Monday, July 20, 2009

Every church needs a behavioral covenant based on shared values


Every church needs a behavioral covenant which is based on shared values. This behavioral convenant can be implicitly understood or made explicit. Ideally it is both explicitly discussed, developed, and agreed to and after a while it becomes a part of the implicit culture of the organization. That is, everybody just understands "how things are done around here" and "how people are supposed to act."

Of course, an explicit statement of values guiding a behavioral convenant is most helpful when there is disagreement, conflict, dissension, and attacks and fighting. Often, organizations try to do too little, too late, after significant damage to the church has already occured.

So as a part of the planning process it is not only a good idea but perhaps a critical part of the process to have the planning group at some point explicitly discuss, develop, and design a value statment that guides behavioral dynamics of the organization. These values are not set in stone but here are a few that I like and believe are necessay:

Respect - We need to respect each others ideas and feelings. Sometimes this means agreeing to disagree.

Empathy - We need to put ourselves as much as possible in other people's shoes and try to understand their point of view and feelings. Empathy is not the same thing as sympathy which is feeling like the other person, or agreement. Empathy is the ability to understand, and to be curious and interested in where the other person is coming from.

Assertiveness - People need to speak directly to one another and not behind their back and gossip. This may take courage as there may be a fear of conflict, rejection, or derision, but in the long run it is better to take the bull by the horns, and call a spade a spade than to walk around on egg shells and pins and needles, and beat around the bush, and then "back bite" the other.

Accountability - We need to be accountable to the good of the whole, and the whole needs to be accountable to its members. Accountability is about meaning what we say and saying what we mean. Accountability is about doing what we agree to and saying "no" when we are not able or willing to take on some responsibilities. It is always more disappointing to the whole when we aree to something and let people down that to just say "no" up front. Accountability, like assertiveness, often takes courage.

Value diversity - We need to be inclusive and not exclusive. The goal is not the melting pot, but rather the tossed salad or the mosaic where people's unique differences are not only tolerated but appreciated and valued as contributing to the richness of the whole. Blending in is not the goal, but appreciating and valuing differences in an enriching and empowering way is

Integrity - We need to value integrity that is the individual's right to self determination and honesty in the face of unpopularity, disappointment, disagreement, and skepticism. It is difficult to be true to oneself and to others when one is experiencing various pressures and stressors to profess and act otherwise. We believe in the right of conscience, and justice and equity in human relations.

Teamwork - We need to work with others in a fair, collaborative, and a democratic way welcoming all ideas even if they cannot always be used. Leadership is used on behalf of others as a means of service for the good of the church and not of the self. Service above self becomes an important value of a healthy church.

These values which could be agreed to as a basis for gthe Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship or any church's behavioral convenant, Respect, Empathy, Assertiveness, Accountability, Diversity, Integrity, and Teamwork make the acronym REAADIT. "Read it".

Whether these values or other values are chosen, it is important for a church to have agreement on what the preferred values are which are the basis for the ways in which people interact and conduct themselves.

Video lasts 4:45.



This is article #11 in a series on Birth Of A Congregaton.

1 comment:

  1. David, I once described this as a liberal-religious protocol...as the mutual expectations that we have of one another as a liberal-religious community. And we do have some expectations, don't we? They reflect a kind of personal discipline that is more internal than imposed, and is largely unspoken...but it does exist.

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