Trans Inclusion in Congregations: Guidance for Facilitators

Thank you for helping your congregation engage in this course! We are grateful for your commitment to transformation.

The video above is full of guidance for facilitators running this course in congregations. We also recommend checking out our shorter companion video on running the course virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Structuring the Course and Maximizing Impact

Our goal in creating this course was to support faith groups in moving toward transforming their culture into one where people of all gender identities and histories can bring their full selves, get their spiritual needs met, and bring their gifts forward. Here are some tips to maximize the impact of this course:

  • Ensure that leaders within the congregation, including staff (if any), board members, elders and longtime members, and other leaders, participate in the course. It can be very meaningful for leadership groups to process the course together.
  • Encourage as many people from the congregation as possible to take the course. By purchasing this course as a congregation, every single person who is a part of your congregation gets access to it for the lifetime of the course. Make sure you don’t limit this course to a one-time small group with limited ability to effect change.
  • Create a structure that works well in your context.
    • Participants can watch the lectures on their own and then gather to discuss them, can watch the lectures together and then discuss the content, or a hybrid of the two.
    • Discussions can occur once a month, once every other week, once a week, or even as a weekend-long event.
    • You can schedule six discussions, three discussions, or meet up once before watching the first lecture and/or once after watching the final lecture. Evaluations have shown that it works best when there are six to eight discussions.
  • Make it easy for people to take the course. Integrate participation options into existing ways that people engage within your congregation—for example, as an adult religious education program, as a small group ministry program, or as a book group program.
  • Encourage different groups within your congregation to take the course as a group, no matter how seemingly “unrelated” the group’s purpose might seem. You might have a committee on ministry, a youth group, a social action committee, a membership or greeters/ushers team, a men’s group, a young parents’ group, a facilities and grounds team—any group that is part of the congregation can be called to help transform its approach to “welcome.”
  • Make ample time for group discussion. We recommend setting aside at least an hour for conversation per lecture, in addition to watching the lectures if a group is watching them together before discussing them. If you have a large group taking the course, include both small group (four of five people) and large group discussion.
  • Don't limit group conversation to each session's reflection questions. You may want to build in additional time and conversation for getting to know each other, checking in, or sharing in other ways. It's also a good idea to create space for participants to discuss the resources and readings for each session.
  • Don't adapt the course or cherry-pick its content without talking to us first. We put a lot of time and intention into the course content and it all serves a valuable purpose. We'd be happy to chat with you if you have an idea of something you'd like to do or a different approach you'd like to try.

Best Practices for Facilitation

  • We recommend having at least two facilitators and that the facilitators to go through the material first on their own, before facilitating a group taking the course.
  • Good facilitation skills are the only prerequisite for supporting groups engaging in this course. The facilitator's role is to facilitate and hold the space, not be an "expert" on trans people or have all the answers to questions that come up. Check out these tips for facilitation in identity-related conversations for additional best practices.
  • Facilitators should give yourselves extra time and space to prepare and get grounded/centered before and after each discussion, and check in with each other before and after each session while facilitating the course. Support each other, talk through things that come up during discussions, and discuss how to best hold the space together.
  • During the first discussion, either as part of session 1 or in an added pre-course session, create space for participants to get to know one another. You may want to offer community agreements for participants to practice, or remind people of the congregation's covenant.
  • Help ensure that group members stay accountable to the values of the congregation during each discussion. Be prepared to interrupt and/or redirect participants who make comments that could be hurtful or harmful to trans people and our family members.
  • Be sure to make each session's resources available to participants, not just the lectures. They are an essential part of the course.

Reach out to Trans/Non-Binary People in Your Congregation

  • As part of your process of preparing to engage with this course, be sure to check in with any known trans/non-binary people in the congregation. Let them know that this course is happening and ask them if they’d like to be involved in any particular way—for example, as one of the facilitators of the course.
  • Trans/non-binary people may or may not want to participate in this course. The course is designed for people of all/no gender identities and experiences, and many trans/non-binary people have taken it and enjoyed it. Alternately, there may be interest in a having a trans/non-binary small group as part of the congregation's engagement in the course—trans/non-binary folks might prefer to process and discuss with each other, rather than with cisgender participants.
  • Be aware that there might be pastoral care needs for participants—particularly trans/non-binary folks and our family members. We recommend making sure that pastoral care options are available and communicated to everyone taking the course.
  • If there are any trans/non-binary participants in the course, check in with them throughout the course, as facilitators. Make space for them to share about their own experiences in the congregation and for them to name any tweaky or harmful moments that happen in group discussions during the course, if they want to—but don’t put them on the spot nonconsensually.
  • As a facilitator, always assume that there are trans/non-binary or gender-questioning folks present in your congregation and among course participants, even if you don't know of any (as well as family members of trans/non-binary people).

Accessibility and Tech Considerations

  • Note that the audio quality isn’t the best in all of the lectures, but there are closed captions and transcripts available for all of the lectures. If you’re screening the videos for a group, be sure to turn on the closed captions even if you don’t know if anyone in the group needs them.
  • Let participants know that transcripts are available as well—you might want to print out a few copies for in-person screenings or send participants the transcript in advance of each session, along with that session’s resources, for virtual screenings. Some people find it helpful to follow along with the transcript while watching the lectures. A link to the transcript can be found on each session page, at the bottom of the intro text.
  • Keep in mind that the lecture videos are hosted online, so if you screen the videos for a group and you don’t have a fast internet connection, it might improve things to have a downloaded file of each lecture. Video downloading is not possible through our Teachable platform, but if you (or any individual participant) need the files of the videos, simply email us and we can send them to you.

Copyright & Permissions

  • This course is the property and copyright of the Transforming Hearts Collective and may not be copied, adapted, or disseminated in any ways other than those paid for via your course enrollment.
    • Individuals who purchase the course for $125 may not share the content with anyone else; an individual enrollment is limited only to the person who purchased it.
    • Purchasing this course as a congregation gives you a license to use and share the content within your congregation for the lifetime of the course, but you may not share it with anyone outside your congregation without permission.
    • The course may not be adapted without our permission. If you want to use excerpts of it or supplement the course in particular ways, reach out to us first.
  • You may use any of the course graphics, unedited, in your promotion of the course within your congregation, as well as our "all about the course" video. If you'd like additional blurbs, graphics, posters, and the like to help with your promotion, feel free to email us and we'll be happy to help.
  • You are welcome to share any of the supplemental resources not written or hosted by us as widely as you’d like, such as the articles and video clips that we link to, but please don’t share any resources that were created by us or are hosted on our website (such as the PDF book chapters) outside your congregation without our permission.

Stay in Relationship with Us

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions at any time—we would welcome hearing from you if you have questions as you are preparing to engage your congregation in the course, if things come up while you're facilitating it, or even far down the line after taking it and you want to talk about how to continue building on it.

We also love doing follow-up workshops to build on and extend the learnings from the course, as well as in-depth consultations with with congregations. We prioritize working with congregations that we are in relationship with and who have made a real commitment to transformation. Email us anytime at [email protected]!