If it feels like you don't know where you're going, that's okay. Here's something that can help you reflect on what God might have in store for you and your congregation.
Issue 16: April 2022
By Cathy Wille 
How many of us as leaders of the church signed up for the circumstances in which we find ourselves at this time? A pandemic, the death of George Floyd and racism in our society, the contentiousness of a national election, and a war in Ukraine are among the crises with which leadership is dealing inside and outside the church. Many of us had to decide whether we would sit around wringing our hands wondering whether we or the organization we serve will survive, or go back to bed, cover up our heads and stay there, or remember that our task was to be leaders and respond to our call to serve the greater good, by serving God.  

As we move to the next phase of these crises, the question is: What will be the same and what will be different? People talk about the “new normal,” without knowing all the  changes involved. Change is challenging, no matter the source, and these changes are inevitable.  In addition, we know that many of these changes will be adaptive changes as opposed to technical changes. 

Adaptive change is the gap between the values and beliefs people stand for and the reality that they face. Technical change refers to issues that can be diagnosed and solved, generally within a short time frame, by applying existing know-how. Adaptive work is accomplished by holding people together. through a sustained period of disequilibrium. During this time the DNA needs to be identified that will enable them to thrive anew, even though we know we know that solutions for these situations are yet to be developed. 

As a leader it is much easier to make technical changes, but many of the challenges following a crisis are adaptive in nature. Most people will try to use technical tools to solve adaptive issues until they realize they don’t work. If you ever have tried to hold people together through a sustained period of disequilibrium when dealing with adaptive issues, you know that this can be very challenging. It is at these times many leaders find it difficult to claim their “belovedness.” 

Leaders report burnout, anxiety, depression or both when working through adaptive issues. We hear words that put us down, question our authority as leaders, or tells us that we are worthless – unless we can demonstrate the opposite. These voices can be so loud and persistent that it is easy to believe them and be tempted to reject ourselves.  
Richard Rohr says:  
“The great thing about God’s love is that it’s not determined by the object. God does not love us because we are good. God loves us because God is good.” 
Henri Nouwen says: 

“That is the great trap. Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are integrated into the much larger temptation to reject ourselves. When we believe the negative voices, success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.” 
Nouwen goes on to say:

“There is a voice of love that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’ (Matthew 12:18)….. Well, we don’t need to listen to those negative voices nor beat ourselves up. We are Beloved. We were intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved us. That is the truth of our lives. That is the truth we are invited to claim for ourselves. That is the truth that will dispel our darkness and fill us with joy.” 
As we leaders respond to our call to do the hard work of adaptive change that will serve the greater good by serving God on the next phase of this crisis time, may we be sustained by the knowledge that we, indeed, are God’s Beloved. 
  1. What adaptive changes are you facing as we move into the next phase of this crisis time?
  2. How have negative voices impacted your leadership? 
  3. What practices have you used to counter those negative voices? 
Benefiel, Margaret, Crisis Leadership (A Little Book of Leadership), Morehouse Publishing, New York, 2021. 
Heifetz, Ronald and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through The Dangers of Leading, Harvard Business Press, Boston, 2002 
Heifetz, Ronald, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Harvard Business Press, Boston, 2009. 
Nouwen, Henri J., “Forgiveness: The Name of Love In A Wounded World,” Weavings, Mar/April 1992. 
Nouwen, Henri J., Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1992. 
Rohr, Richard, James Finley, Cynthia Bourgeault, Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate: Seeing God in All Things, Center for Action and Contemplation: Rohr Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2010. 
Join the Discussion: Crisis Leadership
The Supportive Ministries Team hosts a monthly discussion on topics from this newsletter. The next one, "Crisis Leadership: a Tending the Soul Conversation," takes place on May 4 at 1:00 p.m. Central time on Zoom.

Please join us for a discussion on Crisis Leadership for God’s Beloved, from Cathy Wille's article above.

Missed these articles?

Revisit these thought-provoking articles from previous issues. Many include questions for groups discussions in your congregation, or for personal reflection.
Conference Supportive Ministries

In addition to the direct support to pastors and congregations provided by Wisconsin Conference staff, here are some of the supportive ministries congregations can take advantage of. Follow the link below to learn more about this programs and how your church might benefit.
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Grants and assistance programs
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations
  • Readiness 360
View a comprehensive list with more information about Supportive Ministries offerings.
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Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force provides articles, discussion guides and other resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members from top left are Bob Ullman, Lisa Hart, Bonnie Andrews, Cathleen Wille and Tim Perkins.
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