Friday, August 29, 2008

Continuing Education in the Twin Cities (with pictures!)

During the month of July I wrote (and received) a grant from the UUA to visit and study best practices at large churches. The first church I visited was Unity-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota. I went to Unity-Unitarian because of their highly-developed use of Policy Governance, a governance style invented by John Carver.

My trip began on Tuesday (8/26) with a drive up to the Twin Cities. I arrived in time to spend the late afternoon and evening with one of my colleagues in the Twin Cities who put me up for my stay. He took me out on the town and we enjoyed a good dinner and some great conversation about ministry, the Association, and all manner of things in the world of Unitarian Universalism. Whenever we get together I find our conversations dynamic and invigorating. I come away from them deeply enriched.

On Wednesday I began my day at Unity-Unitarian by sitting in on their weekly Executive Team meeting, followed by their weekly staff meeting. By shadowing the Executive Team I observed how their governance model impacts how the church staff operates. The members of the Executive Team and staff graciously allowed me to round in their offices. I spent the afternoon interviewing as many of them as I could. I interviewed the members of the Executive Team about their roles, the program staff about how "the ends" drive their programming, and the administrative staff about what was most important to them about their workplace. (I learned far too much to share in this post.) After a brief break in the late afternoon, I sat in on Unity's monthly board meeting and observed how the board operated under their governance structure. Following the board meeting, I had the chance to debrief with Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs, the fantastic co-ministers of Unity-Unitarian. Almost 15 hours after my day at Unity began, I was headed back to my host's place with my head spinning with observations, ideas, and insights.

Before I returned to Kansas City on Thursday, I wanted to do see at least a few of the sights. Despite a light drizzle, I went to the shore of Lake Calhoun and looked out on this view as I did my morning spiritual practice.

Next, I had to go to the Walker Museum of Contemporary Art and play the modern art miniature golf course that had been created by 13 artists.

After lunch, it was time to head back to Kansas City. However, I did manage to take a break from the road in Iowa where I met up with another colleague who took me swimming in a quarry. Then we delighted in watching swallows, indigo buntings, goldfinches, and a variety of other birds enjoy the late afternoon on the prairie.