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Bench outside the Sanctuary

Appreciative Inquiry

As summer approaches (this just doesn’t seem possible, but there we are) we are looking at beginning the implementation of the Appreciative Inquiry about which I have written and spoken over the last months.

In brief, the purpose of an Appreciative Inquiry is to help an organization uncover something vital about itself in a way that can be compelling for the future. We do this by crafting the right questions and asking them of as many people as possible, collecting the stories and information, then looking for common factors in folks’ experience. We use this information to try to build a future vision based on the very best things about the organization. As a pastor, I have come strongly to believe that God gathers a community of people not just to worship and enjoy one another’s presence (nice that may be), but to accomplish something meaningful in the world. What that is depends on the community itself. It depends on the gifts and skills, the passions and perspectives contained in the community. Once we know what we are gifted for, we can more easily imagine a world made better by our collective presence.

If you want to know more about the process, or why this will be such a good thing for our church, one opportunity will be the Adult Learning Forum on June 1st, where I will present more information and answer the concerns that arise. Yet it’s good to know that this process really does rest on the uncovering of what is best about us as a church organization. We want to know what is compelling and powerful in our midst, and then build on that as we move forward. It will be critical, therefore, to hear from everyone involved in the life of the church. To that end, we will be looking for Interviewers to conduct one-on-one interviews over the course of the summer.

We will train the interviewers (June 14 from 10am-noon in the Friendship Room) and make sure everyone understands just what to do. We are hoping to have at least 35 interviewers. The more we have, the lighter the load, and we keep the work manageable for everyone. One of the absolutely critical abilities we are looking for in interviewers is the ability to really listen to another person. Now I know it sounds simple, most of us imagine that we do it all the time, but interviewers have to be able to listen without turning it into a conversation. As an interviewer the job is to ask a question and record a response, without offering feedback or opinion in return. That isn’t always easy, but if you can do that, and would be willing to help us make this exciting thing happen, please sign up at the Welcome Center in the Fellowship Hall. If you aren’t convinced, come to the Forum on June 1st.

Once we have conducted all the interviews, we will compile the information we receive and begin a short series of congregational meetings to discuss our findings and begin to use the information to strategize a plan for church activity and focus. So an interview with YOU will be an essential part of this process. Interviews should need about an hour, scheduled at your convenience, and will involve only four questions. In an effort to help everyone feel prepared for this, we are including the questions (carefully crafted by a super-effective team of church friends) here:

  1. Tell me about your best experience of our church outside of worship.
  2. Tell me about how your experience in this church community changed you or had an impact on your life?
  3. Tell me about what you carry with you from this church into the world.
  4. Imagine – envision – think big: what could the church change in the world? Tell me what that would look like.

This is what we want to know. This is what we want to hear about. This will help us get to the core of what’s best about FCCSJ and how we can use it to build our future. Please plan to be a part of this. If you can help conduct interviews, terrific; if you are only willing to be interviewed at this point, it will be a tremendous help to the process. If, as we move forward, there are other things you can do to assist, we will be grateful.

While nothing is foolproof, the Appreciative Inquiry has proven to be an exceptionally useful tool for helping organizations envision the future and move forward in a positive and enthusiastic way.

Rev. Tom