get them trained? Right now, at least in the Central East Regional Group, we're using this model to design our programming to make sure we have a good mix of all the different areas, not just-- It's really easy to do change and conflict workshops but there's a lot of the other stuff that's important too, so to make sure that we offer things in all of these areas.
And then the Web and Social Networking Resources, again the UUA website is set up now with those resources. And also my region has an on-demand website where as I'm videotaping this, we videotape live workshops and we record live webinars and then we put them up on this on-demand website so that you can get the materials and stuff with them. It's password protected, it's free but we can share materials under the Educational Fair Use laws if it's a site where you have to register to use it so we've chosen to go in that direction, but there's some really great stuff on there.
So anyways, this model was an experiment. I have to tell you, this was a little bit scary for me to do, at least a year ago, before I started test driving it. It's like, who am I to come up with leadership development stuff. But, if not me then who? I'll start the conversation. So part of my presenting this is, let me know what you think. This is changeable, this is mutable, we are the living tradition. So what I would love to hear-- maybe a little bit today but even email me-- is what works? What doesn't work? Because part of what we can do with the leadership development piece, this is the content stuff, which is important. But also within your congregations, how do people hold people accountable to doing this work?
So one of the things that I've thrown out there, along with this, do you notice each one of these has a cute, little round logo that goes with it? One thing that we're trying in our leadership school, UULTI-- the UU Leadership Team Institute, which is the CERG leadership school-- we're actually making little badges that go with each one of these competencies. And so they're going get tote bags and pin the little badges on it. So part of it's kind of a fun thing. But we also have a worksheet booklet kind of thing where you can record what you've taken and keep track of your own growth and development. So part of it can be self directed. As a leadership development team in a congregation you could use this to track whole, maybe small groups where people hold each other-- I don't want to say hold them accountable-- but encourage each other to say, wow, all of us are a little light on contextual sensibility, maybe we should do a workshop or something. Yes. You know what, if you could use a microphone if that would be possible because we are recording this. Go ahead, line up at the microphone, it's not a real workshop until that happens, right?
AMY WATSON: Well I wanted to let you know I when I learned about this a few months ago, I got very excited about it and actually developed a whole leadership training plan for our church, before I realized that I was creating sort of something from my ideal world instead of what they actually wanted. But when I presented it to my leadership development committee they basically responded with, I don't think when we ask someone to be a leader that we can say, and please do this curriculum. So that was one thing. Shoot, the other one was in my head a second ago. I'm going to go back to the back of the line.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: And I guess that's part-- and I appreciate that-- because part of my thinking about this is you don't have to do it all, you can just use it to help track yourself. As well as, here's a way where you can track yourself rather than, we aren't going to let you be on the board until you have five things in each of these categories.
AMY WATSON: And you reminded me what the other thing was. Oh OK. Amy Watson.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: From what congregation?
AMY WATSON: First UU Columbus. So part of the plan that I created was what if-- maybe you've already started thinking about this-- what if we had an online self assessment that somebody could take that would then feedback to them some suggestions. Based on how you did on this self-assessment, you might do this or that or this other thing.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Excellent. Or maybe a phone app. Excellent. Yeah, or all of them, yes.
ALEX MCGEE: Hi my name is Alex McGee. I'm from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I'm curious if you have any tips for selling points or motivational messages so that if our church members, who are already so busy-- already volunteering to bring meals, and go to board meetings, and teach religious education-- how do we could sell this as worth their time.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: OK so again part of my thinking of this as a leadership development team, if that's your role, you can use this as a framework. So as you're thinking about people and what you're offering for your in-house training or if you see trainings in your district or region or whatever, you can use the framework for that. To sort of see where the holes are. On an individual basis, part of the reason we're doing the webinars is just for the reason we know people are busy. So some of the boards I work with, all of the board members say OK, we each pledge to do one webinar a month. Or they might do all the same webinar and then talk about it for the first 15 minutes of their board meetings.
So part of what we're trying to do is make it free, make it accessible, make it relevant. And please do fill out the feedback forms that usually-- I have to double check-- but we have little feedback SurveyMonkey things for each one to help us know whats good and whats not good. Is that helpful? A little bit? Yeah, it's big but it's meant to be so you can take it apart like LEGOs.
REV. AUDETTE FULBRIGHT: Hi I'm Reverend Audette Fulbright I'm serving the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming. And as we go into a leadership formation model from an old nominating committee kind of thing, I was just looking at this and thinking about how-- I wondered how long these modules or these areas tend to take? Because you could try to crush it into a year or a month, or you could say, hmm, let's do four this year and sort of spread out. And then, as I look at it I was also thinking we have a goal not only of increasing the competencies of those people who are already in leadership, but inviting new people and being multipliers, and that's what I do. That's what I love to do is to keep inviting people in, keep inviting people in.
And it seems like doing this, as you say, in something like a Covenant Group style where it's highly relational and shows how that works in the world as well as in congregation, that would be a good model. But I wonder, are those resources already out there, would we be creating somewhat anew?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: So we have a lot of content that you can use relationally. Amen to the relational part. The thing that I'm seeing, especially in the multicultural congregations, is the minister does one-on-ones with their top leaders and those leaders do one-on-ones with the leaders they work with. So it's a very relational model. And part of those conversations are, so what're doing? What're you finding that you need help with? Or that you don't have the skills or capacities? What can we connect you with to help you do that? So in some ways, I think it's more of using it sort of as an overlay, but this isn't driving the bus, the individual person is driving the bus. These are just roadmaps that they can use, depending on what their situation is. Is that more helpful? OK.
FRANK POTTER: Frank Potter, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Dubuque, Iowa. I want to start from the end though in case I forget it. Like someone said before here, I don't think you need to make this something simple difficult. We have a small congregation of about 45 and we have really qualified people. We have nurses, we have counselors, therapists, they're qualified and they've done all of this stuff. They know this stuff. So they have their strengths and weaknesses, So I think that there is a reason that'd it be worthwhile to designate people as lay leaders. They've been around and then that would be helpful for the title. You don't need to make it too complicated. So that's what I think.
The other thing is, we went through the commissioned lay leadership process. And I would caution you strongly to-- I would actually say in most cases, you want to avoid that, OK. First if you're considering commissioned lay leader, which she explained is kind of a junior ministry. And it's also said that it's not transferable. That's important. That means after you spend all that three years-- and you just think about it, any other job, you're not going to be happy or they're not going to be happy with you-- you have nothing. If you have your credentials, it goes elsewhere, and its just a natural process.
So the other thing, we [? began ?] a small fellowship and what happened with us, I was on the board at that time, and the person bypassed the board because she wanted to get that commission. And she went with our [INAUDIBLE] meeting, and got approved. And it sort of turned out very difficult for our fellowship for this person. So anyways, be cautious if you're considering doing it, it's so much work. And here's somebody that was successful, but she can tell you several people that were not successful and gave up, because it's such a demanding program and it doesn't transfer. So be really cautious here.
And when you have a small fellowship, it can be devastating to have somebody come up, where a lot of people like this person and a lot of people think, wait a second here, I don't think she should be a leader, so be very cautious.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Yeah thank you for that. I sort of alluded earlier that we had some ups and downs in the Ohio Meadville District. And just in all parts of our denomination we've had some ups and downs around accountability and boundaries. And the boundaries are much different than they were even 10 years ago. We have a lot more. Part of this is about accountability, the covenant piece, so we're using the accountability piece more so now than maybe the experience was. The idea is it's not a run-around. The board has to be on board, absolutely. Yes.
MAGGIE MARSHALL: Yes I'm Maggie Marshall from San Diego First UU and my question is I think there's great enthusiasm to learn many of the sensibilities that you have up there-- multicultural, generational sensibilities. And people are wanting that training and are hungry for it. I find in some of the committee work that I'm involved in, the basic managerial skills-- I struggle with people chairing a meeting and it not being participatory or the basics of the things that people all think that everybody that chairs a meeting should have. And I would love your answer on when some fundamental skills, for example chairing meetings, somebody may have had those skills in the past, or haven't refined them and updated them or need loving reminders on how to follow an agenda. Those kind of things, what would you suggest?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Depending if there's a lot people in your congregation, you'd just bring somebody in for a Saturday morning bootcamp kind of thing, with some of the basics, depending on what your situation is. If you have a lot of people or maybe in your cluster there might be enough people to do that. Probably another lay leader could do that. You wouldn't necessarily need a district staff person to come in, but just some of those basics. You're right though, those things are important and I think there was a pendulum swing. For awhile that's all we taught and we didn't teach the sensibility stuff. So you're right, it's a both/and. So I would say maybe get together with your cluster and find a good management person who can do that.
JEFF SYLVESTRE: Hi my name's Jeff Sylvestre. I'm from First Universalist Church of Minneapolis. We're a fairly large congregation and we're always-- we're actually in the process of developing a formal leadership development plan. And our challenge is really with the recruitment and the assessment. And as I look at your model I love the fact that maybe it'd be a way to attack this for assessment. My other question is I'm really curious about looking at youth and developing leadership among youth using this kind of lens. And I'm curious about whether you've thought about that before.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Youth isn't my portfolio but I do sort of think about that. I do think about young adults. Another reason I wanted to have a model like this is we have-- especially adults who grew up UU and have all this leadership experience, they move, they go to another congregation and they send them to the new UU class. And really they're probably ready to jump into leadership. So part of the idea of the badging is recognizing skills that are already in people. The other thing with a formal program-- oh I know what I was going to say-- on the on-demand site, there's a class called Passing the Torch, and actually on the UUA website on the main page on leadership development. There's five Is-- identify, invite, I don't know-- but sort of a framework for a leadership plan. And then the Passing the Torch class has a little bit more information on that. But what I've been doing, I've been collecting stories and programs from you all, about what's going well. So for example, Mt. Vernon Church in the DC area, they have I think two or three times a year they have a, are you interested in leadership? Friday night dinner with wine and some games and stuff. And then a Saturday morning, this is how the church works. And they just do this, there's no commitment or anything so people come and they identify leaders doing that. Bill Clontz gave a presentation that we videotaped and that's on our website. So there's an example of an identify event.
And the assessment piece , there's actually someone who came up with a SurveyMonkey kind of self assessment. I'll see if I can get that adapted because that would be really handy to have a tool. It's always nice to have a tool outside of the system that you can send people to. So let me see if we can make something like that happen. Yes.
LESLIE MACPHERSON ARTINIAN: Hi I'm Leslie MacPherson Artinian. I work at Harvard Divinity School and I am on the worship committee at First Parish Milton, Mass. I actually just have a very basic question for Deb. As I was listening to you talk about your experience which sounds, frankly, very exciting to me. But I have a really basic question, which is, do you also work a full time job and since it's unpaid and how many hours do you put into your ministry?
Oh good question I have worked a full time job while I've been a commissioned lay leader, I am not right now. How many hours do I put in? Probably about 10 to 12 a week probably, wearing different hats.
LESLIE MACPHERSON ARTINIAN: I mean it just-- the financial piece is really obvious to me.
DEB CHANEY: Right And I was struck by that as I was hearing Renee speak about the one in Columbus who does full time and is only comped for mileage or whatever. And I thought about that, I thought wow, that's a privilege to have someone have life circumstances that enable them to do that on a volunteer basis. And it's certainly not-- doesn't fit for all, obviously. It's a luxury, it's a privilege.
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: Good question. That person is retired, by the way, so it's sort of a second career kind of thing. Yes.
REVEREND TOM CAPO: I'm Reverend Tom Capo of People's Church Unitarian Universalist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You started earlier talking about elders and deacons, and it seems to me that you're holding more of an elder role than a deacon role. So again it's that wise person in the congregation who has kind of a broad breadth of things, like you said, sensibilities and skills and knowledge. While deacons are more of the workers, the fiscal responsibility people. And they need a different set of skills. So if we went down this-- yeah, if we use this model, you might be training to be an elder or training to be a deacon, and there would be different skill sets for each of those. Has that been thought about?
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: You know it's organic, so part of my way of operating is throwing ideas, little swirls of this and that. I see a swirl that's working over here and I put it over there and seeing what the creativity-- crowdsourcing, kind of. So in some ways because of our congregational polity, any congregation could decide, we're going to have deacons and elders or lay hands or whatever you do to recognize someone in that way. How many of you do an installation of lay leaders in the fall? Like RAE teachers or pastoral care associates. That's a really easy way just to install someone in that position for the year, to hold them up, that this is someone that we trust to care for our sick and our-- so that's a little thing that we can do, but any congregation can-- because of our polity, there's a lot freedom there.
JUDY WILSON: Hi I'm Judy Wilson from Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania. And some people touched on what I was-- I was concerned about the not being paid. It's a lot of expectations for people not being paid. And I'm wondering if there's any sort of way of knowing how many people we're missing because of that. That we haven't been able to recognize as leaders in our church.
And I also was wondering is there like a watered down version of this? Because there's a lot of leaders in our churches who don't go through this process but they absolutely need the support, the education, the recognition. And I'm thinking of the youth leadership, I'm thinking social action, and stuff like this that I can't quite fit in to this model. But these people need all these things and a lot of them are practicing these things depending what skills they've had and where they come from. But I don't know if the paid leaders, or whatever, are getting the sense that we all need some sort of support, supervision, and recognition for what we're doing. I don't know if that's--
REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE: So I want to say, when I was just a lay leader, I put in 10, 12, 15 hours a week. I mean to me that's not-- I wasn't recognized as a commissioned lay leader, but a lot of us put in a lot of time. So for me that's-- and the other thing is that, the commissioned lay leader can always say no. The minister can't. There's a difference there too, it's a voluntary kind of position.
DEB CHANEY: It is? Oh now you tell me.
But you know what, they're doing it out of their passion, so it's a way of helping them deepen and recognize. So to me it's an opportunity to recognize the person. I'm realizing we're at time, so I'm happy to stay and answer questions, but I don't want to keep any of you longer than you want to stay.
For more information contact
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Thursday, August 22, 2013.
Sidebar Content, Page Navigation
More Ways to Search
Donate to Support This Program and the Ongoing Work of the UUA
Read or subscribe to UUA.org Updates for the latest additions to our site.
Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.