Newsletter: June 2016        


"Lifting Up Your Spiritual Leadership" FREE Webinar for Congregational Administrators

OWL Facilitator Trainings - Grades 7-9 and 10-12

OWL Facilitator Training - Grades K-1 and 4-6

We're in the midst of program planning for next church year! Look for announcements 
later in the summer for more
learning opportunities in the New England Region.

Dawn Casstevens
Overstepping Our Bounds: Navigating Rank in Administration
by Dawn Casstevens

"One of the most cherished values of Unitarian Universalism is equality. Consequently, we tend to act as if we are all of equal rank. To talk about differences of rank is to disrupt this agreement. [ ... ] consider the importance of growing our awareness of rank - our own and others' - so that differences of rank do not become barriers to our experience of Beloved Community."  ~ From

As I have gotten older and grown spiritually and professionally in Unitarian Universalism, I find I am more frequently triggered by encounters with oppression. That is to say, it unnerves me when it appears, in both subtle and overt forms, on a daily basis. I see shades of it everywhere. When it occurs, there's a choice to make about whether to engage it or let it go. For me, it depends on circumstances: Do I have time? Is it worth the argument? Will the person 'get it' if I say something to them? Can I live with myself later if I don't say anything? Will saying something make any difference? Am I overstepping my bounds?
Article Resources
Navigating Rank in Beloved Community

Self-Assessment Worksheet - determine if your congregation is a Fair Compensation Congregation 

Association of Unitarian Universalist Administrators (AUUA) professional organization. There are two chapters in New England. Email us to learn about local chapter meetings.

Professional Learning Units for Staff (PLUS) - a FREE self-guided online program offered by our UUA to nurture new (and relatively new) staff into well-equipped, spirit-filled professionals who serve and lead in right relationship with colleagues and congregation.

Foundations | Growing Vital Leaders Blog: A "Working Model" for Leadership Development and Formation

Ahh yes... there's a piece of my inner work that's still in process. Am I overstepping my bounds? This question suggests that I feel I don't have a right to say something that is true for me in certain circumstances. That I should mind my place, and defer to others with higher rank than mine to control the outcome. Countering this mindset is deeply spiritual work, requiring intentional nurture of one's own sense of inherent dignity and worth, recognizing oneself as uniquely gifted, and taking risks in relationships with others. 

As an office administrator in a Unitarian Universalist church for seven years, I frequently encountered this question in an environment that could not always produce a clear answer. Church offices are tiny hubs of humanity where the most unexpected things can and do happen. A death, an emergency, conflicts between members, a leaky roof, copier malfunction, a visitor needing a tour, or a bag of food, or pastoral care... you never know. Stepping over bounds is both necessary and tricky in church culture, where rank is often subjective and ambiguous.

In a well-functioning church office, administrators free their ministers to focus on their ministries, and provide valuable support to committees, congregants, colleagues, contractors, and anyone else who comes through the door on a given day. To be an excellent administrator in this setting requires more than the characteristics stated in the job description -- organized, efficient, accurate, flexible, responsible, trustworthy, computer savvy, problem solver. Indeed, church administrators must also draw upon a different skillset unknown and unseen by many in the congregation, which calls them to deliver their unique inner gifts, whatever they may be.

Whether the administrator knows it or not, identifies as a Unitarian Universalist or not, this part of their work is a vital ministry. Yet many congregations don't recognize administrators as having a spiritual leadership role, and many administrators don't recognize their own spiritual leadership. 

In addition, church administrators often face other difficult challenges:
  • too much work for the hours
  • outdated and inefficient computer and office equipment
  • high level of expertise, with little authority
  • little or no support for professional development and growth
  • low compensation, cannot earn a living wage, and may not receive benefits
  • church leadership doesn't offer consistent support and advocacy for staff
  • poor communication amongst leaders causes misunderstandings and tension
  • cultural view of church administrator as easily replaceable, undervalued
I invite you to reflect for a moment on whether these challenges may be present in your church.

As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote our principles in daily life, in relationships with one another, and in the world. A good question to ask is how your church might better extend this faith ideology to create right relationships with staff members beyond the minister. How might you use covenant to nurture a mutual sense of belonging and accountability? How might you collaborate with your administrator to overcome organizational challenges and create a healthier working environment?

Consider inviting your congregational administrator into a series of conversations, and take notice when they are delivering their gifts of spiritual leadership. Let them see your unique gifts. Invite your administrator into meetings or to give input where their expertise and gifts can be valued, witnessed and experienced by others. Include your administrator in decisions of mutual interest. Honor their unique place in your congregation, and support them in their growth. By fully integrating our administrators into the vital shared ministry of church, we lower the barriers to Beloved Community and are strengthened by their inclusion.

"We experience Beloved Community whenever and wherever individuals, groups and institutions choose connection, individuality, creativity and mindfulness over separation, individualism, destruction and denial. Beloved Community rests in the awareness that - all evidence to the contrary - we belong to one another."   From

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Dawn Casstevens is the Events and Communications Coordinator for the New England Region UUA. She will be co-leading next Tuesday's webinar with Meck Groot, "Lifting Up Your Spiritual Leadership" for Congregational Administrators. 

Our work is made possible by district dues contributions from congregations, associational grants and individual gifts. We offer workshops, trainings and learning opportunities throughout the New England Region for congregational members, lay leaders and religious professionals. Regional staff services and support are available to UU congregations year-round. Like us on Facebook to get regional news, stories and updates in your newsfeed. Follow us on Twitter @NERUUA.