In a non-profit, community-based congregational environment, an appreciative approach is by far the most effective means of working with the congregation and its leaders. Lay leaders are all volunteers and they do this work in part to attain a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Feeling bad about their efforts is very counter-productive to peoples’ motivation. Quite often a problem-centered approach elicits a huge wall of defensiveness. Clergy and professional staff also have a lot at stake in terms of their own contribution. A problem-focused approach often creates a huge array of unhelpful dynamics in its wake.
In this context, an appreciative approach is an ideal one and has been used by this consultant in a variety of congregational settings. An appreciative approach supports recognizing the good and useful things that people have done and builds on them while at the same time enabling people to feel good about themselves and their contributions. It enables people to remain open to change in the congregation and within themselves. It supports building community which is a critical aspect of work in this setting.
An appreciative approach supports dialogue, inclusiveness, participation, planning, and utilizing the unique contributions of people.
This case study shares how an appreciative approach enabled a congregation and its leadership to be successful in strategic planning and in continuing to build its congregational community. The innovations of the specific approach used here are set out in the context of an Appreciative Inquiry model of action.