To help leaders move congregations through times of high anxiety, the following are strategies that I have found helpful. This is not a comprehensive list, but several of my own findings that I offer to you.
Emotional Systems Theory
Through a systems lens, we see congregations or communities as nonlinear, organic and dynamic. Everything exists in relationship to everything else. A systems model suggests that there is not one cause, but interacting variables that elevate the anxiety and chaos within a community. Transforming such anxiety and conflict is both an art and a science. In working through challenges with congregations, it is helpful to assist them in identifying those variables impacting the group, and begin to work on strategies to address them. For larger adaptive issues, most of the time there is no simple answer. The task is to continue asking the difficult questions.
Viewing congregations as emotional systems, especially during times of high anxiety and conflict provides opportunity for communities to give attention to relationships while identifying those interacting variables that contribute to anxiety. Interactive processes among the community help shift the focus form a linear problem-solving approach to deeper learning and understanding as a community.
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When the anxiety is lower, the congregation has a higher capacity to perceive what is trying to emerge and invite a new narrative. Granted, as anxiety rises, the functioning of people potentially becomes more reactive and conflict can easily follow, for conflict is a way of dealing with anxiety. The anxiety and conflict, when responded to appropriately by leaders, can be the catalyst for creative, adaptive growth and positive change.
This process of conversational leadership is a way of growing, deepening and broadening the container, so the deeper, more important, courageous conversations can happen. The container has to do with its quality, paying attention to the group field; the clarity and interaction of intention and attentiveness, each of which help establish context; to monitor if it is too palpable? As the leader, influencing the quality of the container is our first job and very closely, it is inviting others to share that responsibility with us.
The minister, leader, counselor or facilitator does not take security for granted, nor does he or she use theory or theology to substitute for the encounter. The challenge is to be fully present in the “nothing else than process without getting lost in the abyss”
Congregations preserve their memory through the stories they tell. Congregations live by their narratives; their stories help remind them and inform them who they are and from whence they come.
Declaring a new dispensation by confession, we see our trespasses against others in a new light, initiated by something we were hiding not only from the world but also from ourselves. Holding the secret was not only a defense against punishment but also a holding back from our next outrageous step. To separate the confusion of punishment with revelation, we first of all confess to ourselves, step onto solid ground in the privacy and spaciousness of our own hearts, minds and moral imaginations and then translate it into the best speech we have to represent it in the world.
Is procrastination always negative? Can it teach us something important? Are there times when we call something procrastination, meaning its negative, when in fact, it is not? Can “procrastination” hold positive meaning and significance? This article explores these questions thinking about the light and shadow side of procrastination.
We are neither purely individuals nor fully creatures of our communities, but an act of becoming that can never be held in place by a false form of nomenclature. No matter our need to find a place to stand as individuals or as faith communities amidst the onward flow of the world, the real foundation of the deepest, self is in the self-forgetful remembering of the meeting itself.
You and I are created in the image of God with gifts and graces, voice and values. When I meet you in an I-Thou way, I help you rediscover this image in yourself and I rediscover it in myself as well. Together we walk, discovering our voice and value.
Whatever we do on the surface, what people react, resist or respond to is who we are being in our hearts and souls when we do it. The deeper place of the heart/soul is the soil from which authentic presence, integrity and influence blossom and are cultivated, nurtured and grown. The way of our hearts/souls determines influence.