Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities

Book, 2009, 251 pp
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Congregations often find themselves in power struggles over two opposing views. People on both sides believe strongly that they are right. They also assume that if they are right, their opposition must be wrong—classic "either/or" thinking. A polarity is a pair of truths that need each other over time. When an argument is about two poles of a polarity, both sides are right and need each other to experience the whole truth.

This phenomenon has been recognized and written about for centuries in philosophy and religion. It is at the heart of Taoism, where we find the familiar polarity of yin and yang energy. In the past fifty years, business leaders have come to appreciate the phenomenon, often called dilemma or paradox. No matter what it is called, the research is clear: leaders and organizations that manage polarities well outperform those who don't.
"Finally—an insightful and practical guide for applying polarity management to some very common congregational dilemmas! This book unties knots that keep congregations stuck, and provides ways to shift conversations to new places. Oswald and Johnson are wonderful teachers of the principles of polarity management who reinforce your learning through illustrations and processes that can be grasped by congregational leaders and immediately applied." — Lawrence Peers, Senior Consultant, The Alban Institute

"I was introduced to the concept of polarity management several years ago, but for me it remained a theory without a practical application. Recently I read Managing Polarities in Congregations and the concept came alive! I now have an excellent tool for use with congregations as they encounter an increasing number of polarities." —B. Leslie Robinson, Jr., Interim President, Center for Congregational Health

"A single polarity map can liberate anxious people from either/or thinking, enabling them to see options, value other perspectives, and think creatively. A robust set of eight such maps adapted to your faith tradition will prove an extremely useful tool as you follow the Spirit’s leading into the fullness of God’s will. The authors of Managing Polarities in Congregations taught me these concepts and I’ve used them many times as a pastor and consultant—with blessed results! Read this book to revolutionize your capacity for critical thinking, creative problem solving, and organizational leadership." — Fred Oaks, founder of and author of Welcome, Pastor! Building a Productive Pastor-Congregation Partnership in 40 Days

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