Editor’s Note: Unity Leaders Journal interviewed Rev Pat Williamson, senior minister at Unity Minneapolis, Minn. We wanted his views as a long-term minister.
ULJ: How do you, as a longtime Unity minister, keep up with changing needs?
Change is a funny thing. It happens right under our noses and before our eyes without us even realizing it (until, of course, we suddenly take notice).
It might not always be easy to adapt or keep up in this ever-changing world, but it’s imperative, especially as a minister, to do so. As a leader at Unity Minneapolis, Minn., it’s my job to recognize the changing needs of the community. That means listening to what they have to say, and also listening to Spirit for guidance on what is ours to do at Unity Minneapolis.
I’ve never thought about having a systematic approach to keeping up with change. The constant for me in the context of change is remembering my own calling as a minister. If I can’t remember my own calling—what God has placed in my heart—then why do I have any desire to keep up with changing spiritual needs? My calling has not changed for the last 23-plus years, so I know that my true calling is to teach and preach universal Truth principles so that I may grow and assist other people with their spiritual growth.
It’s important to get clear guidance from Spirit, and usually guidance comes in the way of big-picture guidance. That’s not to say that God doesn’t speak to me through those small things in my life. But it’s like God creates the big picture and then I get to color it in the way I choose.
The most effective way to teach universal truth principles has changed drastically in the last few years. We used to come to a place to receive this information, now we have many ways to disseminate this information—not only through community here but also through social media, technology, and livestreaming. When I receive guidance from Spirit, I’ll ask, “How does this align with our vision and our mission and our values?” regardless of cutting-edge technology, regardless of all the changes in ministries right now. Our congregation has come up with vision and mission and values and so it’s important for us to use that as a guide for what we are to do here at Unity Minneapolis.
Unity Minneapolis has worked with a strategic plan for many years; for the last several years we’ve used the same strategic plan that revolves around leadership and staff, technology and facilities. So much of my work is centered on these three areas. Spirit constantly gives me guidance on what to do in each and every one of these areas, and because of a clarity with our vision and mission and strategic plan, I believe we have taken our community into the next level. Right now we are in the throes of another strategic plan as we reassess the community’s new needs.
Using Available Resources
There are plenty of resources out there to assist leaders, but first I believe that you have to have the desire to be open to change. I have disciplined myself to read articles on a regular basis from varying people and places.
One of the major ways that I stay in the know is through Unity Worldwide Ministries. I’m truly not just saying that. UWM has been stable for me for many years; it is my go-to, it is my starting place. I get countless ideas, how-tos, references and opportunities from them that I might not otherwise explore. The Leadership & Ministry Development Resource Guides and Enlightened Leaders Program have been very helpful here in our community.
I attend Unity conventions on a regular basis, which always provide me with new ideas through workshops and speakers. This last convention in San Antonio so resonated with me. I loved Rev Karen Tudor’s opening talk on keeping Unity open. Because of that talk, and because of Spirit working through me, I made a couple of decisions that I know I would not have made unless I had heard that talk. I also attended Mark Hicks’ workshop that will assist me with becoming more focused in my talks, and the wonderful workshop on sea of change—a quick review of the trends that are happening in churches today. I bring so much of this information to my board and key leadership team.
I subscribe to BoardSource, which gives me information that I can pass onto the board in order to help us fulfill our mission. Currently I keep up with Thom Rainer and his ideas around church (like his article called “Eight Major Changes in Churches in the Last Ten Years”). Also I keep up with former Alban Institute instructors. Many of them have their own resources and blogs, and I find their information insightful in what is happening in churches.
I am madly in love with the work by Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business and also The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. We have been using this model for over a year with our leadership staff here. We huddle each and every morning, and it makes a difference in creating community in our own team.
I also interact with local churches here in Golden Valley and learn what’s working for them, and we recently provided an interfaith service in our shared community. I belong to the Unity Minister Discussion Group and the Unity Minister Resource Sharing group on Facebook which I find supportive. [Participation is limited to Unity ministers in both groups by the moderator.] They share many resources, and I usually find ideas there.
Challenges & Opportunities with Technology
The vast improvements to technology in the last several years is both a blessing and challenge. Technology has helped tremendously in providing easy and fast access to information. The challenge, however, is that it happens so fast. There’s so much of it out there that you truly have to depend on Spirit to discern on what is yours to do, what is your community’s to do. At times, when I’ve mastered a piece of technology and then all of a sudden it’s different, I feel the urge to give up. But I remember my calling to ministry in those times of frustration.
When I started ministry, it was Sunday morning at the church. And now people want the lesson and service when they want it, not when we want to give it to them. So that means it not only has be available to our people 24/7, but also easily accessible. But we know that because of technology, through our livestreaming service we offer at Unity Minneapolis, we have the potential to reach 9 billion on this planet. It is an incredible way to get your calling out there.
Even though I come from a time when the primary means of communication was the telephone (a means I still prefer), I’m very clear that that’s not the best way to communicate with the majority of our congregants. Communication has to be short and focused, and that’s a challenge. We’re constantly adapting and testing new communication methods to most effectively reach the community.
We have moved from a minister-centric ministry to a ministry-centric ministry. That idea often gets misconstrued; if it’s ministry-centric then why do we need a minister? Strong leadership is indeed needed in a ministry-centric ministry, but the minister has to be willing to let go and let God, so to speak. Every ministry needs a good, strong spiritual leader—one that is willing to adapt to the constantly changing needs of our community.
I’ve often said, as a minister, that I don’t have to know how to do everything, I just need to surround myself with people who do. That’s what makes our ministry a powerful one: we utilize the gifts of the people in our ministry.
I know that I am in service to this ministry—just as our board is in service and just like everyone else is in service to this ministry. This ministry is not “Reverend Pat’s ministry.” This ministry is the community. I believe one day as we continue to stretch in a ministry-centric ministry that it will not be about what minister was in place when we accomplished something, but it will be what our mission and vision was at that time.