Photo: Candles

Faith & Religious

From synagogues and churches to community centers and international networks, faith-based institutions play a unique role in modern life. They convening people with diverse backgrounds around shared values. They are a space of private reflection and intentional community.

But when deep rifts emerge—within a faith organization or in the broader community—that shared sense of belonging can quickly unravel.

What is the role of a faith-based organization in the midst of conflict? What responsibility does it have in the wider community? And how should a faith leader address conflict within their own church, congregation, or community?

For three decades, Essential Partners has invested faith leaders and community members with the tools to address polarizing conflicts. Our approach has been proven to generate trust, understanding, and connection across unbridgeable differences.

Photo: Faith Community Engagement

I’ve seen relationships grow and deepen, unity and commitment remain high, and mutual respect established and fostered.

Lauren Cobb

Glendale Presbyterian Church, California

Resilience, Cohesion, Values

Faith identities are supported by a scaffold of deep values. That’s why a rift within a faith-based organization can drive emotions so high, so quickly.

Essential Partners’ approach helps bring those values to life, and helps faith communities live into those values in their communication and conversations.

Disagreements over buildings, public programs, or leadership styles can blossom into polarized conflicts and send the entire institution into disarray—or worse.

Don’t wait until you’re drowning to learn how to swim. Invest in your institutional resilience and cohesion now, before there’s a crisis.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Photo: Faith Resilience Cohresion Values

Community Engagement

Faith institutions play a leading role in public conversations across a wide range of social and political issues—such as abortion, immigration, the environment, and civil rights. They also serve members of the wider communities in which they're embedded, from feeding the hungry to sheltering those in need.

How can we bring faith values into public life? How can we engage diverse populations with openness, honesty, and dignity? How does a faith institution best realize its mission in the larger world?

The answer is often found in community conversations. Essential Partners supports community engagements that create trust, understanding, and connection, even across deep divides. We can help design conversations foster depth and nuance, inclusion and conviction.

Don't wait for a crisis. Contact us for a free consultation.

  • Instead of demonizing and dehumanizing the other, we built a deeper connection. The fact that we disagree matters much less. It matters much more that we are neighbors in this community.

    Linda Gryczan, Mediator
    Montana Mediation Association
  • I am amazed at what came out—the way people shared their stories. This is not like a role-play; it really touched me.

    Seth Karamage, Mediator
    Interfaith Mediation Centre, Nigeria
  • We became confident really early on that the model was working. We were nervous there would be yelling and blow-ups but after a few conversations we realized that wasn’t happening… People were treating each other humanely.

    Gail Anderson
    Minnesota Council of Churches
  • Here safe space was created for pastors and church leaders to wrestle with topics like evolution which are all too often “off limits” or believed to be antagonistic to the faith.

    Megan DeFranza
    Gordon College, Massachusetts
  • I read this comment from the 14th Dalai Lama: "Every change of mind is first of all a change of heart.” It seems appropriate for what we are doing.

    Program Participant
    Bayview, Michigan
  • This wasn’t a policy debate [about guns]. Instead, two people whose backgrounds and views diverged in almost every way possible shared a moment of honesty that struck at the heart of the matter.

    Cricket Fuller, The Christian Science Monitor
    Boston, Massachusetts
  • What surprised me was how much you could transform a relationship during a three-hour conversation.

    Nicki Glasser, Policy Coordinator
    Transformation Center, Massachusetts
  • Essential Partners does the best work in the field of dialogue and communication.

    Bob Bordone, Expert and Author
    Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program, Co-Founder
  • This is a new idea, so many people speaking from their hearts. People can come together...if people can understand, they can change their hearts; then this can bring about more change.

    Program Participant
    Interfaith Mediation Centre, Nigeria
  • I notice that my classmates take much more care when speaking about people who practice other religions. They make fewer assumptions, and they’re more careful with their words to make sure to avoid unintentional connotations.

    Undergraduate Student
    Bridgewater College, Virginia
  • This is a different tool for engagement. It’s not about you, it’s about others. It involves the art of listening and sincerely talking from the heart

    Program Participant
    Interfaith Mediation Centre, Nigeria
  • I cannot possibly walk out of this experience and help being a different person. I feel that my own experience has been life-changing.

    Member of the Congregation
    Glendale Presbyterian, California
  • It’s amazing how closely we can work together on certain projects and never know what about our faith motivates our work. This work deepened my appreciation for everyone who was there; hearing everyone's stories helped me to appreciate them more and the depth of their convictions, even when they’re convictions I don’t share.

    Paul Schupe, Hancock United Church of Christ
    Lexington, Massachusetts
  • There is a need not only for safe space within our churches but for our church leaders who often feel alone, or who may feel their job could be at risk if they engage in controversial conversations. How are they to make safe spaces in their own congregations for healthy dialogue if they rarely experience safe space to do the same?

    Megan DeFranza
    Gordon College, Massachusetts
  • I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment when the Essential Partners training ended; that I'd done something important for my community and something important for me.

    Program Participant
    Massachusetts
  • While our differences remain, the relationships between us have been strengthened and deepened. We have gained in mutual respect, affection, and appreciation of one another as followers of Jesus and fellow-bishops.

    Program Participant
    Anglican Community & Human Sexuality Retreat
  • Through this training, we will have more people in the stream of work that we do and become better equipped with the know-how, skills and techniques. But most important, together we will sow a seed that will germinate and become a source of the antidote to terrorism, fanaticism, bigotry and extremism.

    Imam Sani Isah
    Nigeria
  • I’ve gained not only confidence but tools. The Essential Partners training was worth every penny.

    Kim Davidson, Ombuds
    Oberlin College, Ohio
  • This is the best adult learning experience I have had in the past five years. I wanted to learn new skills—I did!

    Program Participant
  • The highlight for me was the interconnectedness of the participants’ views, mutual respect, and range of experiences within the group

    Program Participant
    Montana
  • There should be opportunities throughout the [Anglican] Communion for ongoing structured conversations regarding difficult issues. These should engage persons at all levels within and between Provinces and should be guided by agreed covenants similar to those that have assisted our conversations.

    Program Participant
    Anglican Community & Human Sexuality Retreat
  • I am now open to new views and can moderate my impulse to debate or persuade others of different views

    Program Participant
    Montana
  • I now lead teams with a different language, using different processes, and with a different awareness of team dynamics. [I’ve seen] relationships grow and deepen, unity and commitment remain high, and mutual respect established and fostered.

    Lauren Cobb, Task Force Member
    Glendale Presbyterian Church, California
  • I did not anticipate having as many concrete takeaways as I do. I feel there is an immense practical application.

    Program Participant

Recent Partners

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