Congregation Participation in Ends Development Process

groups of four in discussion in large room

This is a process for congregational engagement in developing Ends statements. It is based on a process from World Café. "World Café Conversations are an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. A Café Conversation is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes."

Our thanks to Helen Foss, First Unitarian Church, Wilmington, DE, for this outline.

Café Conversations Design

Welcome & Background Information

Ten minutes

  • Brief explanation of Policy Governance.
  • Explanation of "Ends" and how Draft Ends were developed.
  • What we want to accomplish today and why your input matters.


Five minutes

Table onversations to anchor connection to the church.

  • Question 1 (four minutes to write and six to share, ten minutes total)
    • What is it that you love about your church?
  • Question 2 (staying at same table with time to reflect, then share, ten minutes)
    • What are the most important things that First Unitarian can do or be?

Reaction to Draft Ends Policies

Move to other tables for three rounds of table conversations:

  • First round, focus on "mega" ends statement (ten minutes)
  • Second round, focus on Policies 1, 2, 3 (then move) (twenty minutes)
  • Third round, focus on Policies 4, 5, 6 (twenty minutes)

For each round of table conversation, first reflect on the following two questions:

  • Does the ends statement support you in allowing the church to touch your life?
  • How does this match your vision of what we can be?

Then discuss your responses with your group, writing the following on chart paper:

  • Strengths: List key aspects.
  • Concerns: Identify gaps.
  • What is missing?

Depending on the size of the group, these charts can be hung for sharing at the end.

Debrief Experience—Possibly Back in the Original Group, Then Together

Fifteen minutes

  • What did you hear from others that surprised you?
  • What did you find in common?
  • Does what you have talked and thought about today lead you to engage in the church differently?


Ten minutes

  • Thank participants.
  • Reiterate next steps (taking all feedback into consideration and process planned for refining Ends Draft).

Follow-up Response

I use this process in my business all the time—have used it with groups of up to two thousand. It has never failed me. It is important to have some music and to have flip chart paper for doodling. Four to a table works best if you can do it. I find the most powerful understandings come if you go back at least once—with the model suggested here I would go back at least twice to the "home table" so you can see what are common threads and interesting questions being asked. I also prefer—a preference thing for sure—to let the first conversation be very undirected—just explain policy governance, ends and let them talk about any reaction first—you get important and powerful stuff and people get to share any fears and resentments as well as hopes and dreams without too much structure. Then go to the more focused questions. Just my ideas—for what they are worth. But I agree it is a wonderful, energy giving, inclusive process.

—Carol Houseman, Houseman Consulting

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life Staff Group

The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the...

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