Leadership Development Update

Rev. Linda Thomson, Congregational Development – Central and Eastern Regions

In the past year, CUC staff been doing some thinking about how we best support congregations in leadership development. We knew that after eight years of Canadian UU Leadership (CUUL) School, and approximately 500 participants, that it was time for a change. We also have heard that there is a wide variety of leadership development needs, which made a ‘one program’ approach too limiting. Our goal of providing multi/intergenerational solutions also demanded a look at our past practices. People have told us that the value of networking, being with others and doing personal reflection is valuable, and we know that those experiences, are not, strictly speaking, leadership development. Leadership Development literature reminds us that leadership capacity grows in team settings and in real situations. All of this seems to point to a need for some new approaches.

Most of our congregations are in communities where there are other opportunities for secular or other religious leadership development, and some are near enough to the US border that participation in Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) programs are an option. This left us wondering what we, the CUC, are uniquely positioned to do, and how we can best meet our goal of creating and strengthening UU spiritual communities.

There is still work to do before we are ready with a comprehensive response to leadership development needs. An initial assessment conducted over the past year has told us that we need to provide a variety of options (self-directed, accessible resources, in-person program and web-based programs) in a variety of formats (one-time, ongoing, multi-day etc.) We know our preliminary findings are useful, but incomplete. We’ll be coming back to our members, asking for more direction. We have limited staff time, limited expertise and limited funds, so the feedback we receive will help us better understand how to move forward.

While we don’t yet know what the long-term directions will be, we do know that we will be offering some programming in 2014 and that we’ll continue to provide a calendar of events in the four regions and in the neighbouring US UUA districts. We know that many have found tangible information, developed useful skills and deepened their love of and appreciation for our tradition through opportunities we’ve provided. We want to keep doing all of that, in ways that are sustainable and useful.

The staff are very appreciative of Diana Smith and Peter Scales who were key to this initial assessment and review.