The College is:
- A two-year comprehensive training program for laity and clergy
- Based in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia; it has also had participants from many other dioceses, and has launched spinoff programs in a partnership of southern dioceses (Cooperative College for Congregational Development) and in Diocese of New Westminster (Diocesan School for Leadership); discussions with several other dioceses are in progress
- Grounded in both organization development theory/practice and in the unique ecclesial tradition, ethos, and character of the Episcopal/Anglican church
What is congregational development?
The working definition we use is this:
Congregational development is the development of congregations of all sizes and locations into more faithful, healthy and effective communities of faith that are:
- Focused on and faithful to their unique reason for being/primary task as congregations which are full expressions of the Body of Christ
- Connected to and expressive of their unique ecclesial tradition, ethos and character
- Self-renewing and responsive to the challenges and opportunities before them
- Sustainable or working toward greater sustainability in terms of a fit between the elements of their organizational life: vision for ministry, leadership, culture, size, property, finances, etc.
How is that related to organization development?
Organization development has to do with the ways organizations function and how they can function most effectively and authentically in the service of their core purposes. Congregational development shares this goal, but does so in the unique context of Christian congregations—for us, Episcopal congregations. While we draw extensively from insights and skills developed in the organization development community, we also draw from pastoral theology, Anglican spirituality, scripture, and church history. Shared worship is a core component of all the College sessions, and Episcopal identity and congregational life are the focus of many of the core models.
What’s the format?
Participants attend either a week-long intensive session in the summer or a series of four weekend (Friday-Saturday) sessions throughout the year for two successive years. The format is Year A/Year B, so participants can start in either year.
Who can attend and who’s involved?
Participants should come in parish (or diocesan organization, etc.) teams of clergy and lay leaders. People have successfully participated in the College as individuals, but the primary orientation is toward parish teams. Lay people who attend may or may not be in roles of positional authority (vestry, etc.) but should be involved in leadership within the parish, formal or informal.
At sessions parish teams are grouped together into working groups of about eight to ten people. (Parish teams of more than three or four are sometimes broken up across multiple groups so that no one congregation dominates a group.) Work at the College alternates between plenary, large-group presentations and group work sessions. Each group is assigned a trainer whose responsibility includes coaching, teaching, intervening (and sometimes not intervening), and generally supporting that group in its work and its common life. Trainers also present material in the large plenary sessions.
What are the expectations?
Participants are expected to attend and participate in all sessions of the College, complete a reading list, and complete two back-home projects in the congregation. There is also a core models exam (which can be retaken as needed until passed). For more information se our page on goals and expectations.
What do participants learn?
The College seeks to equip people with knowledge and skills at three different levels: individual, team or group, and whole system. The program includes teaching of theory, engaging in application exercises and experiential learning segments, and planning, doing, and reflecting on back-home projects.
The program works toward the development of a learning community of lay and ordained leaders from congregations throughout the diocese, who share common experiences and skills and a common language for working together.
Facilitation skills are a particularly central practical element that we work on throughout the program. In terms of theory, we make extensive use of a set of core models oriented toward thinking about congregational systems; a variety of other models are introduced throughout the program as various topics are covered.
A brief overview of the content covered is below.
Common to Years A and B:
- Primary Task of Congregations (Gather, Transform, Send)
- Key Elements of Congregational Life (Sources of Transformation)
- Faith Development in Community
- The Benedictine Life
- Life Cycle of Organizations
- Congregational Size Model
- Elements of an Organizational System
- Change Processes (Lewin, Action Research, Appreciative Inquiry)
- More Change Processes (Bridges, Beckhard, Kotter)
- Facilitation Skills I: Facilitating Effective Meetings (planning, charters, agendas, role of facilitator, ground rules, managing materials, assessing meetings)
- Facilitation Skills II: Different Formats/Ways to Structure Discussion (go-round, small groups, brainstorming, fishbowl, kinetic mapping, council, visualization, silence)
- Facilitation Skills III: Generating and Working With Ideas (brainstorming and prioritizing, force-field analysis, SWOT analysis, mutual expectations exercise, broad-based assessment tool)
Note that a number of topics also recur in both years. Unit 1 in both years includes teaching the core models and developing new colleague groups (though this happens in different ways in Year A and Year B). Unit 4 in both years deals with OD interventions designing congregational projects (though again we also address some different material).
Year A, Unit 1
Group Formation and Working With The Models
Presentations of the core models; group and team dynamics; case studies and reflections on our own congregations using the models; preparing to conduct congregational interviews back in our parishes
Year A, Unit 2
Feedback in Congregations, Groups, and Individuals
Debriefing congregational interviews; various types of “data”; survey feedback and getting an organization in touch with its data; Myers-Briggs typology, JoHari Window, and giving and receiving feedback in teams
Year A, Unit 3
Working with Conflict
Trust development theory (Jack Gibb); levels of conflict (Speed Leas); planned renegotiation cycle; case studies on conflict in congregations; trust-building tools; Myers-Briggs typology and conflict; intergroup relations; debate vs. dialogue
Year A, Unit 4
OD Interventions and Working Toward Projects
Intervening in organizational systems; Argyris intervention theory; various roles from which to create change; the OD cube; articles by Martin Smith and Ed Schein; working with colleague groups to develop back-home projects
Year B, Unit 1
Group Formation; Working With the Models; Culture and Episcopal Identity
Presentations of the core models; another model of group formation/identity (Group Needs Model); more case studies with the models; environmental influences on organizations from outside; culture and cultural assessment (Ed Schein); Episcopal identity and the culture of Anglicanism; appreciative inquiry; preparing for parish visits
Year B, Unit 2
Self-Differentiated Leadership; “Gathering” and “Marketing”
Debriefing congregational visits; revisiting “Gathering” as part of the Gather-Transform-Send model; leadership in a congregational system and self-differentiation; “marketing” understood appreciatively (articulating “where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need”—Buechner); exploring congregational identity through websites
Year B, Unit 3
Organizations, Decision-Making, Politics, and Change
Exercises with the change models; power and organizational politics (Peter Block); leader-team working styles (Tannenbaum/Schmidt continuum); ways of getting to decisions (Kaner et al.: decision rules, gradients of agreement); various possibilities for how working groups, vestries, rector, and others can function in congregations
Year B, Unit 4
Working Toward Projects: OD Interventions
Argyris intervention theory; various roles from which to create change; the OD cube; articles by John D. Adams and Herbert A. Shepard; working with colleague groups to develop back-home projects