Leadership in Action: Shifting a church culture through appreciation
Updated: Dec 11, 2018
"Crafted Leadership in Action" highlights examples from the Architecture of Inspiring Leaders in professional contexts. From our friend and inspiring leader, Rev. Eric Strader, Pastor/CEO at Denver's Christ Church United Methodist:
The Issue - Critical Culture: I am the Pastor, CEO, of a church, which as an institution is facing incredible adaptive challenges of sustainability, relevancy, and purpose in the 21st century. In the midst of facing threats over the years, the church I serve created a culture of criticism. Criticism of the staff, past leadership, volunteers, denominational leaders, and even criticism of God. This culture led to a lack of creativity and curiosity when facing challenges, and instead encouraged shaming, blaming and bullying.
The Shift Move - Appreciation: In 2015, I led a worship series to bring awareness of our critical nature and invited a shift towards creating an appreciative community. On the first Sunday, every person was given a two-toned silicone bracelet. One side said “appreciation” and the other “criticism”. It was meant to serve as a constant reminder of the ways we demean and minimize one another instead of creating the beloved community Jesus continually invites us into.
The Impact- Authentic Community: One woman’s response summed up the shift in the community, “I had no idea how critical I am...of everything. I find my bracelet sliding up my arm and pinching me when I think something critical or just mean.”
I know for myself, when I hear criticism, I first have to live into the knowledge, the wisdom, that I am worthy, beloved, and enough. I have trained myself to appreciate criticism as an opportunity to be curious and grow.
A conversation with a staff member, though, revealed the power being part of an appreciative community can have over our lives. In a supervisory moment, we were acknowledging an assignment had been forgotten and she was belittling herself with extreme criticism. I said, “I don’t expect perfection, I expect we learn, grow, and are always moving forward.” She replied, “But, we need to be excellent and perfect in our implementation or we won’t grow.” I affirmed that perfection is never the goal. Appreciating starts with ourselves and accepting who we are, whose we are, what we bring, and how we are a vital part of the community.
This simple, yet profoundly different from the norm, shift in awareness of our judgements allowed the community to give themselves and one another permission to be real, authentic, and vulnerable. Today, this community’s mission is to bring a REAL faith into existence and our culture uses words like messy, awkward, and grace.
To keep the learning alive, Christ Church will dive deeper into the intersections of theology, leadership and conscious culture with a four-week worship series “Conscious Christians” beginning on January 11, 2018.