The Development Center

Learning Groups

The Authority of the Pastor
A Small Learning Group for Pastors and Rectors - Spring 2017

This may sound familiar:

Who This Group is For:
This leaning group is designed for pastors or rectors of complex congregations who are the senior leader or a very seasoned associate. They lead churches that have serveral clergy or programmatic staff besides directors of music.

What to Expect As Part of the Group:
Your most difficult and consuming professional challenges will be central to our work. You will have the opportunity to discover and articulate the zeitgeist of our times and the forces and factors which shape your nation and locality. We will posit the purpose of the church from various perspectives. You will be able to explore the culture, systems, structures and processes of your congregation. You probably will become clearer on what you bring that is unique to your role. You will have the opportunity to mix all these together to begin to create a flexible leadership role for yourself in environments that are in constant flux.

This group is intentionally small – limited to 6-10 members who want to go on this journey of discovery. I have learned through the years that this size experiential learning group gives me the opportunity to know each member and for members to work together by offering their best to one another. Jesus knew what he was doing with only 12 disciples.

The work will be individual work in a group setting. As consultant and leader I will work with you to learn to apply psychodynamic and systemic lenses to your situation. The group will explore the three domains –Context, Organization and Person- of  the “The Transforming Experience Framework”. We will also work together to discern where God’s activity might be infusing or breaking through in the domains. This framework was perfected by The Grubb Institute over a forty year period.

Persons who gain the most from the kind of experiential learning often have spent time working on and with themselves. They are curious, courageous and secure in themselves and can present difficult situations for exploration. They do not need everything tied down. People who learn best from lectures, a training approach or are trainers usually do not delve easily into this way of working and therefore do not get much out of it.

The method of this group provides an approach to evaluate and act on diverse issues now and into the future.The approach is one in which everything is open to questioning and there is a good chance that you may be surprised by what you discover. It results not so much in finding solutions to sticky situations but in an internal realignment, and new ideas about how you can approach your work. Following such groups members have gained fresh perspectives and insights on what their church needs from them as a leader. And they have made significant changes for the good of their organization.

By the end of the group you will have gained an increased understanding of your context, your organization and what you bring to your position. You probably will have begun to formulate a flexible role that is useful in fulfilling your congregation’s purpose and through which you garner Pastoral Authority. You will have had the opportunity to think about how not to expect the impossible of yourself, expand your capacity to work with what is emerging and sit with it until you have enough clarity to act.

Emerging Themes In Our Work

Comments From Past Participants In Organizational Role Conferences & Consultations

Leader:  Frances Unsell is Founder and President of The Development Center. She is a Presbyterian minister, psychoanalyst and organizational consultant. She has worked with women in leadership since 1980. This has included directing a career program at Barnard College, Columbia University, working as an internal leadership and organizational consultant for women’s organizations and female leaders for a denomination, and coaching and consulting to scores of females who are senior leaders. She has been quoted in The New York Times and interviewed by Voice of America as an expert on women and work.

Frances has consulted to and been employed by every level of the Church – congregations, denominations, seminaries, ecumenical bodies and parachurch organizations. Her work has encompassed all the mainline Protestant denominations in North America, the Church of England, and Roman Catholic and Jewish traditions.

Her clients can be characterized as cutting edge, resource rich, thoughtful, effective senior leaders of complex organizations. They are often thought leaders and public intellectuals who are highly visible in the public square.

Frances was a Founding Member and is past Co-Chair of the Coaching Coalition and is a member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations. She is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary (Rockefeller Fellow, Concentration: Psychiatry and Religion), The Westchester Institute for Training in Psychoanalysis (Existential Psychoanalysis) and has trained with The Tavistock Institute, the Grubb Institute and AKRice (Organizational Systems and Behavior, Group Relations).