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 5: January 2021
Shifting Gears in a New Year
As we move into a new year in which many anticipate at some point returning to “business as usual” after a disruptive 2020, deep down we know that we have all been changed by the events of this past year. It is a good time to consider the three spiritual shifts proposed by Susan Beaumont in her recent book, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going. They are guides for navigating what will remain a liminal time for the foreseeable future - shifts from what was known to what yet might be. In a brief video that Rev. Dr. Tisha Brown prepared for a Damascus Project presentation last fall, she highlights three spiritual shifts – from knowing to unknowing (curiosity), from advocating to attending (arising from deep listening), from striving to surrender (not giving in but giving over, of welcoming what may yet emerge). 
Below is a guide for reflection and conversation about engaging the three shifts for personal reflection, but even better for group conversation. Gather a group of your leaders, watch the video together and then let the guide be a road map into a deeper conversation about what this new year might hold and offer as we move forward.

Making Three Spiritual Shifts Pondering Guide
In chapter 2 of How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season, author Susan Beaumont suggests three spiritual shifts for leaders. They are:
Three Spiritual Shifts
  1. From Knowing to Unknowing
  2. From Advocating to Attending
  3. From Striving to Surrender
In her comments on these spiritual shifts, the Rev. Dr. Tisha Brown suggested three questions to consider as you ponder which spiritual shift might be one for you or your congregation to make. 
Three Questions to Consider
  1. Where am I/are we stuck in my/our thinking? (Knowing)
  2. Where am I/are we stuck in my/our attitude? (Advocating)
  3. Where am I/are we stuck in the past? (Striving)
Since the process of making any one of these spiritual shifts is challenging, Tisha then suggested three mantras or phrases to adopt in the midst of these shifts.
Three Mantras to Consider
  1. This is interesting. I wonder what is emerging now … (curiosity/unknowing)
  2. This is where we are/where I am now. I wonder what God/Spirit is doing here... (mindfulness/attending)
  3. This is normal now. I wonder what is possible in this reality? (accept reality/surrender)
This process of making these spiritual shifts is challenging and it takes time. There are three things we need to keep in mind as we go through this process.
In the process…
  1. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable/feel discomfort.
  2. Allow yourself to let go.
  3. Allow yourself to grieve.
And above all, don’t do this alone! Gather your community, your family, your support network and share this experience together.

Five Active Dynamics Every Church Must Address
Five Active Dynamics Every Church Must Address is a brief (15 minute) video introducing five dynamics that individuals and congregations are experiencing during these times. The video features Mark Tidsworth of Pinnacle Leadership Associates, the consulting firm the Wisconsin Conference has engaged for training in our coaching program. The five dynamics will be familiar to you, since I'm sure you are seeing them rise up in your churches as well: Longing, Fear, Grief, Adaptation, and Vitality. What a strange mix, yet there they are. 
This video can be a great discussion starter for churches to reflect on their way forward during this volatile time. Some pastors are using this video with their entire congregation, with staff teams, with lay leadership teams, and in small group gatherings. It could be valuable for clergy gatherings as well. At the end of the video Mark poses some ways groups can engage in responding to the video. 
Additional resources for navigating a new year and a new reality
  • Or try considering what we’re learning as congregations and leaders from this prolonged disruptive journey, with Susan Beaumont’s Five Assumptions Failing Us (the Church) Now.” In the opening paragraph she describes the new terrain we find ourselves in as the church. “The pandemic is challenging this and other longstanding assumptions about engagement, belonging, and membership. We must carefully examine all of our assumptions - otherwise, we risk creating barriers to belonging for people trying to engage with us in new ways.”

  • As you consider where you are in the present exhausting moment, or ponder what you’ve learned about being church that may prove helpful going forward, move on to Susan Beaumont’s most recent (January 11, 2021) article Planning in a Liminal Season. In the opening paragraph she lays out what lies before us. “A new calendar year invites planning. We need to finalize a budget and many are eager to imagine life beyond COVID. Unfortunately, we are still in a season of not knowing. Will the vaccine be effective and allow a safe return to in person engagement? Which of our constituents will be back and will new online followers stay connected? Anxiety builds as we plan for a year that involves so many unknowns. How can we plan when we don’t know what is to come?”
  • These and other helpful and thought-provoking articles pertaining to church life can be found on the Congregational Consulting Group’s website. The Congregational Consulting Group, organized in 2014 by former consultants of the Alban Institute, is a network of independent consultants. They publish weekly brief articles on topics of interest to leaders of congregations and other purpose-driven organizations.
Online Resources
The Damascus Project
  • The Damascus Project offers a wealth of supportive resources, from course offerings to online community and networking. One such opportunity is the Faith Formation and Youth Ministry Leaders Cohort. This online community of clergy and faith formation leaders is able to network with each other and is creating an online library of resources that can be accessed from the Damascus Project platform. In addition, a weekly drop-in Zoom is offered for people to connect with and to support each other as we navigate new ways of doing faith formation for all ages and youth ministry. Here are instructions for signing up for the Damascus Project Network.

  • This 40-Day Practice: Strengthening Emotional Stamina for Countering White Fragility is an example of a combination course and community experience in which participants will engage a daily personal practice using a workbook, 4 online workshops with the course instructor, as well as a supportive online community of peers engaging this practice together all using the Damascus Project Network’s online platform.

  • Also, in April the Damascus Project will offer A Transforming Church, an 8-week course that will help you guide your congregation through the transitional period we are anticipating as a vaccine becomes more widely available and the Coronavirus pandemic (hopefully) begins to wind down. This learning opportunity will 1) provide you with a framework and the space to reflect on where your congregation has been over the last year; 2) help you capture and integrate the innovation and adaptation emerging in your midst, and 3) grieve the losses and pursue the opportunities for transforming your congregation into greater expression of the body of Christ. More details and information will be available soon at the-damascus-project.org.
Practical Resources for Churches (PRC)
  • A trusted resource for a variety of topics related to church life is Practical Resources for Churches. PRC is an ecumenical resource center based on offering a multitude of resources to clergy and church leaders to support their ministries. This online resource center offers webinars and workshops around many topics, ranging from faith formation to church management to COVID-19 resources. If you are looking for ideas or support for a particular area of ministry, check out the offerings at PRC at prcli.org. PRC is sponsored in part by the Southern New England, New York and Central Atlantic Conferences of the United Church of Christ.
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 services and programs 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.
Photo of Supportive Ministries Task Force
Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the newly formed Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force will provide 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 include Bonnie Andrews, Lisa Hart, Tim Perkins, Bob Ullman and Cathleen Wille.

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