Begin with introductions. Tell us who you are, where you live and what led you to accept the invitation to be with us in this seminar. (Discuss the possibility that our being together creates: “ I am committed to the possibility of creating a community this week where everyone feels that they belong and to the possibility of taking these ideas and these discussions and transforming your congregations into belonging communities as well.” Discuss the “hurdles”: what is expected of them in accepting the invitation to be here: Share your ideas and your heart with others in small groups and large. Be open to the ideas, hopes and dreams of others. Commit to participating in the process as it unfolds this week. Be present at all times Commit to being here on time each morning Discuss packet and handouts. You are free to take notes. You can read ahead if you want, but it is not required or necessary. Please remember to bring your packet with you each day. To 10:45
What does it feel like to truly belong? Think about it for a few moments and then call out the words or phrases that come to mind. Write on flip chart paper as people call out. Consider asking a volunteer to write on second flip chart paper. To 10:55
Peter Block is my hero. His book, Community: The Structure of Belonging” has become my bible. We will be drawing from his wisdom this week in talking about creating the beloved community, one of belonging, longing and transformation. Here is what he says about the need to belong. Notice that we are talking about more than welcoming. We are talking about creating a community where everyone feels accountability toward and responsibility for.
This is another way to think of belonging. Make the point that this is what Unitarian Universalism is all about: to help us and others to be; to discover our authentic selves and our meaning in the world. Invite participants to share their reactions to the concept of belonging and how it plays out in their congregation. To 11:15
One of the ways in which we build community is through what the author John McKnight calls “associational life.” He says that developing relationships and neighborly contact “constitutes an uncounted and unnoticed glue and connection that makes good communities work. In his most recent book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of a group of Italian immigrants who settled in Northeast Pennsylvania at the end of the 19th century. Naming the town Roseto, after the name of their village in Italy, they quickly set about bringing life to this new community, clearing the land, planting vegetables and trees, and later building factories to stir industry. Eventually, Roseto, PA became a self sufficient community isolated from the rest of the region and seemingly the world. What really made Roseto unique however, as researchers would find out later, was that the people of this town were remarkably healthy and happy. For example, in the history of the town, virtually no one under 55 died of a heart attack, or showed any signs of heart disease. For men over 65, the death rate from heart disease in Roseto was roughly half that of the United States as a whole. The death rate from all causes in Roseto, in fact, was something like thirty or thirty-five percent lower than it should have been. In addition, there was no evidence of suicides, drug addiction, alcoholism, and very little crime. How to explain this? Researchers looked at neighboring towns to see if it had to do with the geographic region, but found no comparisons with the startling statistics found in Roseto. They located relatives of these townsfolk who had settled in other parts of the country. Still no luck. They even looked at histories of the ancestors in Italy from which the original immigrants had left. But still no evidence of the remarkable signs of health and vitality found in Roseto. Eventually researchers realized that it wasn’t diet or exercise or location or genes that accounted for the findings in Roseto. It was the town itself. They noticed the way in which townsfolk greeted each other and stopped to talk; how they extended a helping hand to each other in times of distress or misfortune; how respect for elders was an expectation among the youth; how several generations of families lived in the same household; how the sense of community permeated people’s lives and interaction with each other. It was the healthy culture that the townspeople of Roseto had created that contributed to their individual health and prosperity.
The primary way in which we will be looking at belonging is community is through the asking of powerful questions. Go to slide. Regardless of how you answer these questions, you are guilty. Guilty of having created this world. Not a pleasant thought, but the moment we accept the idea that we have created the world, we have the power to change it. A great question has three qualities: It is ambiguous – there is no attempt to try to precisely define what is meant by the question. Each person brings their own personal meaning into the room. It is personal – It evokes anxiety – all that matters makes us anxious. If there is no edge to the question, there is no power.
Little power: The hidden agenda in these questions is to maintain dominance and to be right. They are returning to what got us here. They have no power, only force. They imply that the one asking knows and other people are a problem to be solved. Powerful questions enable us to move forward. By answering these kinds of questions, we become more accountable, more committed, more vulnerable and more intimate and connected,
End of first day
The anxiety of invitation is that if we give them a choice, they might not show up. It is difficult to face the reality of their absence, reservations, passivity or indifference. We do not want to face the prospect that we or a few of us may be alone in the future we want to pursue. Ask participants to share a time when they felt alone in pursuing a future that others were reluctant to embrace or participate in. Use your example of serving on the fund drive and being rejected by many in the congregation in response to a call for help. To 10:45
For all the agony of a volunteer effort, you are rewarded by being in the room with people who are up to something larger than their immediate self-interest. You are constantly in the room with people who want to be there. The concern we have about the turnout is simply an expression of our own doubts about the possibility that given a free choice, people will choose to create a future distinct from the past.
1. Ask participants to state possibilities for the following examples: Adult Faith Development Team; Choir; Religious Education for Children; Usher team; building and grounds committee; Annual Fund Drive team. Divide into groups of three and give group five minutes to write a statement of possibility. 2. Let them know that even if they say no now, they will always be welcome in the future.
3. What is expected of them is not to take on a specific task at first, but to make a commitment to the process and the outcome; to give their ideas; to accept the ideas of others, to make the time for this to work. Paradoxically, even though there is no cost for refusal, there is a price for coming. Everything that has value has a price. Ask: What is the price you are paying for being here? End this section by asking for reactions and to compare with the way they invite (or recruit?) people in their congregations now. Ask them to consider practicing this process of invitation at SI should the occasion arise. To 11:00
Possibility is not about what we plan to happen, or what we think will happen, or whether things will get better. Goals, predictions and optimism don’t create anything; they just might make things a little better and cheer us up in the process. Nor is possibility simply a dream. Possibility is a a declaration of the world that I want to inhabit. Facilitate a discussion on the differences between mission, vision, and possibility. Mission focuses on the past and present. Vision is a hope for the future. Possibility is a declaration of what is possible in the future.
Allow five minutes for people to think of an issue. Then have them form groups of three to share: first the issue as a problem and then the issue as a possibility. Allow ten minutes for this process. Ask for general responses from the group in reaction to the exercise. To 11:30
As an exercise, use Summer Institute as the context or the project around which we are assembled. Break the group into threes and ask them to discuss questions one and two. (questions three and four are questions which underscore or direct the conversation toward answering question two.) End of Second Day
Confusion blame and waiting for someone else to change are defenses against ownership and personal power. A subtle denial of ownership is innocence and indifference. The future is denied with the response “It doesn’t matter to me-whatever you want to do is fine.”
May even rate the early questions on a seven point scale. The guilt question requires a great deal of trust. It can be asked only after people are connected to each other. If I do not see my part in causing the past and the present, then there is no possible way I can participate usefully in being a coauthor of the future.
Werner Erhard talks about the transformative power of stories. There are stories that give meaning to our lives and help us find our voice and those that limit our possibility. Limiting stories are personal visions of the past. They are stories about the conclusions we drew from events that happened to us. They often place us as victims of events or even fate. The decision to tell these stories over and over again as if they were defining truths creates the limitation against an alternative future. (Story about Northeast out to get me). The payoffs are being right, being in control, being safe, or not being wrong, controlled or at risk. The cost most often is our sense of aliveness. Naming these stories to one another can take the limiting power out of the story. This allows the story to stay in the past and creates an opening for use to move forward. Ask, are there limiting stories that you tell yourself and others in your congregation? Pair up with one other person and answer the questions. To 11:00
Niels Bohr. Danish physicist. Professor of Theoretical Physics at Copenhagen University 1916-1962. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics 1922. Instrumental in the American atomic weapons program.
Dissent becomes commitment and accountability when we get interested without having to fix, explain or answer it.
Show James Woods tape as example of listening deeply and not just for content, but for affect.
Do handle-bar mustache exercise.
The moment people experience the fact they they can dissent or express doubts and not lose their place in the circle, they begin to join as full fledged members. When dissent is truly valued and becomes the object of genuine curiosity, the chance of showing up as an owner of that circle or that room goes up dramatically.
The challenge is to frame the questions in a way that evokes dissent that is authentic. To circumvent denial, don’t ask people whether they think there is a problem. To avoid rebellion, don’t try to sell or control the world. The last two questions are the most difficult. Work in discussion of conflict and do group conflict exercise. End of Third Day
As long as our promise is dependent on the actions of others, it is not a commitment; it is a deal, a contract. Whenever someone says they’ll try hard, agree to think about it, or do the best they can, consider that a no. Ask about the kinds of covenants that participants make in their congregations. Board? Behavioral? Does it include the words “strive” or “try”? Promises are sacred. They are the means by which we choose accountability. We become accountable the moment we make them public.
The only act that puts membership at risk is the unwillingness to honor our word. Refusing to make a promise is an act of integrity and supports community. Not honoring our word, either by fulfilling our promises or retracting when we know they will not be fulfilled, sabotages community and it does not matter what the excuse. Think about the questions above as they relate to your role in your congregation. Do any of the questions evoke a response? Ask to share.
Authentic acknowledgement of our gifts is what it means to be inclusive or to value diversity. Talk about your disabilities work and the focus on a person’s disability or what they’re doing wrong. Ask participants to think about the gifts that they choose to bring out into the world that benefits their congregation. Ask them to have the courage to share.
Point out that it is often hard to acknowledge our gifts or to hear another do so. We tend to deflect the appreciation or pooh pooh it. Instead, we should say Thank you. I like hearing that. Do stickers exercise in response to the questions on the slide above.
End of fourth day
Long rectangular tables are designed for negotiation, one side facing the other. You see only those on the other side and sit blind to those on your own side of the table. If you cannot make eye contact with half the people in the room, you are not creating a spiritual community. Chairs in a circle with no tables. If you must have tables, make them round ones. Put the chairs as close together as possible, which forces people to lean in to one another. Meet in a room that has windows. A room with no windows carries the message that the larger world does not, for this moment, exist. It isolates us from the larger world and gives permission to be focused narrowly on the smaller world within the boundaries of our own interests. Leave the door to the room open. Allow people to come in and out if they need to. Put life on the wall: William H. Whyte said: An empty wall is a testimony to the insignificance of the human spirit. Filling the meeting room walls with art and artifacts that represent the youth and adults of your congregation affirms the significance of the human spirit and reminds you why you gather to meet in the first place.
The Most Precious Thing: Creating a Sense of Belonging in Your Congregation OMD Summer Institute July 11-15 Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
<ul><li>John O”Donohue, Irish Philosopher: </li></ul><ul><li>“ The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. Merely to be excluded or to sense rejection hurts. When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness. We become vulnerable to fear and negativity. </li></ul><ul><li>A sense of belonging, however, suggests warmth, understanding, embrace. The ancient and eternal values of human life - truth, unity, goodness, justice, beauty and love - are all statements of true belonging.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>“ Our hunger to belong is the longing to bridge the gulf that exists between isolation and intimacy. Distance awakens longing; closeness is belonging. Everyone longs for intimacy and dreams of a nest of belonging in which one is embraced, seen and loved. Something within each of us cries out for belonging. </li></ul><ul><li>We can have all the world has to offer in terms of status, achievement and possession, yet without a true sense of belonging, our lives feel empty and pointless. Like the tree that puts roots deep into the clay, each of us needs the anchor of belonging in order to bend with the storms and continue toward the light." </li></ul>
To belong is to be related to and a part of something. It is membership, the experience of being at home in the broadest sense of the phrase. To belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.
Belonging can also be thought of as a longing to be. Being is our capacity to find our deeper purpose in all that we do. It is the capacity to be present and to discover our authenticity and whole selves. Community is the container within which our longing to be is fulfilled. Without the connectedness of a community, we will continue to choose not to be.
The Elements of Community <ul><li>Invite people who are not used to being together </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on possibilities </li></ul><ul><li>Act as if you are creating what exists in the world </li></ul><ul><li>Allow room for dissent </li></ul><ul><li>Define members of the community by their gifts and talents rather than by their needs and deficiencies </li></ul><ul><li>Create community by focusing on the structure of how we gather and the context in which those gatherings take place </li></ul>
Powerful questions are those that evoke a choice for accountability and commitment. Questions that have the power to make a difference are ones that engage people in an intimate way, confront them with their freedom, and invite them to co-create a future possibility. Powerful questions are the ones that cause you to become an actor as soon as you answer them. You no longer have the luxury of being a spectator of whatever it is you are concerned about.
<ul><li>Questions with Little Power </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get people to serve on the Board? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get people to accept the move to two services? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get people to pledge more money? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get more people to attend congregational meetings? </li></ul><ul><li>Powerful Questions </li></ul><ul><li>What gifts do you hold that you are willing to bring to this congregation? </li></ul><ul><li>What are you willing to give up in order to move forward? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the commitment that you bring to this congregation? </li></ul><ul><li>How valuable do you want this congregational experience to be? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Powerful questions give us the means to initiate a community where accountability and commitment are ingrained. In so doing, we also create a sense of belonging. </li></ul><ul><li>These questions lead to conversations that are central to a transformative and inclusive community and include the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Inviting rather than mandating </li></ul><ul><li>Focusing on what is possible </li></ul><ul><li>Creating ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring commitments without bartering </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledging the gifts of each person and the community </li></ul>
SCORING WILL TAKE PLACE AS FOLLOWS: IF BOTH TEAMS PLAY THE BLUE CARD, BOTH TEAMS GET ONE POINT. IF BOTH TEAMS PLAY THE RED CARD, BOTH TEAMS GET TWO POINTS. IF ONE TEAM PLAYS THE BLUE CARD AND THE OTHER TEAM PLAYS THE RED CARD, THE TEAM THAT PLAYS THE BLUE CARD GETS THREE POINTS AND THE TEAM THAT PLAYS THE RED CARD GETS ZERO POINTS.
It begins with the invitation <ul><li>Invitation is the means through which hospitality and belonging are created. It is an act of generosity; a call to create an alternative future, to join in the possibility that we have declared. </li></ul><ul><li>In an authentic community, members decide anew every single time whether to show up. If they do not choose to show up, there are no consequences. They are always welcome. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Invitation is not only a step in bringing people together. It is also a fundamental way of being in community. </li></ul><ul><li>Genuine invitation changes our relationship with others, for we come to them as an equal. I must be willing to take no for an answer, without resorting to various forms of persuasion. </li></ul>
Making the Invitation <ul><li>Name the Possibility </li></ul><ul><li>The invitation is activated by the possibility we are committed to. The possibility is the future that the convener is committed to. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: the possibility of a congregation that is vital, healthy and thriving. </li></ul><ul><li>Frame the Choice </li></ul><ul><li>The invitation must allow room for a no. We need to be clear that we will not initiate consequences for not attending and that we respect someone’s decision not to attend. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Name the Hurdle </li></ul><ul><li>The invitation is not only an invitation to show up, but to engage. We need to tell people explicitly what is expected of them should they choose to attend. </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforce the request </li></ul><ul><li>End the invitation by telling people that you want them to come and that if they choose not to attend, they will be missed but not forgotten. </li></ul><ul><li>Make it personal </li></ul><ul><li>A visit is more personal than a call; a call is more personal than a letter; a letter is more personal than an email. </li></ul>
Conversation One: Possibility <ul><li>Possibility is not a goal or prediction; it is the statement of a future condition that is beyond reach. </li></ul><ul><li>It is an act of imagination of what we can create together and it takes the form of a declaration, best made publicly. </li></ul>
<ul><li> Possibility lives into the future </li></ul><ul><li>while problem solving makes </li></ul><ul><li>improvements on the past. </li></ul><ul><li> The future is created through a </li></ul><ul><li>declaration of what is the possibility we </li></ul><ul><li>stand for. </li></ul><ul><li>Think of an issue that is prevalent in your congregation today. Frame it not as a problem to be solved, but as a possibility that we can live in to. </li></ul>
Questions for the Possibility Conversation <ul><li>What is the crossroads where you find yourself at this stage of your life or work or in the project around which we are assembled? </li></ul><ul><li>What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you? </li></ul><ul><li>What do we want to create together that would make the difference? </li></ul><ul><li>What can we create together that we cannot create alone? </li></ul>
Conversation Two: Ownership The ownership conversation asks us to act as if we are creating what exists in the world. This requires that we believe in the possibility that our congregation is mine or ours to create. It stems from the belief that each of us is cause not effect.
<ul><li>We have to realize that each time people enter a room, they walk in with ambivalence, wondering whether this is the right place to be. This is because they believe that someone else owns the room. </li></ul>Accountability is the willingness to acknowledge that we have participated in creating…the conditions that we wish to see changed. Community will be created the moment we decide to act as creators of what it can become. The question we need to ask ourselves, and ask others, is… “ How I have contributed to creating the current reality?”
Questions for the Ownership Conversation <ul><li>Four early questions: </li></ul><ul><li>How valuable an experience do you plan for this to be? </li></ul><ul><li>How much risk are you willing to take? </li></ul><ul><li>How participative do you plan to be? </li></ul><ul><li>To what extent are you invested in the well-being of the whole? </li></ul><ul><li>The guilt question: </li></ul><ul><li>What have I done to contribute to the very thing I complain about or want to change? </li></ul>
<ul><li>The story questions: </li></ul><ul><li>What is the (limiting) story about this congregation that you hear yourself most often telling? The one that you are wedded to and maybe even take your identity from? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the payoffs you receive from holding on to this story? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your attachment to this story costing you? </li></ul>
Conversation Three: Dissent <ul><li>Creating space for dissent is the way diversity gets valued in the world. </li></ul><ul><li>Inviting dissent into the conversation is how we show respect for a wide range of beliefs. </li></ul><ul><li>The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. </li></ul><ul><li>Neils Bohr </li></ul>
<ul><li>The act of surfacing doubts and dissent does not deflect the communal intention to create something new. </li></ul><ul><li>When we think we have to answer people’s doubts and defend ourselves, then the space for dissent closes down. </li></ul><ul><li>All we have to do with the doubts of others is to get interested in them. How? By listening. </li></ul><ul><li>Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves. Listening, understanding at a deeper level than is being expressed, is the action that restores community and a sense of belonging. </li></ul>
A Word (or two) about Listening <ul><li>A wise old owl sat on an oak; </li></ul><ul><li>The more he saw, the less he spoke; </li></ul><ul><li>The less he spoke, the more he heard; </li></ul><ul><li>Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?” </li></ul><ul><li>To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>Chinese Proverb </li></ul>
A MAN IS AFRAID TO GO HOME BECAUSE THERE IS A MAN WITH A MASK WAITING FOR HIM.
Deep Listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand. Sue Patton Thoele Hearing people’s words is only the beginning. Do you also hear their fears? Their intentions? Their aspirations? When you start to hear at a deeper level,… people will know that you care about them and they will eagerly commit to you. Keven Cashman
<ul><li>Authentic dissent is NOT: </li></ul><ul><li>Denial…which means we act as if the present is good enough. </li></ul><ul><li>Rebellion…which most often is not a call for transformation or a new context, but simply a complaint that others control the “world” and not us. </li></ul><ul><li>Resignation…which is the ultimate act of powerlessness and a stance against possibility. It is resigning from the future and embracing the past. </li></ul>
Questions for the Dissent Conversation <ul><li>What doubts and reservations do you have? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the no, or refusal, that you keep postponing? </li></ul><ul><li>What have you said yes to, that you no longer really mean? </li></ul><ul><li>What is a commitment or decision that you have changed your mind about? </li></ul><ul><li>What forgiveness are you withholding? </li></ul><ul><li>What resentment do you hold that no one knows about? </li></ul>
Conversation Four: Commitment Commitment is a promise made with no expectation of return. It is the willingness to make a promise independent of either approval or reciprocity from other people. Lip service is the enemy of commitment. The future does not die from opposition. It disappears in the face of lip service.
Questions for the Commitment Conversation <ul><li>What promises am I willing to make? </li></ul><ul><li>What price am I willing to pay? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the cost to others for me to keep my commitments, or to fail in my commitments? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the promise I am willing to make that constitutes a risk or major shift for me? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the promise I am postponing? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the promise or commitment I am unwilling to make? </li></ul>
Conversation Five: Gifts We are not defined by deficiencies or what is missing. We are defined by our gifts and what is present. Belonging occurs when we tell others what gift we receive from them…when this occurs, in the presence of others, community is built. We embrace our own destiny when we have the courage to acknowledge our own gifts and choose to bring them into the world.
This exercise gets a little sticky <ul><li>Acknowledge the gifts that others have given you by answering one (or a combination) of the following questions: </li></ul><ul><li>What gift have you received from another in this room? </li></ul><ul><li>What has someone in this gathering done this week that has touched you or moved you or been of value to you? </li></ul><ul><li>In what way did a particular person engage you in a way that had meaning? </li></ul>
Questions for the Gifts Conversation <ul><li>What is the gift you currently hold in exile? </li></ul><ul><li>What is it about you that no one knows about? </li></ul><ul><li>What are you grateful for that has gone unspoken? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the positive feedback you receive that still surprises you? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the gift you have that you do not fully acknowledge? </li></ul>
Space: The Final Frontier <ul><li>Community is built when we sit in circles, when there are windows and the walls have signs of life, when every voice can be equally heard and amplified, when we are all on one level, and the chairs have wheels and swivels. </li></ul><ul><li>The way we occupy the room can meet our intention to build relatedness, accountability and commitment. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Sit in chairs in a circle with no tables. </li></ul><ul><li>Put the chairs as close together as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Meet in a room that has windows. </li></ul><ul><li>Leave the door to the meeting room open. </li></ul><ul><li>Put life on the walls. </li></ul>Wait a minute! Without tables, how do I take notes? Won’t the windows distract me from what we’re talking about? If we leave the door open, anyone might walk in.
Putting it All Together <ul><li>What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you? </li></ul><ul><li>How participative do you plan to be? </li></ul><ul><li>What doubts and reservations do you have? </li></ul><ul><li>What promises am you willing to make? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the gift you currently hold in exile? </li></ul>
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. George Bernard Shaw