What is Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing?
The vision of Justice & Witness Ministries is of a more just, peaceful and compassionate world that honors all of God’s creation. Leaders are needed throughout our churches and communities to help share, pursue and acheive this vision. Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing (Justice LED) is a program that offers training, leadership skills and support to local churches and UCC members who seek tangible ways to move our world towards this vision.
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"Justice LED Training takes advocacy work to a whole new level. It not only helps you to more accurately assess your own view of injustice, but also gives you the tools to be able to help others define injustice for themselves." –Shernell Edney
Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing (Justice LED) is a training program offered by Justice & Witness Ministries (JWM) designed to equip local church leaders with the skills and tools needed to develop, strengthen and sustain justice advocacy ministries in our UCC congregations.
Justice LED offers both interactive and meditative activities that invite people to delve into the justice lessons threaded through scripture and to reflect together on what those lessons mean for our lives today. The program content can be used in many ministry formats and programs: retreats, Sunday School classes, seasonal Bible studies and other programmatic settings. It can be used with youth or adults.
Justice advocates in our congregations often find themselves frustrated with what they perceive as apathy or resistance to supporting social justice ministries. Sometimes when we push for particular justice issues, we mistakenly assume that everyone shares the faith teachings and values undergirding our efforts or concerns. Ongoing, intentional justice faith formation programs and conversations for all ages are an important -and often overlooked - foundational piece in social justice ministries. If we think of social justice strategies as a continuum with different entry points for different people (such as education and immersion, advocacy and public witness) we will find more ways to help people incorporate justice into their faith and lives.
Justice LED is not a "how-to" on justice around specific issues like peace, workers' rights, or immigration. Rather, Justice LED offers justice faith formation and includes strategies and encouragement for individuals and groups to impact social change. This is a great resource for congregations or minsitries that hope want to strengthen or develop justice ministries as part of their congregational life and mission.
Why is there a training to use the Justice LED resource?
"An amazing training opportunity that will support you as a justice trainer but perhaps even more importantly, will allow you to connect with others who are doing terrific, theologically-based justice work around the country." -- Karen Holcomb-Merrill
Facilitator training is an important component of the program. It offers familiarity with the content of Justice LED, but more than that, supports facilitators by reviewing helpful skills for facilitating group conversations that are grounded in mutual respect, suspension of judgment, empathic listening, and inquiry and reflection so that spiritual growth and mutual learning is possible. People taking part in Justice LED activities and conversations will inevitably bring different stories and perspectives informed by different experiences of faith, justice and injustice. These conversations can be richly rewarding if the atmosphere is one of trust and mutual respect.
Each congregation is unique in how its members relate to one another, how they approach and discuss difficult topics, and how they engage in faith based justice. Some congregations may be adept at having fruitful and respectful faith conversations about potentially controversial or intense topics. Others may rely more on debate (win-lose) styles of engaging one another in various settings of the church, or resist difficult faith conversations about difficult altogether. This training acknowledges and supports the role of facilitators with a template for fostering group discussion and dialogical processes for their congregation or ministry group.
There are three primary purposes for facilitator trainings:
1) To allow people to review and experience some of the content and activities they will be facilitating in their own ministry settings.
2) To demonstrate how facilitators create safe space, build group trust, and facilitate conversations that allow for diverse perspectives and life experiences.
3) To provide an informal network and consultation, introducing facilitators one another and supporting them as they brainstorm and begin planning for how they might use Justice LED to support new and existing ministries at home
Occasionally, trainings are offered for people to become trainers who will offer Justice LED facilitator trainings in their Conference or Region. This involves an application process and a commitment to offer at least 2 trainings annually for a minimum of 3 years. Trainers work in pairs and receive a stipend for their work. For more informaiton about this role, contact Kelly Burd.
If you would like to host a training for your church or group to facilitate Justice LED, download and carefully read the Justice LED Planning Guide.