A Helpful Tool for Working With Diverse Personalities

Published on: March 1, 2011

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A new book published by the Alban Institute will be helpful to church leadership in working with the diverse personalities, viewpoints and issues that naturally arise in any group interaction. The co-authors bring strong professional backgrounds in leadership and organizational development to presenting principles refined over more than 30 years.

What is polarity? As defined: “Polarities are interdependent pairs of truths that are a natural and integral part of our daily lives.” We see it in our personal interactions as “either/or” thinking—we’re right of course, and the other guy is wrong. The truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle, call it “both/and.” The key in ministry is learning to manage polarities well so that loaded issues can be moved through effectively.

Eight key polarities are defined. Here are three as illustration: How do we stay rooted in our historic faith and heritage and foster creativity in our life together? How do we create or sustain a well-organized, stable congregation and create or sustain a congregation that inspires members to embrace change? How do we manifest God’s unconditional love for us and challenge people to grow spiritually and to serve others with commitment?

The authors go on to point out that thriving congregations learn to manage the naturally occurring polarities well, whereas declining congregations don’t. They present a wealth of material useful to recognizing warning signs, plus understanding how best to consider options, value individual perspectives, and arrive at creative solutions. As one reviewer states succinctly, “Read this book to revolutionize your capacity for critical thinking, creative problem solving, and organizational leadership.”

Bets Kirby
Now retired, Bets served for many years as executive assistant to the President and CEO of Unity Worldwide Ministries.

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