This is a recorded webinar that took place on Aug. 29, 2011. The purpose of this webinar is to help viewers get a sense for what is included in the curriculum and how to use it in your own unique setting. You’ll also hear from an NC pastor about her experience using this curriculum at her church.
Helping a congregation work through a “hot button” topic like immigration from a faith standpoint can be extremely challenging, and yet the spiritual rewards for a congregation can far exceed the difficulties. This curriculum is designed to be very interactive and conversational. There is also a lot of flexibility built in so you can focus on the areas that are most important to your group. The curriculum is designed to run for six sessions, but for groups with less time there is also an option for four weeks (see next page). Here are some suggested time guidelines based on a one-hour session:
- Opening Prayer (1 min)
- Reflection on Previous Section (5 min)
- Focus Statement (1 min)
- Biblical Reflection and Questions (10-15 min)
- Activity (15-20 min)
- Video and Questions (10-15 min)
- Group Discussion (15-20 min)
- Closing Prayer (3 min)
- Pray for discernment and guidance.
- Clarify your goals: Is there one specific outcome you are aiming for? Do you simply want to begin the discussion, or are you hoping for specific action? Is there a particular situation in your faith community that makes this a pressing and/or emotional issue?
- Take time to sort through your own feelings/opinions/level of knowledge about this issue. Controversial issues are often complex, multilayered. What aspects of it do you need to read up on? Decide whether you intend to remain neutral or if you intend to make your opinions clear, but in a way that does not dismiss the feelings/opinions of others. (Many people find that it is most effective to be clear about your stance, be honest about areas of uncertainty, and constantly make it clear you intend to listen with respect and to learn from all views.)
- Be prepared with intelligent and articulate resources. Encourage your congregants to use only reliable, well-respected sources of information.
- Make sure the appropriate bodies are fully informed about the program.
- Don’t settle for a surface level conversation. Go deeper. Keep in mind that those with very strong opinions may not change their views much. Focus most of your energy on those in the middle; many of them will welcome the opportunity to learn, to ask their questions, and to consider the issue thoughtfully.
- Do everything possible to create safe space for all. Establish guidelines and model respectful dialogue. Make clear what is and is not appropriate in discussion.
- Keep praying. And practice good self-care – this is stressful work!
- If necessary, before beginning the curriculum, offer to meet with any individuals who have concerns about this topic or this curriculum. Invite people privately to share their views, and be ready to explain very clearly why you think this curriculum is necessary, why now, and how you think it will benefit the congregation.
- Publicize your programs on this topic well. Make it clear that the intention is to create a safe space where all are welcome to come together to share their insights, to learn, to listen and to seek divine wisdom and direction.
- Be patient. This issue is obviously very difficult for many to talk about. At the same time, there will be others wanting the discussions to progress more quickly.
- Be aware that this will be an on-going effort. Most congregations find that they reach a certain level of understanding, only to discover more issues or other groups of people they had not considered. It is a process.
- Be aware, too, that this process, as challenging as it can be, also frequently results in blessings for the congregation in terms of spiritual renewal and outlook. Congregations grow in confidence when they can look back and know that they dealt with a “hot-button” issue with grace and integrity.
- Consider what might be appropriate next steps: Further study? An outreach effort? Advocacy?
- Summarize and celebrate. With the help of congregation leaders and participants, write up a summary of the journey and the outcomes. Be honest about where there are areas of disagreement, point out blessings discovered along the way. Remind the congregation that they have courageously worked through a difficult issue and lived to tell the tale. Consider a special service of worship and time for celebration to mark this accomplishment.
Adapted from Rev. Julie Peeples, “Dealing with Controversial Issues in Faith Communities,” available online at www.welcometheimmigrant.org/toolbox.
How to Adapt this Curriculum for 4 or 5 Lessons
This curriculum is designed to be as flexible as possible so that you can spend the right amount of time on it in your own setting. While it is organized for six weeks, the instructions here explain how to combine certain lessons in order to complete the whole study in as little as four sessions.
Session One: No Changes
Session Two: Combine Lessons Two and Three
- Choose one Opening Prayer (p. 5 or 7).
- Read both Focus Statements (p. 5 and 7).
- Proceed with Biblical Reflection, Role Playing, “Labor & Coffee” video, and the Group Discussion on page 6.
- The “El Sol” video is optional, depending on time.
- Choose one Closing Prayer (p. 6 or 8 )
Session Three: Combine Lessons Four and Five
- Choose one Opening Prayer (p. 9 or 11).
- Read both Focus Statements (p. 9 and 11).
- Proceed with Biblical Reflection, Immigration Board Game, “Phone Calls from Papi” video, and the Group Discussion on page 11.
- The video “A Father’s Sacrifice” is optional, depending on time.
- Choose one Closing Prayer (p. 10 or 12)
Session Four: No Changes