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Emotion as Outcome

Setting and achieving goals is crucial to the life of any religious organization. We commit to projects, renovate buildings, hire staff, call clergy, serve people in need, increase membership, etc. 

“Veins of Life” by Saint Robert’s Journey courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Sometimes well-articulated and carefully planned goals fail due to tensions on a committee, a dissatisfied minority undermining the project, a lack of adequate leadership, or people not stepping up to get the work done.

These are all symptoms of foundational issues that have nothing to do with the specific project or goal, though sometimes negativity is clearly directed towards a particular goal.  These symptoms point to the need for a second kind of goal: the emotional process goal.

Churches might be familiar with emotional process goals in the form of creating a behavioral or relational covenant. These covenants create a vision of how people will relate to each other and interact.

The downfall of many of these covenants is that they focus on creating a product: the document itself. Emotional process goals are about relationship. They focus on naming the kinds of actions and interactions between people that will lead to healthy relationship and positive interaction. These goals can only be achieved through helping each other to live out these ideals in the daily life of a religious organization.

Specific emotional process goals include things such as:

  • Deepening understanding of relational patterns that work well in the congregation.
  • Increasing communication between ___________(old timers and newer members, leadership team and congregation, traditionalists and progressives).
  • Working on decreasing anxiety and reactivity on issues related to ___________ (money, leadership, welcoming new members. etc.).
  • Working on changing patterns of avoiding discussion of ___________(a past traumatic event, a controversial issue, money, etc.)
  • Resolving an ethical debate in a constructive manner.

All of these goals involve dealing with people’s emotions and identifying patterns of interaction that will be most helpful in building a healthy organization.

Sometimes these goals might seem overly obvious. “Of course. That’s just basic respect or the expected rules of social engagement, we don’t need to name these!”

If your religious organization is stuck on other kinds of goals, it may be important to name emotional process goals. What seems obvious to you, may not be obvious to another person, and it may not be the only way or even the best way for this particular group.

People often have different understandings of what leads to good relationship and interaction. Those understandings sometimes come out of unspoken and deeply held ethical and moral ideals. This can cause conflict that might not be easily seen or understood without serious reflection.

Emotional process goals need to be discussed and agreed on just like any other kinds of goals. A Relational Revitalization Plan can help religious organizations create the kind of environment they aspire to which in turn helps a group achieve other, product oriented goals as well.

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