Organizational Shadow work
Church organizations are living systems. They grow and evolve just like the people who make up the community. And like people, the evolutionary process can become challenging, even painful, when change is required. As a living system, it could be said that organizational discomfort and stresses are evolutionary drivers exposing what might be missing, broken, or not working in the broader context of the ministry’s movement into greater integrity and maturity. In addition, as these discomforts manifest as symptoms (interpersonal difficulty, dysfunction, challenging circumstances, etc.) there is also an awakening/skill-building element to the evolutionary dynamic that necessitates the presencing, healing, and integration of the organization’s shadow—what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain body.”
Because church organizations are composed of people who are also evolving and experiencing challenges that are connected to deeper personal issues needing healing and integration, those in leadership will inevitably struggle in their attempts to manage the discomforts of the ministry without being triggered themselves. Yet, absent of a practice of shadow work and the ability to differentiate between the organization’s discomfort and the discomfort that they personally experience in their ministry role, even the most conscientious and principled of leaders will find themselves managing church issues in the same manner as they would cope with their own challenges.
For instance, if the church is dealing with money issues and is dreading the likelihood of staff layoffs or pay cuts, individual board members will relate to the organizational discomfort and its experience of “not enough” in the same way as they would personally relate to any perceived lack. What’s more, if an individual board member is personally struggling with a sense of not enough themselves, they may inadvertently amplify the organizational issue by projecting their own baggage onto the ministry. It will be difficult for someone who is struggling this way to see that their church’s discomfort is arising in the context of an evolutionary process. Instead, they will see a problem to fix.
Using the Q Process for Teams,™ leaders can now see that the discomfort is triggering something in them that needs to be healed, as opposed to something “out there” that needs to be fixed. The next step is to see the same is true for the organization. Leaders must be aware that if they pick up the organization’s discomfort and make it their own, they take away (or delay) the organization’s evolutionary driver.
The Q Process for Teams™ is an extension of the individual application of The Q Process,™ in which a group of individuals observe and participate in a series of structured inquiries when faced with organizational challenges. The activity takes teams through a powerful five-step experience that allows for organizational tension to be resolved in a way that strengthens the core integrity of the leadership team and the organization.
Step One: Uncovering the Field—Differentiating themselves and their personal shadow work from the shadow work of the organization
Step Two: Clarifying Roles—Noticing how some part of the discomfort comes from their effort to fulfill their role and how it’s related to their personal shadow
Step Three: Releasing the Discomfort—Shifting out of viewing it as a “problem to be solved” into viewing it as an “evolutionary driver with which to align”
Step Four: Renaming the Issue and Team Member Roles—Noticing what aspects of the organization’s shadow are coming up for healing and what new way(s) of being for the organization are being called forth
Step Five: Taking Authentic Action—Discerning what authentic action each individual can take to facilitate the evolution of the organization
Using the Q Process for Teams™ enables leaders to become skilled at scanning the organizational environment and discovering areas of incoherence and incongruence that indicate a need for evolutionary shift or an aspect of the organizational shadow that needs to be healed and integrated. They also access higher wisdom through heart coherence techniques to keep their personal shadow “quarantined” while opening to the guidance for how to “be with” the tension long enough for the tension itself to reveal a way forward in the context of demonstrating greater integrity and maturity.
A certified Q Coach facilitates these steps when all members of the team are present. It is not a quick conversation. It is a deep and authentic dialogue, and consequently requires from 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete. The experience is deeply transformative.
As an example of how this process works, Cindy Henson, one of our Transformation Experience (TE) consultant guides, shares the following story from her work at Unity of Salem:
Unity of Salem has embraced the Q Process for Teams™ and has used it within their board and the TE leadership group to create clarity about where individual responsibility and organizational responsibility meet, even in the difficult conversations. Creating this clarity and calm environment has allowed them to partner with fellow team members and Spirit to take authentic action.
Individual board members acknowledged how their own sense of “not good enough” was being triggered by the ministry’s personnel challenges. It was this discomfort that was eclipsing their ability to differentiate between the organization’s issue and what they as individuals were dealing with in their personal lives. Once the board members saw that, they were quickly able to create a solution from their leadership responsibility as a board member.
The Q Process for Teams worked because every board member and TE leadership group member had completed the Art and Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You workshop. At Unity of Salem, this created the fertile foundation and elicited the courage for the board to address a personnel issue in a loving, supportive, and clear manner.
This clarity of organizational responsibility, leadership, and employee responsibility led to the creation of policies and procedures for staff, team leaders, teachers, and volunteers. These included clear expectations in roles, performance development opportunities, and hiring for specific knowledge, skills, and abilities.
The Art and Practice Ambassador also facilitated a community gathering for anyone from the spiritual community to share what was on their heart. At that gathering, the board president described the new Membership/Leadership Agreement, the policy of Organizational Transparency and Personnel Confidentiality and the plan to complete the policies and procedures to establish clarity, expectations and agreements which will allow all involved to show up as their best and highest self.
Unity of Salem continues to wholly embrace their greatness and work with their organizational shadow of avoiding difficult conversations. With the Art and Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You program and Q Process for Teams™, they have the tools to courageously live their vision of “Centered in God, we celebrate a peaceful world that works for all.”
Unity of Salem’s experience with the Q Process for Teams™ is but one example among many of organizations that are benefiting from doing both leadership and organizational shadow work. They now have a powerful tool for transforming problems into opportunities that has resulted in less drama and more resourcefulness. They are inspired by their capacity to live more deeply into the evolutionary process that is at the heart of thriving ministry.