7 Monthly Meetups Preparation
Overview: These once-a-month sessions are adaptable depending on each congregational context. Smaller congregations may have one or two groups. Larger congregations may schedule more. Whether weekdays, evenings, or weekends, it is best to suit the scheduling most conducive to the demographics and culture of the congregation. For group process integrity and best results, it is important that participants covenant to attend all seven meetups.
Lay leadership is encouraged. Except for the first meeting one month before the new pastor’s arrival, all meetings must include the pastor’s presence, as this will diminish relational communication triangles. (reference family systems theory).
Group structure and size: Since this is an intentional small group to monitor and give feedback to benefit the covenantal relationship, keep it representational at the trusted leadership level of the congregation. The officers and pastor parish representative plus two or three members, up to a group of eight, in addition to the pastor, would work well. The pastor and a lay person agree to share leadership of the group equally. For wider information gathering and sharing, offer a congregation meeting in the first month to welcome the pastor and in the sixth month to celebrate and report accomplishments.
Goals of each Meetup: 1) Build a trusting relationship with the new pastor; 2) Establish and address concerns and problems on the minds of group members; 3) Celebrate joys and accomplishments; 4) Learn and apply covenant supporting concepts and practices offered by the discussion topic(s).
Note: From the start of the gay new pastor’s tenure, give no credence to anonymous comments. Referring to they, them, someone, and people registering comments is another form of triangles (reference A Time for Burning film). If someone has something to report, a person’s name must be associated with the matter and addressed individually, honestly, and carefully in person.
Schedule the meetups for at least 60 and not more than 90 minutes. Start on time and end on time. Allow enough time for everyone to participate thoughtfully in a safe and unrushed environment. Ensure access to Internet-based video resources.
Begin each meeting by:
- Briefly defining the safety and integrity of the group members and dynamics.
- Giving up to 10 minutes of check-in time for group members to identify themselves.
- Asking group members to say in 30 seconds or less what they hope to receive/achieve from the meeting.
- Recording the hopes so all can see and track them.
Values Invocation: Every meeting, begin and end the time with a moment of prayer/meditation – spoken, silent, or both – according to the theological/spiritual context of the congregation. Guide discussion so the agenda is honored, and all are heard from.
7 Monthly Meetups Plans and Discussion Topics
- One Month Prior to Start Date: “Plan for Success”
- Brainstorm how to communicate the new pastor’s arrival to the congregation and the community.
- Review and evaluate feedback from candidating weekend, if there was one.
- Watch the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) video, Enrich & Inform, as a source of missional assurance and welcoming resources. Visit the website to gain information. Visit the ELM website.
- Check for and note signs of homophobia and heterosexism in the congregation and community.
- Establish a simple strategy to deal with “Gays Against Religion” in case that meme arises.
- List relationships in the congregation and community that will be most important to establish and grow in the first six months.
- Establish one volunteer to work with the new pastor as local church organizational guide and consultant in matters of bylaws and intrinsic culture.
- Establish two volunteers to be local community liaisons to orient new pastor to the area customs and local businesses.
- Encourage group members to visit gaypastorwelcome.com to see and hear the insights and experiences of the 12 gay pastors interviewed.
- Open discussion.
- First Month (preferably within the week after the first onboard Sunday): “Get Acquainted”
- Welcome and affirm the new pastor with personal stories of ‘What it means to me” to have you here.
- Allow the new pastor to express feelings and dreams for ministry with the congregation.
- Celebrate and review the first Sunday.
- Review plan for the next six meetings.
- Establish plan for offering and promoting a public service of installation and community welcome.
- Establish an understanding of organizational polarities as they apply to the congregation and monitor them throughout the meetups process.
- Clarify and communicate missional and marketing messages to reflect the new normal being experienced.
- Second Month: “Interfaith and Judicatory Relationships”
- Establish plan to be visibly present and connect with the local and denominational communities.
- Orient new pastor to local interfaith colleagues and arrange to make introductions.
- Connect pastor to existing judicatory relationships.
- Brainstorm at least three communication channels for the pastor to foster the relationship with the congregation through updates and reports of professional goals and ministry accomplishments.
- Commit one or two volunteers to help new pastor establish methods of communication. Aim for at least one to be brand new to the congregation, e.g., social networking or electronic newsletters.
- For next month, ask the members of the group to watch at least three of the resource videos on the "Resources" page. Ask for feedback during the check-in time.
- Third Month: “How Goes it Congregationally?”
- Ask people to note what three resource videos they watched and give their impressions.
- List connections and disconnections of the videos themes for this ministry context.
- Recheck for signs of homophobia and heterosexism.
- Consider adjusting your church operations budget or pastor’s work schedule to be more supportive to the pastor as he gets settled and develops a clearer sense of his professional role, interests and vision.
- Watch the Friedman’s Theory of Differentiated Leadership Made Simple video.
- Ask people to envision themselves in the various roles.
- Discuss how the video can apply to the arrival of a gay pastor in this community.
- List the key points to reference when receiving the anxious expressions of congregation and community members.
- Recommit to communication standards that respect professional boundaries and discount anonymous comments.
- Fourth Month: “Movie Night”
- Allow one hour to watch A Time for Burning either online or purchase the DVD.
- Compare and contrast the congregational dynamics between the White and Black congregations.
- Discuss the differences in points made by the Black youth group members.
- Using last month’s discussion about family systems theory and differentiated leadership, discuss how anonymous comments referenced by congregants in Omaha played the negative role of an unchecked third person/group, setting up a triangle between the favorable and unfavorable factions.
- Apply discussion points to this ministry context. Offer to allow more time for this discussion this meeting if the group desires it.
- Ask the group for one or two of the topics not yet discussed that they would like to cover. Evaluate the requests and plan to cover the topics as possible.
- Fifth Month: “How are we Doing?”
- Prior to the meeting, ask group members to read the thesis entitled: Openly Gay and Lesbian Pastors Called by Predominantly Straight UCC Congregations.
- Ascertain feelings of congregation by asking group members to report “joys and concerns” they’ve heard from identifiable individuals in the church and community. Determine response strategies that avoid triangles. Communicate follow-up actions in person or via church communication channels.
- This is a time to do a first reading of data points for measuring success. Check basic data of attendance, offerings, and Sunday morning first-time visitors. Do not celebrate or panic too soon. Use data to discuss/plan needed changes.
- Affirm the pastor’s ministry in the early days. Review his sense of accomplishment and vision for coming months.
- Establish a list of five ways to support the new pastor.
- Sixth Month: “Celebrate and Reflect”
- List and celebrate all successes. Share some good food. Have some fun with this one.
- Discuss how a public declaration of welcome would affirm the congregation’s mission and ministry.
- If the congregation has not affiliated with a welcoming advocacy group in the denomination, set up a taskforce to investigate the process of achieving public welcome.
- Consider any lingering disappointments. Establish a small group to deal with and alleviate those and promote the reassurance to move on.
- If there is not a pastor-parish relations committee, establish one to support the mutual covenant between the pastor and the congregation while monitoring the call agreement/hiring contract/professional goal-setting. If one exists, make sure it is a supportive group with a clear idea of the covenantal mission and ministry goals.
- Spend the final 15 minutes minimum to affirm the ministry of the new pastor and create a to-do list for ongoing covenantal success.
- This is the last meeting of this group.
- Bahr, David Paul. “Openly Gay and Lesbian Pastors Called by Predominantly Straight UCC Congregations.” Doctor of Ministry Research Paper, Wesley Theological Seminary, 2006.
- Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Enrich & Transform. ELMVideo, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=Awtcp6yv_U0.
- Gilbert, Roberta M. Extraordinary Leadership: Thinking Systems, Making a Difference. Falls Church & Basye, Virginia: Leading Systems Press, 2006.
- Hazel, Dann. Witness: Gay and Lesbian Clergy Report from the Front. 1st ed. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
- Kegan, Robert, and Lisa Laskow Lahey. How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
- Mathew David Bardwell. Friedman’s Theory of Differentiated Leadership Made Simple. Video. YouTube, 2010. Accessed July 14, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdcljNV-Ew.
- Oswald, Roy M., and Barry Allan Johnson. Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2010.
- Sears, James T., and Walter L. Williams, eds. Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia: Strategies That Work. Between men--between women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
- Steinke, Peter L. How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems. Herndon, Virginia: Alban Institute, 2006.
- TDK. “What Could Bring a Person to Change His or Her Mind about Sexuality and Ordination? What Happened in Your Case?” Covenant Network, November 25, 2009. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://covnetpres.org/2009/11/what-could-bring-a-person-to-change-his-or-her-mind-about-sexuality-and-ordination-what-happened-in-your-case/.
- Thompson, George B. How to Get Along with Your Church: Creating Cultural Capital for Doing Ministry. Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2013.
- A Time for Burning. Directed by Barbara Connell. Ernie Chambers, 1967.