LONG BRANCH – In what was considered by several participants to be “the best Bishop’s Clergy Convocation yet” GNJ clergy went deep in engaging peacemaking with Jim Ferrell, an author and leader at The Arbinger Institute, at the 2018 event held on Nov. 12-14, 2018 at the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch.
“In addition to the great opportunity to come together, the material was incredibly helpful for my ministry,” said Rev. Laura Steele of Hopewell UMC.
The Arbinger Institute provides training, consulting, coaching and implementation tools that move individuals, teams and organizations from the default self-focus on an inward mindset to a results-focus of an outward mindset. GNJ clergy were encouraged to read Ferrell’s book ‘The Anatomy of Peace’, which diagrams a way of being that starts with a heart of peace and is necessary to address conflict and change.
“It is based on the idea that people put themselves in boxes that become barriers to affecting change and that the most important part of helping things go right is getting out of the box,” said Ferrell.
The book, widely read in UMC circles, was read three times by Bishop John Schol who described it as “powerful” for him, as a leader.
“With an outward mindset, organizations and individuals focus on collective results. They can have difficult conversations about resource allocation, roles, and responsibilities without feeling the need to protect their silos, defend their decisions or appear in certain ways,” explained Ferrell “They might frame the problem differently, allowing them to see new possibilities for solutions and new directions for problem-solving.”
In his role as Arbinger’s managing partner, Ferrell directs the development of the institute’s training and consulting programs and the development and customization of its intellectual property. He has provided training and consulting internationally to leaders and organizations across a broad range of industries.
For the past three decades, Arbinger has been a leader in public and private sector organizational and cultural transformation, leadership training and consulting, and conflict resolution and transformation. Arbinger has helped thousands of organizations to institutionalize the change from an inward to an outward mindset while developing leaders, staff, teams, and organizations that maximize responsibility and become more effective in daily operations.
Steele reported applying tools and resources learned at convocation and through Ferrell’s book to her context and inspiration to teach her congregational leaders the importance of “turning their chairs around.”
“One of the main things I appreciated about the book, the plenaries, and our breakout sessions was the way each reduced complicated, conflict-prone relationship dynamics,” stated Pastor Benjamin Lee of Flemington UMC. “The ‘he or she does/I see/I do/he or she sees’ of the conflict collusion diagram was helpful to use in the local church misunderstandings to help people take on the perspective of others.”
Lee added that the pyramid approach to resolving conflict wherein the answer is almost never to correct but rather to move deeper into the relationship to get to the heart of the conflict was a great reminder in pastoral ministry.
“I always appreciate the chance to connect with people whom I don’t see regularly,” said Lee. “Each mealtime was a chance to have good conversations with people I love but seldom see.”
For Rev. John Randall of First UMC in Bridgeton, Convocation provided opportunities to nourish, renew and reconnect with developments of GNJ’s fruitfulness with God, church and community.
“It was a fruitful learning experience,” he said, emphasizing how the small group activities provided opportunities for informal conversations regarding vital leadership practices.
“Our small group leader was an inspirational source of supplying the group with fresh pathways to consider leadership opportunities in the local church,” said Randall. “She enabled the group to role play sequences of possible events affecting and effecting leadership. There was time for conversations regarding a set of circumstances that develops in local church leadership. Also, we were challenged to make the Convocation experience significant in setting a goal with a leader of our local church before leaving.”
Small group reflections offered a time of revelation for some including Rev. Heather Valosin of Denville Community UMC.
“I realized through the small groups that I give others too much power when I react to their feedback with feigned nonchalance, defensiveness, anger and fear,” she said. “I had developed a habit of allowing unsolicited comments to negatively affect my mood and increase my stress level. I was giving people too much power over me. Moving from an inward mindset has the potential for more effective ministry while alleviating my mood and relieving stress.”
Valosin said she felt confident knowing that instead of defending herself, she could be curious about staff and congregants’ needs while creatively trying to adjust her efforts to be helpful.
Rev. Todd Lattig of First UMC in Newton thought Ferrell’s book, plenary sessions and the Convocation workshops offered helpful and valuable discussions.
“Conflict is a reality in all churches and having the resources and training to approach conflict resolution in a graceful, Christian manner is vital ministry,” he said.
Lattig described his experience of viewing ‘the other’ as a human being who has needs and growing points rather than as an object one needs to change was precisely at the heart of the Gospel.
“The call for self-reflection as a means of gauging how one is relating to any other person is a huge part of the process and that part if often lacking or non-existent in some ways,” he said. “I found that the Convocation theme was not only important but timely for so many of us in the midst of our ministries.”
However, Lattig described the part that gave him most joy was fellowship and getting to reconnect with people he knows and loves but doesn’t get to see as often as he would like.
“That is always a joy,” he said. “Also meeting new people and getting the blessing of hearing their story or journey. In fact, those sorts of relational engagements are what inspire me most in ministry as a whole.”
Randall and Steele concurred with Lattig’s sentiment.
Steele was thrilled at the opportunity to bring her daughter whom she said: “had the time of her life and is still talking about it.” She added, “Finding opportunities like this for clergy and families to come together is so important to me as I want my children to meet and network with other pastor’s kids in GNJ.”
The fellowship at Convocation also provided opportunities to develop new collegial friendships with clergy in GNJ.
“The fellowship among those attended was great,” said Randall. “It has always been a time to gather with colleagues and share local church activities, personal endeavors, and acquire support to continue to move in the direction of building God’s Kingdom.”
“I thought the Ocean Place Resort was an environment conducive to making learning engaging, meaningful and encouraged participants to enjoy an atmosphere in a quality setting. This year’s Convocation made available worship experiences where faith, tears, laughter and praising God set the tone for leadership learning activities each day.”