Not Feeling Spiritually Fed?

Feeding the MultitudeI recently received a phone call from a colleague, who shared that some of his key leaders, including former board members, no longer felt “spiritually fed” by his Sunday lessons. And because the ministry has not grown much in recent years, they questioned whether or not he is still a good fit.

Unfortunately, this dynamic is not an isolated case of ministry leaders dealing with the discomfort of little or no growth and wondering if the minister still has the “right stuff.” With 4 out of 5 churches in North America in decline and 85% of New Thought ministries and centers with congregations less than 100, it is not surprising that ministry leaders are looking to their ministers as the potential weak link in the chain of thriving ministry causation.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of this colleague and ask yourself, “How can I dispute someone’s belief that I am no longer spiritually feeding them?” Can you sense the frustration, the disappointment, and perhaps the fear?

Herein lies the setup, one that we have denominationally perpetuated as a myth with respect to our role that we are here to spiritually feed people. Think about it…we teach: tithe to where you are spiritually fed; give to the source of your spiritual nourishment; support what serves you; etc.

Okay, so here’s the simple Truth: The minister is not and will never be the soul (pardon the pun) source of another’s spiritual nourishment. The problem lies in the 400-year-old model of ministry where the pastor has unknowingly been cast in the surrogate role of parent in relation to the congregation, or a liaison to God and therefore is responsible for his flock’s well-being.

We have inherited a legacy, a cultural imperative with respect to the role and responsibility of being a minister unto a spiritual community. We have bought into the myth that our job is to rescue, save, protect, lift up, take care of, or otherwise be all things to all people. While innocent at its core, this imperative carries with it the unintended consequence of people inadvertently casting us in the role of being responsible for their well-being—whether or not they are spiritually fed.

The other side of this issue is with respect to spiritual maturity. There comes a time in everyone’s spiritual journey, when we no longer find food for thought or inspiration “out there.” We go through a “wilderness experience” where we are uninspired, unimpressed, dissatisfied, and bored with the traditional avenues of spiritual nourishment. After awhile – 40 days or 40 years – we may awaken to the reality that “I am Source” unto myself and unto my own life.

IT can no longer come from out there. IT can only be realized from within. I can only be actualized from within. I am a localized center of Source unto my own life. No longer do I tithe to Source, but I tithe as Source. No longer do I find myself fed by what I hear or by what I experience so much as by what I express and by what actions I take. It is my Conscious Being and Authentic Doing that feeds me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life of God. This is not to say that we are no longer blessed by our encounters or interactions with the external world. It means that we are not placing the burden of our well-being on outer circumstances in our lives, but rather placing the emphasis on how we are being with what we are having.

My advice to this colleague was to understand that his detractors are at a spiritual crossroads. He has the opportunity to guide them into a new context for their spiritual journey. I invited him to celebrate their discontent, to agree that he is not feeding them spiritually anymore. And to thank God that they are at the portal of their own integrity, power, and indomitable spirit. Thank God, you are no longer their source.

In the words of my friend, Ken Wilber, “First we wake up, then we grow up.” These growth-filled moments are not only calling us higher but are calling us to be who we have come here to be – Source unto our life; Source unto our world.

Blessings, Gary

Integral Principles

I sometimes imagine what it might be like if an entire spiritual community had a complete understanding of integral principles. I am not implying that until they do, that they are less than, deficient, or otherwise ill-equipped to take the ministry to the next level. It’s just that until the culture of ownership has the same mental model of ministry, we live in different worlds with respect to how we SEE the dynamics of ministry playing out.

An integral lens (holistic) or way of seeing enables the engagement of the complexities of ministry without reducing the whole of ministry to an aggregate of any of its parts. For instance, take an accounting system. When the accounting system needs to evolve in complexity to align with the needs of a more complex ministry dynamic, transitioning to a new way of doing things isn’t as simple as just bolting on a new enhancement. Systems require upgrades. New ways of doing things may necessitate roles with greater competence and accountability. The point is that we need to keep in mind the entire living system that ministry is, in order to smoothly transition into a new or different ministry practice. It is helpful to be able to SEE how the invisible aspects of ministry (culture, identity, conflict norms, values, etc) come into play when effort to evolve the ministry is introduced.

Therefore, integral principles aid in formulating developmental and implementation strategies. Here are some of the basic integral principles that I wish to teach my entire congregation:

  • All Quadrants: There are four domains of ministry development. Consciousness (leadership intentionality), Culture (congregational identity), Social System (relational dynamics), and Organization (structures, practices, and organizational systems).
  • All Levels: Within the all quadrant matrix there are levels (basic or default, next level, and advanced levels). Each level or stage within each quadrant represents a level of development or maturity. Evolution moves from simple to complex, from adolescence to adulthood, etc. Thus, the intentionality of leaders moves from basic leadership imperatives (predict and control) to the more advanced level of Spirit-led leadership intentionality.
  • All lines: In addition to levels or stages of development, there are specific lines of development within each quadrant. My application of the integral model denotes one specific line of development (that which evolves) in each quadrant. The developmental lines of the Integral Ministry Model are: Leadership Intentionality, Congregational Identity, Relational Dynamics, and Organizational Behavior. Once again, each of these lines move from simple to complex, more mature or more developed within each quadrant.
  • Internal (Being) and External (Doing): The four quadrant arrangement denotes left hand quadrants (Consciousness and Culture) and right hand Quadrants (Organization and Social System). Dynamics of the left hand quadrants are internal and invisible, but constitute the Being aspect of the living system; and the right hand dynamics are external and visible (measurable) and constitute the Doing of the living system. The ideal is Authentic Being and Conscious Doing rather than conditioned being and unconscious doing. Whenever you have the latter, you leak energy as an organization.
  • Agency (Leadership) and Community (the collective): The top two quadrants pertain to the agency of the organization in general and the leadership specifically. The lower two quadrants pertain to the community at large. While the entire congregation inhabits the lower two quadrants (culture and social systems), only a small portion of the community interacts with the whole of ministry (all quadrants).
  • As within, so without: The internal gives rise to the external. Being expresses as doing. An outer dysfunction has an inner correlate Integral Principleswithin consciousness and culture. This is why it is so important to not look for external fixes, but rather to focus on evolving the interior dimensions of the ministry (leadership intentionality and congregational identity).
  • As above, so below: The community (lower quadrants) cannot out-perform what the agency (leadership and organization) doesn’t model or embody. This is why it is important for the Board to know that its primary role (integrally speaking) is to demonstrate what it looks like to be the ideal governing member (in terms of financial support, meaningful involvement, spiritual practice, emotional and spiritual maturity). If the congregation can’t SEE the Board be IT and do IT (the ideal member), don’t expect those attributes to show up in the community (except by accident).
  • Transcend and Include: Getting to the next level implies moving beyond our yesterday selves. It also means transcending the limitations and deficits of where we are and embracing new ways of being and doing that are aligned with a more evolved context for ministry. And yet, even in evolution, Nature doesn’t throw away that which is of true value and benefit. Getting to the next level in ministry doesn’t require abandoning anything that is of true value and benefit. We seek to include time-honored traditions providing that they sustain resilience, creativity, inspiration, innovation, and a second tier perspective.

I have a leadership development training coming up this weekend for my ministry leaders. The training will present three modules: The Integral Ministry Model (intro to integral principles), the Ownership Project (managing the receivership / ownership polarity), and the Integral Membership System (a graduated approach to governing membership). This day and a half program will begin to close the gap between integral theory and practice. I sent out personal invitations for the training to a list of key leaders that I felt were essential to moving the ministry forward. Turns out that other people heard about the training. Oops 🙂 Started out with 20 confirmed attendees. Now enrollment is up over 60. Sending out personal invites and then letting info leak is sneaky, I know. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Blessings, Gary






What Is Ministry

My biggest challenge in championing a new paradigm of ministry practice is in providing ministry leaders with WHY our current way of doing ministry is unsustainable. Many leaders believe that there is nothing that enough money will not fix. Now we don’t indulge this thought directly, but we do behave as if our ministry’s well-being is linked to some better happening in the outer. But, what if  any problem or challenge in the organization is actually exacerbated by the WAY we currently do ministry? What if we had a more mature and evolved ministry practice? We might still have the same issues, but they would be engaged as evolutionary drivers rather than problems to solve. Think about that for a moment before you read on.

Four out of five US churches are in decline or have plateaued. Nearly 1500 clergy leave ministry each year due to burnout or dissatisfaction with the job. In the New Thought movement, 89% of all our churches and centers have congregations of less than 150 adult participants. Seventy five percent of all churches have less than 100 congregants. Nearly all religious organizations in US and Canada are funded by only a small group of loyal contributors, most of whom are aging Baby Boomers and Traditionals. Donations to religious charities are down from 53% to less than 25% of monies donated to non-profits in the last 30 years.

Ministry leaders are often at a loss as to how to turn the tide, how to rediscover and reacquire the “good old days” when it seemed as if the business of growing and sustaining a church community was accomplished through dynamic Sunday lessons, prosperity programs, and visionary leadership. But now it seems that the times have changed and an expiration date has now been affixed to the old pastor / flock model of ministry.

Maybe it’s not necessary to answer the “WHY do we need to evolve” question. Maybe it is more important to consider why we need a new ministry practice and a new context for the role Unity and CSL have in changing lives and co-creating a world that works for everyone. If churches and centers are the delivery system for our message, and if our spiritual communities are the hands of the Divine supporting anyone who journeys with us, does our current practice of ministry actually serve to unleash the magnificence of our essence or does our current practice of ministry keep us largely focused on survival?

Okay, I am just going to proceed under the assumption that you are ready to go with learning about and engaging the Integral Ministry Model. You want to know the HOW. You are my low hanging fruit. I can actually hear some of you say: Pick me, pick me!!!

Any HOW about what to do first and then next, needs to have some context. The first thing to understand about this new ministry practice is the context out of which it arises: a living system.

I often ask ministry leaders the question: What is Ministry? Effortlessly the responses come forth: Community, Prayer, Intimacy, Spiritual Growth, Support, etc. Few people mention: Bylaws, Systems, Facilities, Grounds, etc. When it comes to identifying the ALL that ministry is, ministry leaders leave a lot out of the conversations. And, yet, some of the less sexy elements are integral to the whole of ministry functioning in a healthy and sustainable fashion.

AQALThe integral framework is a holistic lens through which to view the various parts of ministry in the context of the whole living system. The whole of ministry may be described in terms of four arenas of development: Consciousness, Culture, Social System, and Organization. Within each of these domains of development are the specific lines or dynamics that evolve from basic to more advanced. Within the four quadrants (domains) I have identified which dynamic is the focus of development (getting to the next level): Leadership Intentionality, Congregational Identity, Relational Dynamics, and Organizational Behavior.

(So, if you are an integral geek, you probably are saying, “Hey, wait a minute, where’s the I, WE, IT, and ITS designators?” No worries, Wilber is fine with my adaptation because my map happens to match the territory that ministry is.)

Within each quadrant is something that needs to evolve from where it is now to the next level. For instance, the intentionality of leaders (the Board, let’s say) at its most basic level is predict and control. There is nothing inherently bad or wrong about predict and control as a leadership strategy, it’s just not necessarily the most advanced or mature context for Unity and CSL leaders. It’s the default position of most corporations, but it is not necessarily ideal for spiritually based organizations. So what would be the next level beyond predict and control? Spirit-led.

Now I know what your thinking…no big revelation here, right? But, how easy is it for your Board to shift out of predict and control when dealing with organizational lack and stick with being Spirit – led when everyone is triggered by their own sense of not enough?

In the cultural quadrant, congregational identity moves from minister-centered to mission-centered where the identity of the congregation arises from its call to make a difference in the world. How do you transition from a congregation that only knows itself in the context of who the minister is, to defining itself in terms of the difference it seeks to make in the world? Cultural change, getting to the next level can take 3 – 5 years.

In the social system where the default relational dynamic is the family system (where the minister is ostensibly the primary care-giver, as if in the role of parent unto the congregation), how do you transition to a more mature relational interaction where the entire community, not just the minister, fulfills the function of providing support and care-giving?

Then in the organizational quadrant where structures, practices, and systems are utilitarian (for survival or maintaining the status quo) at the basic level, how do you create requisite structures, where every organizational practice and system is linked to an intentional aim of the organization?

All of these transition questions were answered in the course of implementing the three-year Pilot Program. I plan to begin educating our community via the Center Updates and Integral Ministry Arts training for leaders in upcoming months. They need to understand how living systems evolve and their role in taking the ministry to the next level.

Blessings, Gary





The Q Process Workshop

Ministry leaders who have followed the progress of the Pilot Program (a three year program, 2009 – 2012, where 13 Unity ministries participated in field-testing a new ministry practice) know that much of the program’s design was informed by my doctoral work. I sought to formulate a research-based new paradigm of ministry based on Ken Wilber’s integral theory that was aligned with second tier or integral imperatives.

After the Pilot Program was launched, Wilber and I connected. He published an article I wrote for The Journal of Integral Theory and Practice in 2009 and cited my work in his latest book, The Fourth Turning (2015).

The Pilot Program officially ended in 2012, and while the plan was to create the “next wave” to make available the successful modules to the field, funding issues limited the rollout of new materials to the production of seven Leadership Guidebooks (Welcoming System, Spiritual Gifts Discovery, Sacred Service Ministry Guide, Emotional and Spiritual Development Guide, Leadership Development, and Future Planning Guides 1 & 2). These guidebooks are available from Unity Worldwide Ministries for free to UWM members, and for a small charge for others. The guidebooks represent a synthesis of all of the learnings gleaned from the Pilot Program ministry leaders.  Other elements of the Transformation Experience (TE) require on-site facilitation. This blog will document my efforts to replicate the successful modules developed for the TE, in addition to implementing the practices described in the guidebooks mentioned above.

I am often asked by colleagues how to begin to move forward with adopting the Integral Model of Ministry. The most important first step is to begin to bring people into the Art & Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You program and the 21-Day Q Process™.

Art & PractriceWe were told by Pilot Program ministry leaders that they wished that their entire leadership and culture of ownership had gone through the Q Process™ prior to engaging the Pilot Program modules.

The Q Process™ workshop is a program that teaches participants how to use a 21-Day self-directed aware-apy process that systematically helps them to identify their own personal shadow qualities (limiting beliefs) that underlie life-long dysfunctional patterns and ways of being. They learn about quantum and brain science as well as techniques for managing trauma and disarming triggers. They develop a powerful new context for their spiritual journey that is rooted in self-compassion, self-reflection, and authentic action. To listen to numerous testimonies as to the value and benefit of the Art & Practice program and Q Process™, go to

We just completed the first round of a series of Q Process™ workshops scheduled through the fall here at Unity Spiritual Center. I privately invited the Board, ministry leaders, and individuals in our financial and volunteer core to participate in the first workshop. Forty-five people responded to the invitation. My goal is to have 150 community members master the Q Process™ by the end of this year. After that, we will repeat the program at least twice a year and ultimately make it a qualification for organizational roles in the future.

I must say, having facilitated the program for thousands of people  since 2008, this was the first time I presented the program to an audience that is also the leadership of the ministry I serve. I was unprepared for and overwhelmed by the depth of connection and compassion the participants felt toward one another. Some of them have been together at the church for decades, and are now reporting that after having gone through the workshop and the Q Process™, their sense of intimacy and caring for one another has increased ten-fold. As in the movie Avatar, they now “see” each other for the first time. They hands-down believe that the program should be a qualification for governing membership.

Jane’s and my efforts to go “all in” on the Art & Practice early in our tenure is to create a community-wide practice for dealing with discomfort–the same tool that everyone in the ministry can use to awaken their own emotional and spiritual maturity. Those familiar with the Q Process™ understand the expression: “I need to do a worksheet on that.” Or, “you need to go do a worksheet on that before you talk to…” In six months, we will create a tipping point around the Q Process™ where the majority of the congregation is practicing and using the same tool for managing “not enough”.

Blessings, Gary

Identify and Teach about Sub-Cultures

It has been my experience that most church leaders do not think in terms of congregational sub-cultures. I have already mentioned that we tend to treat everyone the same, not realizing that each sub-culture in the ministry has its own identity and needs. I have spoken to this dynamic during my Center Updates because it is helpful for the congregation to see and understand the implications of these unique groups within the broader context of the ministry’s culture. This is especially important when it becomes time to bring online the enhancements and upgrades that activate tipping points.

I have also mentioned that before you can evolve the community and the organization, you must first reach a tipping point. For instance, the culture of ownership (the financial and volunteer Subculturescore) is typically 20% of the congregation providing 80% of the resources. Before the church can move to the next level the culture of ownership needs to be 51% or greater since 20% is insufficient to shift the whole organization. Once the tipping point has been reached, transitioning to a higher level of functionality is possible. The biggest mistake ministry leaders make is trying to evolve the church before they reach a tipping point with respect to the culture of ownership.

Therefore, strategies to increase the numbers of individuals in ownership are essential to the activation of evolutionary drivers. Before an intentional process of cultivating greater ownership can occur, individuals within the congregation need to know which culture they occupy. Next, those who are in the culture of receivership need to see themselves distinctly–differentiating themselves from the culture of ownership. They need to see the distinction between having a relationship with the community and having a relationship with the organization. Once this is evident, ownership opportunities can enter the conversation.

Blog Ownership ReceivershipAnyone who is reading this blog is probably in ownership of their ministry. If you think back to when you were in the culture of receivership and consider what pivotal event happened that caused you to move toward greater ownership, you probably discovered that you could actually receive more by…giving. So the question is: How can we create this epiphany as a natural part of our ministry practice? Because you just can’t announce to your congregation, “give more and you will receive more”. Oops, that’s typically what we DO say! The problem is that we don’t create natural pathways for people to discover this as an effect of their own curiosity, initiative, or guidance.

It is human nature for people to move towards whatever provides them greater value and influence. If the majority of our congregation is in receivership, and they, by definition, are not very interested in the organizational, we need to begin to link their experience of the community to the well-being of the whole ministry. In other words, the quality of their community experience is directly dependent upon the health and integrity of the organization. In addition, the health and integrity of the organization is interlocked with the emotional and spiritual maturity of community members.

All of this might seem daunting, but what I have discovered is that there is an authentic interest among the majority of the congregation (both in ownership and receivership) to understand the inner workings of the ministry. For me, I want my congregation to know everything I know about the challenges and opportunities of getting to the next level. I am wanting them to understand and learn about the integral model of ministry not as a conceptual framework, but as a ministry practice that is designed to grow ownership and activate tipping points.

Jane and I want to partner with the community rather than lead the community. A partnership requires a maturity that goes beyond mutuality and teamwork. It requires a willingness to journey together and share in taking responsibility for what is seeking to be birthed. As we consider the next level for Unity Spiritual Center, while we don’t know what the next level looks like just yet, we do know how to get there. We hope you will enjoy the journey with us.

Blessings, Gary



Retraining Brains

Now that I am back in the role of minister I am finding that I have a much different approach to ministry than I had ever imagined. While I have much more insight and understanding regarding the dynamics of ministry (thanks to having an integral context) and how to take a ministry to the next level, my way of being with people and how I show up in the ministerial role is less ministerial and more as a corporate trainer or martial arts instructor.

I have also noticed that I am very aware that not everyone comes to church every Sunday. Obviously, this is just the way it is. But in the context of discovering that my ministerial style is now one of a trainer or instructor, and not as the typical pulpit minister, I find that it is much more difficult to develop a concept or build upon previous topics when some people miss services. I even mentioned this fact early on during my Center Updates, explaining that it is difficult to build a conceptual foundation regarding a principle or spiritual practice when some people have missed what I shared the previous Sunday.

Consequently, I now provide a bit of a review, so folks who missed an Update or a particular Sunday talk can be brought back up to speed. This has worked very well. People have reported that they appreciate hearing new concepts and principles multiple times. They like having the review as it helps them track new ideas more completely.

As I think more deeply into the challenge of attendance fluctuations, I can now see how difficult it is to evolve a ministry–to take it to the next level, when you only have 20 minutes or so a week to impact peoples consciousness. By impacting people’s consciousness, what I really mean is helping them create new brain maps. The key to getting to the next level, for either the individual or the organization is creating new brain maps or neural pathways congruent with Principle. This video illustrates how important it is to retrain our brains in order to evolve, loose weight, or learn a new language.

I am planning to show this video ( during my next Sunday talk and say this is what it is going to take for us to embody the art and practice of living with nothing and no one against us (our theme for the entire year). We are going to retrain our brains, create new brain maps and neural pathways consistent with the Principle that there is just God going on. Our current brain maps are hard wired for a dualistic context for meaning making. In other words, our current default self operating-system is portraying reality upside-down and backwards.

For example: It seems as if the source of our discomfort and well-being is “out there” in the realm of what happening. This is why we are compelled to have things be a certain way. But, let’s say that you hear me say, there is really no such thing as “out there.” The source of your well-being or discomfort is not external to you. You are a localized point of Source. Yet, to have access to the resourcefulness of this context (I am Source), I will need to retrain my brain to out picture a reality consistent with this Principle. I will need to learn how to ride the backwards bicycle (metaphorically speaking) because my brain can’t flip what is real to me until it acquires the map or the neural pathways to construct that reality. (If this is difficult to get you head around, read Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Dr. Joe Dispenza.) This is why spiritual practice and shadow work are so integral to emotional and spiritual development. We have to retrain how our brain constructs our reality. It take at least 21 days of continuous practice for the brain to commit to a new sequence of neural pathways.

So now each Sunday, there is a 5 – 10 minute organizational training segment that I call Center Update with Dr. Gary followed by a Sunday lesson that is linked to previous lessons. Each lesson is likely to contain a review of a previous talk. And, people are encouraged to listen to the Updates and lessons they missed online. The worship service has become a blend of celebration, fellowship, leadership training, prayer, spiritual practice and emotional & spiritual development.

According to the survey I mentioned in the last blog that was conducted as a part of the search process, only 25% of the congregation indicated participation in classes and workshops. That percentage is now closer to 50%. I believe that we are making progress with helping people understand that the spiritual journey is not a passive assimilation of ideas and doctrine, but an intentional and systematic process of remapping how our brain constructs its representation of reality.

Blessings, Gary


Enough of Not Enough

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:

Not EnoughIt 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.


Blessings, Gary


Don’t Treat Everyone The Same

We are not accustomed to thinking about our congregation as an aggregate of nested sub-cultures, each with their own unique identity, characteristics, and needs. I have on a number of occasions on Sundays during my Center Update segment talked about three primary sub-cultures: Stewardship (the Board culture), Ownership (the financial and volunteer core) and the culture of Receivership (those who are participating in only community activities like the worship service, pot-lucks, celebrations, and classes).

I explained to the congregation that those who are relatively new to the church have no authentic connection to the ministry as an organization. Their interest and focus is on their experience within the context of the spiritual community, not the organization. As long as they are spiritually fed, welcomed, accepted and valued for their mere presence in the community, they hang out and journey with us for a while. In time, 90% will leave the ministry in one year. This is normal. Nothing is broken. Don’t try to board up the revolving door!

Then there are those that have been with the ministry over the years. This smaller group of faithful supporters are interested in the relational dynamics of the community as well as being concerned about the well-being of the organization. They know that the vitality of the community is linked to the health and sustainability of the ministry as a whole (community and organization).

I also explained that the culture of Stewardship (the Board) is all about taking care of business, planning, fundraising, risk management, paying the bills, setting policy, etc. This small group of volunteer leaders are tasked with the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the overall integrity of the ministry.

My guidance with respect to what I share during my Center Updates  is to help the entire congregation understand the not-so-obvious dynamics of ministry. It will be Jane and my intention to interact and work with each of the sub-cultures in a way that honors their individual identity, characteristics and needs. For instance, we will work with the board, the culture of ownership and the culture of receivership differently because each of these sub-cultures has their own context and perspective in relation to the ministry. Those in ownership have different needs that those in receivership.

Not Your Parents Offering Plate

Clif Christopher explains that the biggest mistake churches make with respect to their donors is that they treat everyone the same. Everyone gets the same announcements, the same financial report, the same donor letter, etc., when actually and depending upon the sub-culture of the donor, each will have a different expectation or need with respect to their financial involvement.

As I studied the giving patterns in this ministry, I discovered four distinct tiers among all of Unity Spiritual Center’s donors. I ended up writing a different donor letter for each group in an effort to align with their particular cultural identity.

The same principle is applied to the classes and programs Jane and I are conducting. We send out a private invitation to a class or a training to a targeted group of people. Then, we repeat the same program over and over until everyone is included. The classes and trainings are very coherent and transformational because each group’s participants are by design in the same sub-culture.

It may seem counter intuitive to treat people differently based on their financial support, involvement, tenure or stature in the ministry, but the reality is that until we align with their cultural identity we are missing their mark. We are very good at treating everyone the same, giving them the sense that they are valued and loved. We begin with this but the problem is that we end with it as well. In reality, people deep down inside don’t want to be treated the same. They want to be treated as an individual for their specific expressions of gratitude and support. When we are able to align with their identity by speaking their language, meeting them in their world-view, we succeed in creating empathy and understanding. The takeaway is that people in receivership will upgrade and become owners. And the people in ownership will become owner / partners.

Blessings, Gary


As Above, So Below

Next Level QuestionsAs I mentioned in my last posting, evolving the ministry–getting to the next level–requires a tipping point where there is sufficient capacity of the organization and the community to take on a new ministry practice that can actualize a new pattern of being and doing. Of course, the tipping point is only a hypothetical possibility until the elements of cultural change come into play. This requires a comprehensive picture of what the next level looks and feels like. People will need to see themselves in the same future together if there is to emerge a coherent movement towards it as well as a clear methodology for bringing it forth. In other words, people will need to be guided, led, supported, and trained as to how to BE or how to inhabit an evolved paradigm of ministry. Think of the caterpillar who may take on faith that the butterfly is its latent potentiality, but has no context for the experience (consciousness) of its future self.

To get your head around the complexity of evolving culture ask yourself this question: What is my “next level?”

How would you answer this question? And, what would your next level look and feel like? Would your next level mean greater emotional and spiritual maturity? Would it mean greater health and vitality. Would it include more money, more time, less stress or worry? Would your next level mean you are no longer a victim or would it mean healing the past?

Absent of a well defined description of what the next level is for yourself, it is unlikely that you will get there directly. Yet, once you get very clear as to what the next level looks and feels like, you can begin to define the steps (new ways of being) that move you toward a new paradigm of self expression.

Similar questions are asked and answered by those in the culture of ownership except in the context of the next level for the ministry. However, it’s not until the culture of ownership gets to 51% that the tipping point becomes a potentiality. Until then the focus needs to be on cultivating greater ownership within the ranks of the culture of receivership (those who only have a connection to the community).

The “tip” of the tipping point is the Board culture. It is also the starting place for increasing ownership. The assumption is that anyone who services on the Board is in ownership of the ministry. While this may be generally true on some level, the depth and scope of ownership is sometimes insufficient with respect to inspiring others (especially those in receivership) to care deeply about the well-being and sustainability of the organization.

In the Integral Model of Ministry, the Board’s responsibility includes developing other leaders and modeling what it looks like to be the ideal governing (voting) member. The performance (how people show up) of the community will not exceed the Board’s capacity to model by example what it looks like to be in financial integrity with respect to the support of the ministry and other practices: commitment to personal health and well-being via spiritual practice and shadow work; the application of Unity principles in the presence of challenges and opportunities; service and meaningful involvement both within and outside of the church community. If we as a Board desire a practice, trait, or quality to show up in the congregation, then we as a Board need to model it. As above, so below.

Thus begins our conversation with our Board to consider raising the bar with respect to these arenas that constitute ownership. I am pleased to report that our Board welcomes being in this crucial conversation. I think that they really get that we cannot ask the congregation to do anything that we as a Board are unable or unwilling to do.

Blessings, Gary


Only Those Who See the Invisible Can Do the Impossible

The challenge of taking the ministry to the next level is all about cultural and systemic evolution. When Jane and I interviewed with the Board, we made it clear that our vision for ministry was not about growing numbers or rescuing the ministry, but rather to partner with the leadership and the community to take it to the next level.

InvisibleWe did not define what we meant by “the next level” except to say that it’s a question for the entire spiritual community to answer in time. What we did explain was that our efforts would be focused on emotional and spiritual development in preparation for a process to discern what the next level might be.

During my Center Update, I shared the saying: Only those who can see the invisible can do the impossible. It could be said that the spiritual path is all about learning how to see the invisible. Organizationally, the invisible includes working with the cultural dynamics of the ministry that constitute the pattern of community life. I shared with the congregation that typically ministry leaders are not conscious of their ministry’s culture and for the most part, oblivious to the invisible dynamics of status quo, conflict norms, family system imperatives, and the various sub-cultures within the broader context of the community at large.

These sub-cultures include the culture of stewardship (the Board culture), the culture of ownership (the established financial and volunteer core) and the culture of receivership (those that are only in relationship to the community rather than both the community and organization). Each of these sub-cultures has different needs and will be in “the next level” question from a different context.

While ministry leaders may be aware of the need to evolve the cultural dynamics of the ministry, what is missing is engaging each sub-culture individually rather than working with the entire congregation as a whole when discerning the next level.

In addition, we must keep in mind that evolving culture requires a tipping point–a momentous leap into a new pattern of being and doing. It is unlikely that a tipping point can occur when the percentage of culture of stewardship and ownership is only 20% of the community.

Pareto's Principle

This necessitates growing the culture of ownership PRIOR to redefining the ministry mission and vision (the context of the next level).

Growing the culture of ownership requires an intentional process or pathway by which those who are in receivership authentically desire a more meaningful relationship with the ministry as a whole, not just the community. Future blogs will unpack the complexities of this process.

This Center Update concluded with sharing that the goal for the tipping point is 51% in ownership. The “how to” grow the culture of ownership will also be addressed in future blogs. Suffice it to say, evolving the culture of the ministry takes time and happens as an effect of growing the emotional and spiritual maturity of the community.

Blessings, Gary