I am a collaborative leader that believes in shared ministry. As a social justice organizer, I was taught that an effective leader is one who identifies and cultivates other leaders. My role as a religious leader is to listen deeply to the needs and concerns of my community, see the gifts in others, provide lay leaders with the opportunity to offer their gifts and grow in their faith, and to make decisions guided by the mission and vision owned and created by the community I serve. I believe strongly in leadership that is guided by a shared mission, vision, and strategic plan, and I am equipped to help facilitate that process with a congregation.
I have a proven track record as an effective congregational leader who can support positive change and growth. When I started as the South Bay Ministry Team Coordinator, the South Bay Campus was only a year and a half old. I began my work there with a listening campaign, inviting leaders and members of the congregation to meet with me for one-to-ones so that I could get to know them and hear about their dreams, concerns, and ideas. From there, I developed a visioning process, inspired by Linda Stout’s book “Collective Visioning,” that I co-led with Rev. Arvid Straube and Rev. Kathleen Owens. We focused on appreciative inquiry of where the community had been, engaged in a guided meditation to envision the community in 5 years, and then drew that vision. From there, we collectively prioritized the areas of our vision where there was the most energy and enthusiasm, and then built an effective structure for committees and leadership meetings to help fulfill that vision.
During the five and a half years that I led the South Bay Campus, we matured as a community, grew in worship attendance, and increased the number of volunteers and leaders engaged in the ministry of the congregation. We invested in youth as worship associates and Sunday morning volunteers, engaged in outreach events in our local community, built the SOLACE Interfaith Detention Center Visitation Program, developed a new small group model of children’s religious education, and experimented with creative and multi-generational worship services.
One of the most important aspects of our work at the South Bay Campus was to continually learn and unlearn what it meant to be a Unitarian Universalist community on the US-Mexico border that was committed to bi-lingual and multicultural ministry. This meant that we needed to look at how our assumptions about good worship, structuring committees, building community and spiritual growth were built on best practices for a white, middle class community. This required listening deeply to the members of our community who identify as people of color and working class, being challenged about our assumptions, and being willing to experiment, with a commitment to on-going reflection about whether the changes we were making supported the community to become more welcoming and inclusive. These experiences have equipped me to continue the work in our congregations and denomination towards racial justice, equity, and multiculturalism.
At Saltwater Church, I successfully led my congregation, in collaboration with the Board, through discerning their mission and then living into. We facilitated several workshops to gather the input of the whole congregation, including workshops built specifically for engaging our youth. A working group of the Board took the themes and insights from those workshops and crafted a draft mission statement that we shared at our December congregational meeting for feedback. The working group then integrated that feedback and presented the mission statement during a Sunday morning worship service later that spring, with break out groups after service for dialogue and reflection. That June, we unanimously adopted a new mission statement:
At Saltwater Church We:
Nurture Spiritual Growth
Act for Justice
My favorite part of the process is what came next. The next year one of our priorities was to “live into our mission.” With the Board, I supported the development and facilitation of four learning workshops, one for each aspect of our mission. In these sessions we explored the deeper meaning of the phrases, engaged in spiritual practice, and named ways that we could more fully embody the mission. After each learning session I created a Sunday morning worship service, highlighting testimonials from lay leaders about what that aspect of the mission meant to them. Through this process, our mission came alive. It became more fully owned by the congregation, offering direction and helping us to set priorities.
As a leader, I also invest in developing other leaders. I believe that this is essential if we are to build vibrant and vital congregations with shared leadership. Below are some of the trainings or workshops that I have created and led as part of my commitment to leadership development.
Trainings & Workshops Facilitated
Clinical Pastoral Education Trainings
Self-Care for Health Care Clinicians: Spiritual Practices to Cope with Trauma Exposure
Pastoral Care in a Multicultural Context
UU Congregational Trainings
Dismantling White Supremacy Teach-In, Chalice UU Congregation
Social Justice Visioning Retreat, UU Fellowship of San Dieguito
UU General Assembly
Mosaic Makers Workshop: Why Do We UUs Cross the Road
Migrant & Human Rights Strategies: Effective Advocacy
UU Pacific Western Regional Assembly
The Promise of a Multi-Site Congregation
Justice Leaders Convening, UU Justice Ministry of CA, pre-regional assembly
UU District Assembly
Vision & Imagination in Creating a Just & Sustainable World
Building Vibrant, Multi-cultural Congregations: Successes & Challenges in Multi-Site Ministry
Reflection, Action Reflection
Organizing Family-Friendly & Child Centered Social Justice Programming, PSWD LREDA
Reimagining Justice: Healing Through Spiritually-Grounded Action
Telling Our Stories: A Spiritual Exploration of Diversity
Walk the Walk Leadership Trainings, UU Justice Ministry of CA
Sustaining Ourselves on the Justice Journey
Vision and Imagination in Creating a Just and Sustainable World
Social Justice & Spirituality
Facilitation of UU Young Adult Trainings, San Diego & PSWD
UU Young Adult Spiritual Growth Retreat
Building the World We Dream About Curriculum for Young Adults
PSWD UU Young Adult Camp, Social Justice Stream
Religious professionals preparing for the processional at my Installation at
Saltwater UU Church
“As Intern Minister, I had the pleasure of being directly involved with Kristen’s work at the South Bay Campus of First UU. In that capacity, she exemplified a passionate commitment to inclusion through language, multi-cultural and multi-generational experiences. I learned from her impeccable facilitation skills and from her passion for ritual in worship and small group ministry. A natural leader, Kristen was always sure and steady in her command of situations with an infectious sense of humor and grace.”
-Rev. Adam Lawrence Dyer
“Kristen is highly intelligent and very innovative and energetic in all she does. She is impressively skilled at working with difficult individuals, modeling non-violent communication and emotional intelligence. This ability does not hinder her clear vision of what she wants to accomplish, or her ability to inspire and collaborate with others in those accomplishments. Her spiritual maturity is evident in all she does.”
-Rev. Arvid Straube
“Kristen nurtured and challenged us at our South Bay Campus to involve ourselves in developing the kind of church we wanted and the social justice projects we believed were necessary to live our values and our mission to help heal the world. At South Bay she patiently and persistently pulled in lay leaders to own and energize an innovative campus while also participating in the larger campus and church-wide activities and programs. After over 40 years in education, I’ve seen truly capable and caring people; rarely have I seen anyone who combines the highly organized, insightful brilliance Kristen consistently displays with her warmth, creativity, compassion, and perseverance.” -Dr. Angela Garcia-Sims, Lay Leader, First UU Church of San Diego
“Kristen is an extremely thoughtful, intelligent, spiritually-based leader who has made a difference in people’s lives and in the communities in which she has worked and served. Kristen is committed to the work of building genuine relationships with others, listening to their stories and finding ways to work together to create a more justice-filled world. Her ability to reflect and learn from experiences is deep and is a major part of who she is. She has a unique gift of seeing the larger picture while developing leaders and tending to the smaller details of programs.”
-Rev. Kathleen Owens