Navigating Political Divisions as Faith Leaders

Navigating Political Divisions as Faith Leaders

Resetting the Table Training Cohort for Influential Faith Leaders in the South

In this time of immense division and polarization, Resetting the Table (RTT) invites clergy, faith leaders and religious institutions in the U.S. South to apply for a Leadership Cohort designed to equip participating clergy and religious leaders with RTT’s sought-after training, skills, and tools for opening up vibrant, productive discussion, learning, and connection across political divides.

Faith communities are natural conveners and can be rare meeting grounds for ideologically diverse Americans. Faith communities can lead the way in depolarizing our country and building a shared future across political and geographic divisions.

RTT will select 8 dynamic congregations led by inspiring faith leaders for this Cohort. Each congregation will send 2-3 team members to participate in the program, including one clergy member or other senior leader who sets vision for the organization and one programmatic implementer.

To apply, complete this application by September 10. 

For more details, see the FAQ below or send inquiries to info@resettingthetable.org.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the goals of the program?

RTT aims to support America’s faith communities to become moral and spiritual exemplars of the productive deliberation across divides that our country and communities need. Churches and other religious institutions are often natural conveners who organically bring together constituents with disparate points of view. Many faith communities face varying levels of internal stress and strain as national politics enter their religious home, leading to ruptured relationships and even communal fracture. Clergy and religious institutions often wish to model healthy engagement across divides in their communities, but feel ill-equipped to do so. Many end up shying away from important moral and political issues for fear of controversy, tension, and rocking the boat. 

The main goal of this program is to support participating institutions to transform that tension, fear and/or avoidance of difficult conversations into direct, respectful exploration and collaboration across divides and differences. Mentored by veterans in the fields of mediation, facilitation, and conflict resolution, participating Conveners will learn practical skills, tools and programs to build welcoming and constructive forums for difficult conversations on contentious issues in their congregations and communities.

Outcomes:

By the end of this program, participating leaders and institutions will gain:

  • A foundational framework, set of tools, and skills to host and model collaborative dialogue and deliberation across differences 

  • Increased confidence and capacity to engage “sticky” issues and address challenges and aspirations in the face of differences and divides

  • 3+ programs designed to strengthen community by deepening connection and understanding across differences, reducing/preempting tensions, and supporting community members with diverse viewpoints to feel honored and respected

  • Increased engagement as the place to go for the most important conversations on moral issues in American life

  • An experience of skillfully facilitated conversations across political differences with religious leaders from a diversity of backgrounds and traditions.

  • A raised profile as ambassadors who will inspire additional faith communities and religious leaders to take on political bridge-building efforts

What is Resetting the Table?

Resetting the Table (RTT) equips community leaders with the tools and skills to build collaborative communication across divides in American life. ​​Drawing on conflict resolution and mediation expertise, RTT’s best-in-class training programs have supported tens of thousands of clergy and other faith leaders across the country with road-tested tools, skills, and frameworks for building meaningful dialogue and deliberation in their communities. Through our training, consultation, and programming, faith leaders have overcome tension, volatility and avoidance of difficult issues into a culture of healthy communication that honors all of their congregants, even when they strongly disagree. RTT programs have also supported clergy to share their own moral voices and concerns in ways that make more room for all community members to address difficult issues with a spirit of partnership.

What will participating Convening Institutions receive?

  • A multi-session virtual training program with leading experts in the fields of bridge-building and depolarization, including training in three foundational skills for facilitating and convening difficult conversations

  • Replicable tools & modalities you can utilize to strengthen communication, trust, and collaboration across lines of difference in your community

  • Use of our intensively trained national bench of facilitators for 2-3 virtual, Convener events

  • Ongoing consultation and support from RTT’s veteran mediators and bridge-builders to implement high-impact programs for your congregation

Thanks to generous grants, this package of training, facilitation, and consultation – valued at $15,000 per institution – will be included with the $300 cost of participation.

What are the expectations for Convening Institutions participating in this Cohort?

Participating faith-based institutions will:

  • Select 2-3 team members – at least one of whom should be a pastor or other faith leader who sets vision for the organization and one of whom should be a programmatic implementer/facilitator – to participate in the Convener Cohort

  • Send all team members to the virtual, multi-session kick-off retreat (Nov. 4-5) and at least one team member to the additional virtual training and workshops, scheduled between Nov. 8 and Dec. 9 (see detailed schedule below)

  • Drawing from RTT’s toolkit, implement 3-4 high-impact programs for their communities, including a sermon or Bible study grounding the importance of political bridge-building in the language of their tradition. Other possible modalities include: 

    • A communication skill-building workshop addressing political differences

    • A Town Square Forum addressing important issues in facilitated small groups

    • A screening and discussion of RTT’s short film PURPLE, which tells the story of Americans with opposing views discovering the humanity and concerns behind each other’s positions

    • A Story Slam, celebrating the personal stories of congregants with diverse backgrounds and political views

  • Undertake an internal storytelling action such as writing a newsletter, contributing to a blog, etc. to build inspiration and buzz about the program within their congregational community

  • Commit to taking at least two follow-on actions to share their experience – whether a presentation to their denominational bodies, an OpEd, or another way of telling the story

  • Publicize two joint, public events that will bring together participating Convening Institutions for a film screening and a Story Slam

  • Participate in an average of 4-5 visioning and design conversations with Resetting the Table staff to craft appropriate programs and processes for their communities

  • Cover the Convener participation fee of $300

In addition, participating team members will be expected to:

  • Be ready, willing, and able to participate in direct, constructive conversations and collaboration across political differences. This does not mean that they will be asked to check their own views and passions at the door. Rather, it means that participants must have the desire and disposition to engage across differences in the spirit of our project. They must be willing to engage personally in open conversations as part of the training process, so as to experience first-hand at least some of the processes they are likely to convene.

  • Make a good faith effort to bring to bear whatever personal and/or institutional resources are available to help support the production and implementation of Convener events

Who should apply to this program?

Congregations and/or faith-based communities who are eager to build a culture of productive dialogue in their communities across a range of backgrounds and political perspectives. 

Participating communities will be selected to represent a cross-section of religious institutions in the South, including Evangelical, Catholic, Southern Baptist, Black church, Muslim, Methodist, and Jewish religious communities. In addition, we will select high-impact congregations according to the following criteria:

  • Dynamic, influential communities that are looked to as models in their regions and/or denominations
  • Commitment to modeling political bridge-building within their communities as well as in the broader public
  • Politically heterogeneous (i.e., serving politically engaged constituents across a range of backgrounds and perspectives)
  • Supportive leadership and committed team members who inspire trust across the political spectrum and are embedded in the institution
  • Demonstrated need for this work within their community

Each convening institution will send 2-3 team members to participate in the Cohort. At least one of these team members should be a pastor or other faith leader who sets vision for the organization and at least one should be an implementer positioned to bring programming home through this initiative. 

These team members should be “connectors” with the desire and ability to inspire trust and safety among ideologically diverse constituencies. They do not need to have any particular background or formal training to apply.

What is the timeline?

Deadline to Apply: Friday, September 10 (Congregations are encouraged to apply early)

Interviews for Finalists: Friday, Sept. 3 - Friday, Sept. 24

Notification of Acceptance: Week of Sept. 27

Virtual Retreat

*All team members should plan to attend the Opening Retreat, Nov. 4-5. Only one team member needs to attend subsequent sessions. As part of the application process, we will discuss what makes sense for your team. 

  • Thurs. & Fri., Nov. 4-5, 1-4pm EST
  • Mon., Nov. 8, 7-9pm EST
  • Thurs., Nov. 11, 1-3:30pm EST
  • Nov. 18, 1-3:30pm EST
  • Thurs., Dec. 2, 1-3:00pm EST
  • Thurs., Dec. 9, 1-3:00pm EST

Consultation and Implementation of 2-3 Dialogue Programs: December 2021-June 2022. Programs will be customized to each participating institution, and may include sermons, Story Slams, communication skill-building workshops, Town Square dialogue forums on important issues in facilitated small groups, and more.

What do past participants say about the experience?

“I continue to be amazed and saddened at the lack of civility and basic kindness in our communities and even our churches. I believe that all truth is God’s truth and Resetting the Table has tapped into God’s heart and will on these important issues.” - Rich, Senior Pastor, rural Wisconsin 

"RTT's facilitators were *outstanding* as instructors. They really knew how to push us in a way that helped us to acknowledge our mistakes without making us feel like we "did it wrong." Our national culture of conversation is becoming so toxic. So many family and friends can no longer talk with one another about issues that are dear to them. Our relationships – the very fabric of our lives – are being torn apart. Enter Resetting the Table. Rather than shying away from the tension that causes the rifts in our society, Resetting the Table helps people to embrace it in a healthy and productive way. It gives people, families, and institutions a framework to help create and enhance dialogue between people and groups that otherwise might not be able to speak to another. By bringing us all back to the proverbial table, RTT just might be able to help us save our communities before it's too late." - Adam, Congregational Director, Los Angeles, California

“This program is transformative and essential for all religious leaders and frankly all citizens.” - Elizabeth, Congregational Leader, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

“The RTT facilitators have been incredible - they upped my game, increased my skills, and boosted my confidence. The modalities are incredible - they are basic, adaptable, usable, and truly help build an open space for dialogue." - Susannah, Campus Faith Leader, Ohio

“The work Resetting the Table does is thoughtful and long-lasting. Their facilitators help people have difficult conversations, but also set people up to continue to have these conversations long after the facilitators have gone home. Our clergy have done their facilitator training, and now use their techniques to run multiple programs every year, as well as in pastoral counseling.” - Shira, Rabbi, Washington, DC