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Appreciative Inquiry


6 Resources
For The CRG Created For The CRG
Making Youth Ministry Matter
The purpose of youth ministry is to foster the personal development of faith, theology and...
For The CRG Created For The CRG
The Formative Power of Your Congregation
Many elements make you the person you are. You are shaped by your race, your geographic...
For The CRG Created For The CRG
The Practical Implementation of Appreciative Inquiry
In recent years, many congregations have asked about the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). ...
For The CRG Created For The CRG
Appreciative Inquiry
What does marriage have in common with congregational life? There is one thing in particular:...
The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action
This 16-page booklet provides a practical framework for formulating powerful questions, skills...
Discerning God's Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church
This resource explores the step-by-step process of discernment as a way for congregations to...

About the Contributor

Susan Weber

Sue Weber is the director of the evaluation and communication project at the Center for Congregations. She has additional training in appreciative inquiry and is professionally certified as a group facilitator.

Appreciative Inquiry

Congregations which are interested in new ways to engage might begin by looking at steps they can take to help ensure that they are able to keep up with changing times. When religious groups try and adjust their daily operations to meet the expectations of their members, visitors and attendees, they may start experiencing a lot more success in growing their congregation. One of the tools that religious leaders may find helpful is something called appreciative inquiry. Although an appreciative inquiry exercise is not something that exists in specific relation to religious organizations, it can still be helpful. Therefore, it can be good to become familiar with appreciative inquiry, what it means, and how it can be used in the religious setting.

Appreciative inquiry is a strengths-based, positive approach when it comes to organizational change and leadership development. And while the administration of a church, for instance, might be different from that of most other organizations, there are still leadership positions and defined roles which exist in both contexts. Therefore, it may be helpful for congregations to make sure to regularly audit their leadership positions, and ensure that everyone is being placed into the best position possible to succeed. That is where appreciative inquiry can be helpful. When this tool is applied correctly, it can significantly help to improve the way that a congregation is able to function on a daily basis.

Appreciative inquiry is very common outside of religious settings, as well. It can be used by organizations, teams, and individuals. Furthermore, there are even a lot of small towns that have tried to apply appreciative inquiry to their entire jurisdiction. When it comes to appreciative inquiry in the religious setting, the goal can often be seen as being to move everyone toward having a shared vision for the future. With strategic innovation, it may be possible for religious organizations to get the most out of the appreciative inquiry. This tool has already been used by multiple religious organizations in a successful manner, and those who are looking to use appreciative inquiry in their own religious congregations may do well to keep some key points in mind.

Appreciative Inquiry Tools

When a religious organization is trying to use appreciative inquiry for the first time, one good thing to try and establish from the outset is a strong foundation. This means identifying appreciative inquiry tools that can be helpful. For example, it can be helpful for religious leaders to refer to an appreciative inquiry facilitation guide. Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges of using appreciative inquiry can be the process of keeping everyone on the same page. Particularly in a religious organization, everyone is usually going to want to be heard. At the same time, at the end of an appreciative inquiry exercise, a worthy goal might be to have everyone involved have a shared vision, so that the organization can then begin to move in an appropriate, unified direction.

This is where having an appreciative inquiry worksheet can be helpful. This can potentially be one of the most important tools, when it comes to appreciative inquiry. Rather than have everyone trying to talk over each other, it is possible for the group to use an appreciative inquiry worksheet and answer a few basic questions about the congregation. Then, they may be able to share a few ideas which they may believe could be helpful, when it comes to the future of the religious organization. Finally, the person who is running the exercise can also take a look at what everyone has put down on the page. It might be helpful to look for common themes, or even ask for clarification, if needed. As a result, an appreciative inquiry worksheet can be helpful for getting everyone's gears turning, in regards to this exercise.

Another potentially helpful tool when it comes to appreciative inquiry involves multimedia options. For instance, the leader of the exercise may want to share a few images or videos that highlight some of the issues that the congregation may currently be trying to address. That way, everyone will be able to share their ideas in a popcorn format, one by one - and common themes can then be identified, which can act as a foundation for launching the congregation forward into the future. These are just a few of the key ways in which appreciative inquiry tools can be applied.

Appreciative Inquiry Examples

When someone is trying to use appreciative inquiry for the first time, it can sometimes be helpful to take a look at some appreciative inquiry examples. By referring to examples of appreciative inquiry, it can help them establish a foundation upon which to build their own appreciative inquiry exercise.

One common example of appreciative inquiry is one that takes place in the healthcare setting. If there is a sentinel event that takes place in a healthcare organization, such as a patient death or a cyberattack, then the entire healthcare organization will often come together to take a look at what went wrong. Then, specific questions will usually be directed toward everyone participating in the exercise. And finally, everyone will then share some of their ideas, regarding how this issue can be addressed. By developing positive relationships, the entire organization may then be able to move forward in a positive manner, and help prevent future negative events from happening.

Appreciative inquiry can also be used in the finance setting. Finance can often be seen as notorious for being incredibly fast-paced. Sometimes, there is simply not a lot of time to sit back and reflect on what is happening. And in some situations, it may take a major event to finally convince everyone to pause. Then, however, by convening and asking the right questions, the group might be able to move forward in a positive manner. It can also be good for everyone to take some time to share what they feel the exercise means to them specifically. That way, the organization will be more able to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

These are just a few examples of appreciative inquiry. It may be helpful to take a specific look at religious organizations in this context, as well. Remember that the goal of appreciative inquiry is usually to develop positive relationships so that everyone can move forward with a shared vision. With this objective in mind, there may be specific questions that are relevant to religious organizations when conducting an appreciative inquiry exercise. It can be helpful to take a closer look at some of these questions.

Appreciative Inquiry Model

Before putting the appreciative inquiry model to use, it might be a good idea to first take a closer look at the specific appreciative inquiry technique. The entire goal of the appreciative inquiry technique is usually to focus on strengths, rather than weaknesses. This can be significantly different from that of many other approaches, which tend to put more of a focus on negative aspects and outcomes.

One of the biggest potential benefits of the appreciative inquiry model is that everyone is often going to be more likely to participate. If they are focusing on good parts rather than bad parts, then everyone can be more likely to enjoy the experience. At the same time, though, it might still be possible to focus on some of the negative outcomes, if they are framed in a positive way. For instance, religious organizations may want to frame negative experiences as an opportunity for improvement, rather than as a negative outcome.

However, one of the biggest potential drawbacks to this approach is that there may be a risk that negative issues might go ignored. If negative issues are not appropriately addressed using appreciative inquiry, then effective change may not actually end up taking place.

Appreciative Inquiry Principles

When an appreciative inquiry is taking place, it can be good to help ensure that everyone is encouraged to participate. By following the basic appreciative inquiry steps, it might be possible for religious organizations to get more out of the overall exercise.

Remember that the main goal appreciative inquiry is usually to focus on the strength of the organization. Therefore, one of the likely key steps is going to be planning appropriately, with religious organizations making sure they set the agenda, when it comes to an appreciative inquiry meeting.

It might also be good to consider asking others to participate, and seeing if they are going to share some questions with the group. That way, the conversation can keep going.

Finally, a good goal for an appreciative inquiry exercise to have could be to make sure that everyone is on the same page. By being able to come together with a shared vision for the future, congregations may be able to put themselves into the best possible position to move forward in a successful manner.

Appreciative Inquiry Questions

When it comes to an appreciative inquiry, it can be a good idea to take a closer look at specific appreciative inquiry questions. Whether this involves an appreciative inquiry interview or appreciative inquiry coaching questions, it may very well prove to be a good idea to help ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, it might be helpful to consider asking everyone to start by sharing an experience that is important to them. Then, it may be helpful to consider asking everyone, “what did that specific experience mean to you?” That way, the group might feel encouraged to reflect a little bit deeper upon the experience that they shared. It might also be a good idea to ask people to share some of the factors that they feel led to that specific experience.

It might also be a good idea to ask people about some of the relationships they have in a congregation. Then, consider asking them, “why do you feel that relationship is important to you?” Again, this may be able to help people define some of the specific relationships that matter to them, and how they have impacted the congregation as a whole.

And finally, it can also be a great idea to ask questions about the future, when it comes to an appreciative inquiry exercise. For instance, it might be helpful to ask some of the people in attendance, “what do you feel is the future of the congregation?” Doing this can help get everyone’s minds thinking about how they can collectively move to charge forward in a successful manner. When everyone is clear regarding the future of the group, then the appreciative inquiry exercise may have a much higher chance of being successful. It might very well prove to be a good idea for religious organizations to consider using appreciative inquiry on a regular basis.

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