According to Bowen family systems theory, churches are chronically anxious systems where some level of anxiety is inevitable. Ministers need to be prepared to manage the storms of anxiety when—not if—they occur. Like their natural counterparts, storms of anxiety are sensitive to a change in atmosphere. Positive change can calm a situation that might otherwise build to hurricane force.
Having served in our Unity Worldwide Ministries church conflict resolution processes myself since 1984, I have seen several iterations of peacemaking. Understanding the need for quality peacemaking skills, Great Lakes’ regional leadership invested financial resources to create a ministry consultant position, currently held by Martha Creek. The need for peacemaking hit close to home on 9/11/2001, when Unity of Louisville, Kentucky—the church I love—was experiencing its own kind of “ground zero.” Martha, who is a certified Healthy Congregations Facilitator, and I combined our peacemaking skills from various sources to help Unity of Louisville heal and thrive again. We’ve been honored to have the opportunity to share what we learned from this experience with other churches in the Great Lakes region.
Martha Creek has facilitated 20 Healthy Congregations workshops this year, with strategically planned subregional events that could accommodate the most ministries and ministers with little or no cost. She’s offered trainings, consulting, counseling and resources, which have resulted in a 75 percent decrease in the number of conflicts experienced in our region!
Healthy Congregations training and application reduces or sometimes prevents the escalation of anxiety that often leads to the need for mediation or peacemaking processes. The top reasons we’ve seen for support calls have been with leadership control issues, limited people skills, resistance to change, a minister’s leadership style, decline in attendance and finances or issues of sexual misconduct. We’ve noticed that the congregations experiencing the highest levels of conflict are congregations whose ministers have not attended Healthy Congregations training opportunities.
I hope more Unity regions will consider adding a ministry consultant to their regional staff, and encourage their leadership staff to participate in Healthy Congregations training and/or the facilitators training. Martha has been the keynote presenter at the Great Lakes, the Southwest and Northwest Conferences. She has a full 2012 schedule of trainings, including a presentation at the Unity People’s Convention in June. For more details, visit www.marthacreek.net.