Polarity Awareness During Transition

By Amy Huntereece, PhD candidate, M. Ed., January 2021

Is your congregation in the midst of transition? Perhaps you are even experiencing transition on multiple levels.  Remodeling or building new facilities, ministerial leadership shifting to new energy, updating your religious education program, and careful scrutiny of the operating budget to make ends meet in the upcoming fiscal year all qualify as transitional work. 

La Sonde Anastos (2017) encourages us to remember that we are “in a time of change, not a time of crisis” (p. 98). You may notice your response to the seeming upheaval is a yearning for stability.  Change and Stability represent two polarities that, when mapped out, can, in fact, complement one another.  This is called polarity thinking and was developed by Barry Johnson (http://www.polaritypartnerships.com/).  Efforts to dwell in a place of stability may result in

  • planning activities and programming that are comforting and familiar
  • increased anxiety and need for control
  • sudden interest in revising written protocol and procedure

These are all good, but, recognition that there will be a need to willingly and courageously return to the tasks related to change will cycle around again.  “Polarity thinking is about ‘both-and’ and invites a move away from ‘you are wrong and I am right’ (Levknecht, 2013, p.2).

La Sonde Anastos writes about changes in leadership and acknowledges, “the necessary work of changing leadership effectively and smoothly during the intentional interim time can be one of the most challenging tasks of transition.  However, it can also be a path to new and life-giving practices” (p. 92).

I encourage you to look at your own anxiety related to this challenging time of transition.  Know that anxiety and the need for control are expected responses.  Be good to yourself and trust in the process.

If you enjoyed this and are looking for more, Laurie Levknecht wrote Using ‘polarity thinking’ to achieve sustainable positive outcomes.  She is writing from the perspective of a health care provider, however, what she has to say is extremely applicable to many situations.


La Sonde Anastos, A. (2017). Changes in leadership. In B. Child et al. (Eds.), In the interim: Strategies for interim ministers and congregation, 2nd edition. Skinner House Books

Levknecht, L. (2013, January 8).  Using ‘polarity thinking’ to achieve sustainable positive outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.elsevier.com/connect/using-polarity-thinking-to-achieve-sustainable-positive-outcomes

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