Stage 2 Reflection: On Congregational Assessments

Part of Green Sanctuary

Here are some things to consider as you move through your Congregational Assessment.

Courtesy with Staff and Contractors

  • Large congregations can have several staff members who need to be involved in the assessment process. Some may be entirely supportive of Green Sanctuary goals, while others may not see why you consider the project so important. A larger congregation may also engage contractors for janitorial or landscaping services. These employees may or may not be willing to spend time with you explaining how they go about their work.
  • Board commitment to the Green Sanctuary program will help reinforce requests for information from staff or contractors. However, these individuals have other responsibilities. Your timetable is not their top priority, and they may see your requests as an interference. Always express your respect and appreciation for their contribution. It’s important to maintain positive relationships, especially since you may need these individuals’ cooperation later on.

Appreciative Inquiry

Developed by David Cooperrider in the mid-1980s, appreciative inquiry is a fundamental shift from the usual approach to implementing organizational improvements.

It starts with the premise that positive change springs from asking positive questions: When have we been at our best? What are we doing well right now? What do we want more of in the future? Reflecting on these questions can inspire organizations to new levels of excellence.

Assessing congregational practices can bring up many feelings on the part of the staff and the congregation, especially since most of us have been conditioned to focus on solving problems (“What went wrong? How can we fix it?”). Appreciative inquiry encourages us to build on our successes.

In conducting your assessment, look for opportunities to use this technique. In addition to researching congregational facts and figures, ask people to talk about successful programs and practices. For example: if you’re interviewing a congregant about a recent social action project, you might ask:

  • What was the high point of this experience?
  • As a community, how did we express our best selves during the course of this project?
  • What aspects of this experience might we want to emulate in future projects?

A focus on appreciative inquiry can infuse the congregation with positive energy that ripples beyond the Green Sanctuary process.