Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Healthy communities

Whilst I am off at a bit of a tangent - there are more community development models coming - it occurred to me that it is not just about how strong a community is but also how healthy. So what do we mean by healthy communities or organisations? If we think about ourselves then does health just mean the absence of illness - sometimes illness is a sign of health - for example being sick when you've eaten a dose of salmonella is the best thing to do; or being depressed when a loved one is very ill or has died is a healthy response to pain and loss. So health is not about the absence of symptoms.

There is something about the strength of our immune systems, something about how strong our organs and bones are and something about emotional robustness amongst other things. Anne Odin Heller in her book, Churchworks: A Well-body Book for Congregations writes of congregations as bodies with these analogies

• Brain: Core documents of your congregation
• Breath and Spirit: Animating congregational life
• Circulatory System: Nourishing healthy congregations
• Ears: Fostering good communications
• Eyes: Developing a congregational future
• Feet: Public relations and evangelism
• Hands: Social action and spiritual growth
• Heart: Creating and nurturing ministry
• Liver: Dealing with congregational conflict
• Reproductive Systems: Membership development
• Skeleton: Congregational structures
• Skin, Hair, Teeth and Nails: Better, more attractive buildings
• Stomach: Financial nourishment and stewardship

This is an interesting take on how congregations and communities run and how healthy they are.

However I think that perhaps the section on the brain might refer to leadership rather than to congregational documents and there is no overall view - the holistic view of the 'body'. There also needs to be something about the body in movement, for life requires movement and therefore change. I also think that each local faith community has choices to make - there is not just one good way to be, different circumstances and different people require different approaches. Having said all this I like this book and find it useful when thinking about congregational structures etc.

From the New South Wales Government website (where else?!) comes these

The five characteristics of emotionally healthy organisations

1. Validation of emotions
2. Appropriate emotional authenticity
3. Healthy & appropriate boundaries
4. Absence of organisational taboos
5. Culture supportive of constructive conflict

These appear to be more holistic in nature and something that we could perhaps work with as faith communities.

There are more theoretical approaches for envisaging healthy communities and organisations which I will write about next time.

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