7 Tips for Creative Facilitation
Leaders who want to engage the creativity of the congregation in a process (such as the creation of guiding documents or strategic plans) can learn to ask questions and host conversations that will facilitate group learning.
1. Is This the Right Time?
Do: Conduct extensive, open dialogue to determine whether the vision, mission, and covenant work is indeed desired. Engaging a third party to help may strengthen the process.
Don’t: Assume that everyone wants the congregation to move in this direction. Instead, engage the members in conversation, and ask for help in crafting the best plan.
2. Help Others Notice What Is Already Changing
Do: Ask difficult questions about what is changing. Encourage others to question.
Don’t: Provide only technical solutions, since change involves adaptive change, and it is very personal.
3. Frame the Context
Do: Alert the leadership and congregation that the road ahead will be difficult at times. Inform them that the transition requires personal changes from everyone.
Don’t: Focus only on changing structural elements. Guiding document work is about a new way of being and a new approach. Changing only the structure bypasses the central purpose.
4. Be Comfortable with Discomfort
Do: Allow people to experience the discomfort required during times of transition. Resist the temptation to make everything all right again and to smooth over conflicts. Bring out the difficulties that are occurring for open discussion.
Don’t: Jump in too quickly to reassure people in the face of the challenge. That action rescues them from the adaptive work necessary for success.
5. Include Those at the Margins
Do: Create diverse groups for conversations about the personal nature of change. Help these groups to understand what is necessary for congregational growth and change. By creating multiple opportunities in diverse gatherings, you offer individuals the chance to hear voices that they don’t always hear.
Don’t: Offer one-way communication (such as newsletter articles) as the primary means of communication. Engagement of individuals through open dialogue is the best way to move the process along and gain buy-in.
6. Encourage Deep Engagement
Do: Help people examine the roles and processes that are changing. Encourage them to articulate the required changes—in themselves and others, and in how the congregation will interact and function with the any new process.
Don’t: Create new structures or processes too quickly. You need to have buy-in for the process to work, and moving too quickly or in a group that is too small means that you will inadvertently leave too many people outside the process.
7. Encourage Brave Choices
Do: Allow the norms of the congregation to be examined and challenged. Too often congregations continue with what they’ve always done, and inertia and fears stop them from moving ahead. By questioning what has always been, new possibilities can emerge.
Don’t: Hold fast to tradition and familiar rituals just because this is who you are. Make sure that you make a positive choice for the future, especially if the choice is to continue as in the past.