I mentioned previously that I spent three days at the SSJD Convent Receiving the Appreciative Inquiry Training offered by the Clergy Leadership Institute. The instructor was Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle. Rob is psychologist with a great deal of clinical experience, as well an executive coach and even a former Cathedral Dean. He is an interesting guy whose life purpose is to be "Helpful, healing, and humorous."
Registration was limited to be about 25 people, and mostly that was composed of Senior Diocesan Leadership plus a dozen or so parish priests like myself. That made for an interesting dynamic, as when I was paired with Bishop Yu to do an interview designed to discover the deepest, most compelling personal motivations of the subject!
The "Appreciative Inquiry" framework has a lot to offer, and I've already had two opportunities to apply it. Last night I hosted a Stewardship Committee meeting in my home. We are prepared our fall Stewardship Campaign and are facing a substantial deficit as we do so. Raising the giving in the parish by about 30% would fix it and get us back to a balanced budget, but raising giving by that kind of level is going to take some real excellent leadership from everyone involved in the campaign.
So I started the meeting by asking people to go around the room and tell us about something they really, really enjoy doing. When they finished sharing, I explained that this was an easy way to get toward an understanding of people's core values and passions. Knowing that makes moving forward on a group project far easier because it means you can put the builders in charge of building and the deal makers in charge of deal making, etc. The meeting went on and accomplished many things, though not without a few moments that really challenged my skillfulness as a small-group leader. As they left, people said they felt encouraged and enthusiastic about the work ahead, which is great sign.
The second application of Appreciative Inquiry techniques happened in a one-on-one pastoral care situation. Obviously, I can't share much about that, but I will say I was able to resolve a long-standing stuck-ness that had defied several other interventions. One of the things I noticed right away was a large degree of consonance between the method I was employing and the parishioner's therapeutic instincts. In other words, it felt like the right approach to both of us. The energy of the whole dynamic shifted noticeably and I'm really happy about that.
So, there you have it, my endorsement of Appreciative Inquiry. It works, simple as that.