Activity 4: What Are Our Questions?

Activity 4: What Are Our Questions?
Activity 4: What Are Our Questions?

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1 and Workshop 3, Leader Resource 1 for all participants.
  • Assure that each participant has a suitable space for writing.

Description of Activity

You will guide participants to develop the kinds of questions leaders need to ask to keep their congregations healthy and moving forward.


An effective way to invite creative and innovative engagement with the challenges faced by your congregation is to ask questions, rather than seek answers. With the right questions, you can invite people into conversation about the congregation's identity, purpose and vision-an excellent way to bring voices in from the margins.

Distribute Handout 1. Tell participants they will fill it in one section at a time. Suggest they find a comfortable position for writing and take three minutes to fill in the top section, which asks, "What are the burning questions in our congregation at this moment?"

After three minutes, distribute the leader resource from Workshop 3, the summary of Gil Rendle's UU University 2007 presentation on leadership and management. If the group has done Workshop 3, Power and Authority, lead a brief review; if not, the handout offers enough material to support this activity. Focus the group on Rendle's definitions of "management" questions and "leadership" questions. Invite participants to look at their burning questions list and label each questions "M" for management, "L" for leadership or "ML" for combination questions. When participants are done, verbally highlight this section of the handout:

Leaders need to change from providing answers to posing worthy, significant questions the congregation needs to face. Rendle suggested that three basic questions need to be posed to our congregations:

Who are we? - a question of identity

What are we called to do? - a question of purpose

Who are our neighbors? - a question of context, which acknowledges that the world around us is changing as much as we are

Invite participants to reframe the questions they have identified as leadership or combination questions so they ask about identity, purpose and context. Direct participants to write the reframed questions in the second section of the handout. Explain that they will leave the management questions behind in this activity. Tell them that they are practicing "getting on the balcony." Allow five minutes.

Now ask participants to turn to a partner and share what they have written. Partners should listen carefully to one another's questions and comment on the ways the other has crafted "leadership" questions. After conversation with their partner, participants may reframe or revise their leadership questions once again, in the handout's third section. Allow five minutes.

Now invite participants to work with their partner once more. Give pairs one of these two instructions, depending on the circumstances:

1. If you and your partner belong to the same congregation, work together to compose two or three questions together that blend or contain both of your lists of questions.

2. If you and your partner are not from the same congregation, take turns sharing why your questions get to the heart of the big issues facing your congregation.

Allow five minutes for this portion of the activity.

Then, invite participants to look at their questions one more time and reflect on how they, as leaders, might engage their congregation's responses to leadership questions in a positive way. Invite them to reframe their questions or add related (or sub-) questions to elicit positive responses (naming the congregation's strengths), rather than negative responses (naming the congregation's problems). Allow five minutes.

As you conclude, allow just a few general comments and observations. Tell the group in the next activity they will try a specific technique they might use to invite voices and creative ideas from the congregation.

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