Helping A Group Through A Process of Self-Evaluation and Change
What This Process Seeks to Accomplish:
This process was designed for use with a task group (such as a committee) or a ruling group (such as a session or presbytery). This process provides for:
This process is designed for use through five regular meetings of your group, taking 30 to 45 minutes of agenda time at each meeting. This is to accomplish a few things:
The first step is to seek and gain the groups approval for entering into this process. The group must appreciate the value of doing this work, which rests on the promise of the outcome a clearer sense of their purpose, agenda and function. The more committed the group as a whole is to this process the higher the probability that the outcome will be a good one.
Session One Reflection on Mandate
Preparation for the First Session:
Prepare a packet of materials to be handed out to group members a week or two before the first meeting. This material is to help them begin to think about the purpose of the group, prompting them to come to the first session with some preliminary ideas. The contents of the packet depends significantly on what the group does (is it a session, a Christian Education Committee, a Board of Managers?). Some possible things to include:
The First Session:
Work through the following three questions:
Capture all these ideas by writing them down on newsprint on the wall or on a flip chart. Seek group agreement on the points. If you can, have a recorder (using notepaper or a laptop computer) keep a portable record of the ideas. Once this exercise is completed, the facilitator should take the material and promise to have a written draft version of these ideas to the group at its next meeting for the group to consider, edit and adopt.
This is the end of this sessions work. Assign the following thought for reflection in preparation of the next meeting: "Lets just imagine that a year from now this goal could be completely fulfilled. Time, money and people have been no object. We have been totally successful and the congregation has dismissed us with their thanks. "Well done, good and faithful servants!" What would our church look like if our mandate was COMPLETELY implemented? What would be going on in our church?"
Follow-up from the First Session:
Prepare a report on the discussion, outlining:
A Christian Education Committees Mandate Statement
Here is an example of the work done by a congregational Christian Education Committee. This same committees work will be highlighted as examples throughout this process so you can get an idea of the results of one real group.
Session Two Reflection on Values
Preparation for the First Session:
Ensure the follow-up work outlined above has been completed.
The Second Session:
Begin with a review of the mandate statement and its description coming out of the last meeting. Ask for improvements, then get the groups agreement on the mandate.
Discuss the following scenario: "Lets just imagine that a year from now this goal is completely fulfilled. Time, money and people have been no object. We have been totally successful and the congregation has dismissed us with their thanks. "Well done, good and faithful servants!" What would our church look like if our mandate was COMPLETELY implemented? What would be going on in our church?"
Encourage the group to let their imaginations wander on this one. Dont put up any boundaries, explore all possibilities. Be extravagant, hopeful and humourous!
Divide a large, wide sheet of newsprint vertically down the middle into two halves left and right. In the left column list the glimpses of the future, leaving the right column blank.
Once all the ideas are up on the wall, revisit each image of the future church. Ask of each idea "what might this image tell us about what we think is important for us as we fulfill our mandate?" Write these values in the right hand column.
Once this part of the exercise is done, the group should "step back" from this statement of values and consider if it is complete. Ask:
This is the end of the second session. In preparation of the third session, give group members a handout listing every task and responsibility that is currently on the groups annual agenda. Their homework for the next meeting is to consider all that they do as a committee, using the new mandate and values statements as guides for reflection. People can ask of their groups agenda: "Given this mandate statement, what are we doing well?" "Given this mandate statement, what needs to be dropped?" "Given our mandate statement and the needs of our congregation, what do we have to add to our agenda?" "Given our values, how can we enhance what we do for the church?"
Follow-Up from the Second Session:
Prepare the final approved version of the Mandate Statement and its description. Add to this the draft of the values. Attach to this the groups annual agenda and task list, along with the reflection questions given above. Mail out to group members a week or two before the next session.
A Christian Education Committees Mandate Statement
Session Three Reflection on the Agenda / Task List of the Group
Preparation for the Third Session:
Ensure the materials listed in the follow-up to session two are sent out.
Have lots of newsprint ready on the walls for this session you will use it! This will probably be the longest session. It may be wise to make this exercise the only topic of discussion for the groups meeting.
Have one piece off to the side from the main working wall, and label it "Issues". In the process of evaluating the tasks and agenda of this group people will name issues that are separate from the tasks but have an impact on how the tasks get done. Some example issues are:
The issues can be anything, really. The only criterion for being an "issue" is that the group acknowledges that these things stand in the way of completing their work. This means issues can be aspects of congregational culture, the availability of resources (space, people, time, money), the nature of the wider community beyond the congregation, and things like this. Some issues may be well known, chronic and hard to deal with. Others may be easier to deal with. However, all of them need to be addressed as they represent roadblocks to improving the life of your church.
As you work through an evaluation of your groups agenda and tasks, listen for the "issues" being raised. Seek the groups agreement that what you are hearing really is an issue, list it, and put it on the groups agenda for discussion in weeks four and five.
The Third Session:
Again, start by reviewing the list of values. Is it complete? Do any need editing? Are there too many? Any other changes?
Give an overview of your goals in this session:
Review the groups agenda or task list. Check first to see if anyone thought of any tasks that were missed from the list.
Review the current tasks of the committee. In light of your mandate and values, how are these things going?
Were there any tasks in recent years that this group thought about putting on its agenda but were unable to? Why? Should they be on the groups agenda?
Was there anything that the group did at one time, but then dropped from its agenda? Do any of these tasks need to be put back on the agenda?
Keep track of any issues raised by the group.
Once the group has visited its entire agenda, go back over its items to pick out what the group believes should be the priorities for the future. Note them.
End with a review of the issues. Ask of the group:
This ends the third session. Promise to make up a summary of the work the group did. Ask people to reflect on the issues before the next meeting.
Follow-Up from the Third Session:
Make up a summary of what you have accomplished so far. Start again with the Mandate and its description, as well as the values as agreed upon. Next list out the items of the agenda / task list and the groups assessment of it. Highlight the agreed upon priorities for the future work of the group. Next list out the issues, with a bit of a description of its scope. Ask people, as homework before the next meeting, to reflect on how the group can deal with these issues (especially the one chosen to be tackled first).
A Christian Education Committees Assessment of its Tasks
Sessions Four and Five Reflection on Issues
Preparation for these Sessions:
Ensure the follow-up materials listed above are mailed out in advance of the meeting.
These sessions will be quite unique and free form, given the specific nature of the issues for this group. The facilitator may be able to prepare a process to guide the discussion given what the group has shared about the issues. The goal will be to move towards resolution of issues, as they stand as barriers to task completion. However, this may not be simple. Resolution may require:
What can help in focusing the discussion are a series of questions, proposed by the facilitator or the group as a whole. What can help as well is a confession that the issues at hand are difficult and chronic, that they will take time, but the dividends arising from dealing with them will have impact not only on their agenda but even more broadly in the congregation. If fact, dealing with these issues may be more important, in the long run, than improving their agenda / task list.
The Christian Education Committee that has been our on-going example came up with these issues. This committee serves a large, multi-staff church.
The issues may be very hard to deal with. This can lead groups to become disheartened about themselves. This is why continuing on with improving the items on the agenda / task list is so important. If people can see that they can make headway with these easier, but also important, things, then they can maintain their sense of confidence as they tackle the bigger, deeper issues.
Rev. Peter Coutts St. Andrews Church, Calgary 3 July 2000