When Jane and I were first exploring whether or not Unity Spiritual Center would be a good fit for us, we examined the documents that were provided by the church as a part of fulfilling the requirements for the placement process. These documents included past financial statements, bylaws, a brief history of the ministry, community demographics, attendance stats, and a list of the professional competencies that the search team and board identified as additional qualifications.
In addition, I created a congregational survey that was sent out to their entire community. This survey was administered online and requested tons of info about the leadership and cultural dynamics of the church well beyond what could be provided by the documents of the placement packet.
I asked questions like: What is the one thing that you’d like the new minister(s) to change? What is the one thing that you do not want the new minister(s) to change? Are there issues from the past that are still unresolved? Are there money issues? How confident are you in the leadership of the church? Do you believe that you are ready for new ministerial leadership? What is your pattern of giving? And lots of other questions that when filtered, allowed for a comparison of the interests of those in the culture of ownership vs those in the culture of receivership. The results of the survey were shared with the all of the ministerial candidates trying out for the job.
(If you are interested in a copy of this survey, let me know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It was clear to us after reviewing the survey responses, after our interviews, and after our contract negotiations that the ministry was not unlike 4 out of 5 ministries in the United States. It was dealing with a sense of “not enough” which could show up in a number of ways. Not enough money, not enough volunteers, not enough training, not enough accountability, and not enough emotional and spiritual maturity. In spite of these factors, the dynamics of Unity Spiritual Center appeared to us as normal and very typical. “Not enough” is a post-modern normal.
According to Pew Research, 4 out of 5 ministries are either in decline or have plateaued. This trend has no simple explanation, but many have linked this phenomenon to economic instability or the exodus of boomers who are finished with the “plop, pray and pay” approach to the Sunday service experience. For me, the issue is much deeper and rooted in the shadow dimension of ministry and its community.
The shadow or pain body of the ministry arises as shadow dynamics of community members inform the cultural imperatives of the ministry. For instance, if you have a community of people who all carry with them on an unconscious level a sense of not enough, lack will manifest as an organizational insufficiency because church culture arises in the context of people’s values, beliefs, issues, etc. And when the leadership of the organization tries to deal with the church’s insufficiency, they inadvertently get triggered. The church’s not enough triggers their personal sense of not enough. Ministry leaders (present company included) tend to deal with the church’s not enough the same way they deal with their own personal sense of lack–by trying to get more.
Just prior to being offered the job at Unity Spiritual Center, Jane and I were in the throws of our own sense of not enough. I hadn’t had any income for three months. We had two houses on the market that seemed unsellable. With mounting credit card debt and uncertainty about whether or not we’d get hired, we found ourselves wondering where we failed in our own practice of prosperity principles. And, with the prospects of taking a ministry that was also challenged, what had to shift within us in order to become effective leaders?
“To those who have, more shall be given. To those don’t have, even that which they have shall be taken away.”
As we waited to hear from the Board about their selection, Jane and I immersed ourselves deeply in the principle that “what we have IS our abundance.” As we focused on expanding our sense of gratitude for the abundance of good friends, expanding opportunities and as we renewed our trust in Principle, we felt a shift in our consciousness. We switched off our sense of not enough, refraining from subjecting ourselves to self-inflicted torment because the outer didn’t seem to match our inner resolve.
Our sense of not enough actually created more lack when we sought to remedy the issue by looking outside for what was missing. This is why prosperity programs have little benefit to the individual participant as well as the sponsoring ministry because the deeper sense of “I am not enough” will eclipse the spiritual practice of generosity or tithing. Until we address the shadow dimension of ourselves and of the ministry, it is difficult to create a thriving spiritual community.
I am happy to report that within a week that we were offered the job, Jane I sold our house in Lee’s Summit, received and accepted an offer on our house in Arkansas, made our move with ease and grace, and are now confident in our ability to help this community transcend any limiting belief.
In subsequent posts I will unpack this phenomenon more completely. Suffice it to say, that before shadow work can become a community-wide endeavor (it needs to be community-wide) the congregation must first get that Source is not out there.