Communication Within a Spiritual Community

Published on: September 1, 2014

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Fifteen years of ministry and the Transformation Experience have taught me one thing—sticking your head in the sand clearly doesn’t work. Oh, there are times that being “ignorant” and letting something pass by will work, but not very often.

Communicate, communicate, communicate is the best policy. Just like in preparing a Sunday lesson, tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.

I think all of us want to be “in the know.” None of us like to be the “last to know.”

When there is something to be communicated, don’t let it become a rumor. Tell your board, your staff and key leaders, and then the congregation as soon as possible. Telling good news gives everyone a chance to celebrate together. Telling news that seems less than good gives everyone a chance to pull together. And it gives the community the opportunity to see how leadership is responding. It gives leadership the chance to model leadership.

Because I am personally a vision person—and not a detail person, I have found it important to stop and get clear about what I am sharing. Sometimes, I’m not the right person to be the one sharing the information, because what seems clear in my mind is often missed in the translation. Every community has someone that has a graceful natural way of sharing information. Find them and share the communication role with them. Also, having the board president or other team leader communicate the information with me is very effective. Then give some space for questions—and don’t be afraid to answer, “I don’t know.”

Communicating the correct information, as fully as possible, and as soon as possible, might not reduce all of the parking lot conversations, but at least they will be informed conversations.

During the Transformation Experience, our Evolutionary Guides surveyed our congregation. Some of the survey information was less than flattering about the community and about me. Our team presented the report with a skit, pointing out that some people love our Sunday service, music, minister, etc., and at the same time there are people that don’t love our Sunday service, music, minister, etc. The skit broke the ice for us to have the conversation about our strengths and our weaknesses. We put printed copies of the report around the spiritual community and we posted it on our website. (It’s still there for you to see at UnityofMelbourne.com).

The survey gave me the opportunity to hear what others were thinking and believing. And it gave me the opportunity to model not taking the comments personally. It was hard not to take the comments personally and not to be defensive, but with the support of our board of trustees and our Leadership Group (Leading Edge Team) we were able to move forward.

Another great lesson I’ve learned is about email. Don’t email anyone anything when you are angry! Email messages go viral in minutes.—Be careful what you email. Vocal emphasis and inflection are communication tools that set the mood and elicit sympathy or hostility from the listener and help guide the conversation. Email is one-way communication, not conversation, and is totally devoid of any emotion or emphasis. As a regional officer, I’ve seen lots of trouble caused in spiritual communities with email.

Beth Head

Rev Beth Head is minister at Unity of Melbourne, Fla., and judicatory representative of the Southeast Region. She serves on the Admissions ministry team. Last year Unity of Melbourne celebrated its 50th anniversary and this year they move to a new 16,000 sq. ft. building.


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