I have a clear vision of what a Unitarian Universalist congregation should mean to its members; what it should offer and provide to those who are part of its extended community. The core of that vision is the congregation as a “learning laboratory” – a place we come, not to find security and comfort (though those should always be available) but rather a community we join in order to be inspired, to become more of who we are, to live more fully into who we might be. My hope for all our UU congregations is that they equip their members of all ages to live with power and presence in the world, to create transforming change within their lives, bringing hope and possibility to all of humanity, in ways large and small.
I remain curious about why “leadership development” is so often shunned in our congregations; perhaps it is because people think it is a sort of trap – that if someone knows you are a “leader,” you will be asked to do more than you are comfortable doing, to give more or spend more hours serving the congregation. My hope is just the opposite: that our congregations will support people to do exactly as much as they wish of what they most love to do; that we equip them to be more effective in their paid work, their family and community life, and of course, invite them to live into their passion within the congregation.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. This quote from John Quincy Adams, Unitarian sixth President of the United States, pretty well sums it up – but then we encounter the core question, how do we help people act in those inspirational ways? How do we encourage them to dream and to learn, to do and to become people who live into their most cherished values at all stages, and in all arenas of their lives?
My training in appreciative leadership development leads me always to begin with the stories: When have you found yourself inspiring others? What were the gifts you brought to that experience? In what ways would you like to further develop those gifts, and where would you like to offer them? So that is the invitation I offer now, as we enter the fresh promise of a new year – may you always be welcome here to explore and to offer your gifts freely, in the ways you most love — and as always, I hope to see you at UUCP!