The Center for Lifelong Learning is pleased to offer the “Fostering Personal Change Workshop” with Dr. Mark Biddle on February 15-16, 2018.
“What was I thinking?” John Smith was pastor of an urban interfaith, interracial, and demographically mixed parish community. Around 5:00 pm as the summer shone brightly along 53rd Street in Chicago, one young professional, Mary Ann, beginning her legal career, visited his office. Introducing herself she shared that she’d recently moved to the city and would be living nearby while she was orienting to the new job she had accepted. Excited by the new job Mary Ann also missed an important part of her identity. Mary Ann had at one time had been a church organist and now was looking for a place where she could practice playing the organ.
As she said this John felt a slight tightening in his face. The past year, he had been involved in numerous meetings and fund-raising events related to a sesquicentennial celebration that raised needed funds to refurbish the organ. He understood immediately how unlikely it was that her request would get a favorable response. Putting on his best pose he explained that the decision was not his to make but one that belonged to the church music committee and organist. John offered to talk with the church organist who he would see later that evening. He arranged a time to meet Mary Ann the next Saturday.
Talking with Bruce, the organist, confirmed that the music committee had a policy that only someone performing with the choir or for the service could practice on the organ.
When John met with the young woman he explained why she could not practice on the church organ. Although disappointed she seemed to understand, said that her life was very busy with the new job and that she would be traveling and not able to regularly attend choir or even worship services. A few days later John received a note harshly criticizing the church, their conversation, and the decision noting, “I’ve not attended church for a long time, but grew up in the church and love music. I hoped that the church would welcome me home.”
Reflecting on the conversations, he could not understand why he had missed seeing that she was looking for acceptance and yearning for some connection with her past and present. “I should have known better!” he thought. “A good listener should always pay attention to the personal needs.” John believed that he was a good listener and many parishioners said as much. He resolved that next time he would do better.
But it may not be a matter of “skill or will.” A different dynamic could also be an assumption or goal that was hidden to John. John’s reflection that he should have known better is a subtle shift, in which he is not taking responsibility for getting better. Such a perspective can see how a desire to get better at welcoming visitors, sharing leadership roles, or being authentic with parishioners is undermined by actual behaviors driven by another, less noble purpose.
This workshop, Fostering Personal Change, digs deeper into this sometimes maddening situation that occurs when our behaviors “have us”, rather than us “having” them.
Participants will be exposed to a practical concept called Immunity to Change, a term used to describe a well-organized autonomous immune system trying to keep us safe. However, this immunity system works even against one’s best intentions and efforts, shielding us from the very progress we are so eager to make. The result is no change. Fostering Personal Change provides a robust tool for learning and change.
Registration is now open for the Fostering Personal Change Workshop.
Dr. Biddle founded Dalton Corner Coaching in 2013. He is an executive coach in the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program and a faculty member of the Chautauqua Institution Clergy Leadership Program. Prior to 2013 he worked in higher education and was the Director of Experiential Learning for MBA students, the founder of a wellness program to prevent clergy burnout, and pastor of rural and urban community churches. As a coach his focus is with mission driven leaders and social entrepreneurs helping them to change behaviors and become more authentic and creative.