"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~Viktor E. Frankl
First, know I speak for the entire Board of Trustees and the staff of Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) when I say that we hold each of you in our hearts and in our prayers, affirming for each of you wholeness, health, and prosperity.
And now an update. Over the last few years, the advice coming from church consultants and those following the developing trends was that church writ large was evolving, that ministries would need to make quantum shifts in order to reach the changing demographic. The significant changes that occurred at UWM in 2019, and now the impacts of COVID-19 on all of us, have provided an opportunity for the UWM board and staff to rethink how we approach church in Unity.
During the past eight years of leadership changes, staff reduction, and expansion of services to include the creation of Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute, the board, of necessity, has shifted to a working board rather than a governance board. While this shift was necessary to move us through these changes, it significantly affected the time and energy available to the board for strategic thinking.
Last fall, board members realized that this shift was not supportive of long-term growth. We made the decision to hire John Wimberly, congregational consultant, to assist us in shifting our focus back to strategic issues. We asked John to help us: 1) identify best board practices to ensure that we embrace the future in a timely way, 2) reimagine the role of the board vis-à-vis the staff, 3) create ways to increase accountability within the movement, and 4) identify innovative ways to lead UWM strategically to grow the movement.
May Board Meeting
During the first week of May, the Board of Trustees gathered via Zoom for two days of regular business and three days working with John. In the last Update (April 28, 2020), I promised to share with you what emerged from that time. Here goes!
Our first two days together dealt with business issues. We reviewed our financial position and, while we do realize that love offerings may be less than budgeted for a while, our reserves and the unexpected income from the PPP loan will provide adequate support for now. We approved an interim budget that reflects the cancellations of major events and potential decrease in income. This budget will be reviewed periodically and adjusted as necessary. We know that when we are moving in the direction of Spirit, the resources we require to make things happen will be provided—in one form or another. Amen.
We also began the process of defining the job description for our permanent CEO/Executive Director and setting a timeline for the selection process. More on that in our next update.
Better Together Project
And then the fun began. John Wimberly joined us and shared the findings of his work with the focus groups and interviews with staff. I encourage you to go to the Better Together webpage and read the complete report. Thank you, John.
It became clear very early in our discussions that, while we have an inspiring and overarching vision statement, Advancing the movement of spiritual awakening and transformation through Unity, a positive path for spiritual living, there was a need for a more definitive Purpose Statement that would serve as a filter to establish priorities for what the board chooses to authorize or not authorize over the next 3–5 years; what the staff would do and not do; what would be funded and not funded. Much of our time was spent in defining and refining that Statement plus Priority areas for our focus. During this discussion, we also agreed that the consciousness of “worldwide” must be paramount, not an afterthought, in our planning and decision-making if we are to be truly a worldwide movement.
We agreed that, in June, we would take the Draft Statement and Priority Areas developed in our meeting back to focus groups to get input and to answer any questions you might have. We also decided to create small teams knowledgeable in the priority areas to work in parallel with the focus groups to develop innovative and cutting-edge strategies for each area identified.
The board came away from this week excited and eager to “see it differently” and to embrace the quantum changes that are in front of us as individuals, as communities and ministries, and as a movement.
Here is the first draft of the Purpose Statement and the four Priority Areas. The items under each priority area represent the major initiatives we discussed and should not be considered an exhaustive list. As the focus groups and small teams begin discussion, I would anticipate other initiatives surfacing.
Purpose Statement: To develop, equip, and support the worldwide Unity movement for today and tomorrow in innovative, evolutionary, and cutting-edge ways.
Priority Areas for the Next Three Years
- Education—To provide accessible, leading-edge training to equip current and future Unity leaders to expand and grow our movement
- a. Review of all educational offerings (i.e., UWSI, webinars, on-line learning, etc.)
- b. Best Practices
- c. Youth and Family Ministry
- Promotion/Marketing—To evolve our movement through state-of-the-art website, social media, and promotional technology
- a. Growing the Movement
- b. Social Media
- c. Website Redesign
- Infrastructure—To create end sustain infrastructure that allows us to fulfill our purpose with efficiency, flexibility, and excellence
- a. Staff Redesign
- b. Financial Resources
- c. Hardware/Software/Networking/Support
- d. Investigate different approaches to accessing resources
- e. Support and consideration for International ministries
- Human Resource Services—To provide best business practices and tools to support meaningful, thriving, and healthy relationships between leaders and their communities
- a. Minister and Ministry Care
- b. Employment Services
- c. Credentialing
- d. Conflict Resolution
- e. Ethics
- f. Benefits
The message of Unity is timeless, and it is as relevant and needed today as it was when Charles and Myrtle first named it Unity. It is for us to find new expressions of those timeless principles and new ways to share and demonstrate them without losing the depth, the nuance, and the power of the Word.
Let us hold each other—the board, the staff, and all our ministries—in prayer as we find our way through this time of spiritual awakening and transformation. Send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Source is infinite. Love is our foundation, and so it is.
Times of change are times of fearfulness and times of opportunity. Which they are to be for you depends on your attitude toward them.
—from The Great Physician by Ernest C. Wilson