What Inspires Me? Creative Facilitation Challenges

I love facilitating! When (with the help of Dick Richards’ wonderful book Is Your Genius at Work?) I discovered that my calling is to facilitate group wisdom, I realized why I find facilitating so inspiring. It’s my core process, as Nick Heap would say.

Back in 2008, I developed ALOHA Facilitation. Here’s the story.

I was facilitating a meeting of the pastoral leadership council at my church. While developing my plan, the Hawaiian word Aloha surfaced in my mind. Aloha, in the Hawaiian language, means affection, love, peace, compassion, and mercy. What a great container for some ideas for facilitation:

A = Ask questions

L = Listen to all voices

O = Observe the group energy

H = Help discern the path

A = Activate next steps

It was one of those deeply resonant moments for me as I suddenly realized that this was both my way of facilitating, and my suggested way for the participants to actively play their part in the meeting.

It worked beautifully. Blending Aloha with the shared wisdom model of Sr. Mary Benet McKinney, we followed these four steps of the process:

1. Identification of the pastoral issue

An example of a pastoral issue might be that some parishioners do not feel welcome in our parish. Such issues may come directly from the pastor, may surface from parishioners, from the council, or from other sources.

2. Pondering the issue

This is a period of study, focused on the pastoral issue, usually a mix of:

– reading (e.g. letters to the pastor, articles, books),

– listening (e.g. to parishioners, to invited speakers),

– reflection (e.g. on data gathered on the issue), and

– prayer.

3. Sharing wisdom

Now the council members seek the Spirit’s guidance as they share their perspectives on the issue. This sharing phase can take several meetings. There can be strong feelings in this phase. Even controversy and conflict. Staying with Aloha facilitation is critical.

4. Pursuing action

Once the council has heard the wisdom of all members, they choose a course of action and develop the plan for pursuing it.

The Pastoral Council at my church, St Matthias in Somerset NJ, has been using the Sharing Wisdom process by Sr Mary Benet McKinney for many years now. Her book unfortunately is out of print. While Sr. Mary was writing about developing effective pastoral councils, I believe that her model has broad application wherever an organization’s leadership is endeavoring to discern the “right” path or course of action to take.

This discernment process she calls “sharing wisdom.” SW is based upon several underlying beliefs including one that says that the people in the organization already possess the wisdom to discern the “right” path. No one individual has all the wisdom (though some may think that they do).

What is needed is respectful facilitation that seeks out everyone’s “piece of the wisdom” and puts all the pieces on the table, even if there is conflict and disagreement.

All the wisdom is needed, all the wisdom is honored.

So this is what inspires me. Being the servant of the group who facilitates their journey, sharing wisdom to find the right course of action.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday July 29, 2013

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