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Appreciative Inquiry Tools
from
Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change,
by Mark Lau Branson
permission for use from The Alban Institute

Philippians 4:8
(NRSV) Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever I pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

(NJB) . . . let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire - with whatever is good and praiseworthy.

Ten Appreciative Inquiry Assumptions
1. In every organization, some things work well.
2. What we focus on becomes our reality.
3. Asking questions influences the group.
4. People have more confidence in the journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past.
5. If we carry parts of the past into the future, they should be what is best about the past.
6. It is important to value differences.
7. The language we use creates our reality.
8. Organizations are heliotropic.
9. Outcomes should be useful.
10. All steps are collaborative.


Five Basic Processes of Appreciative Inquiry
1. Choose the positive as the focus of inquiry.
2. Inquire into stories of life-giving forces.
3. Locate themes that appear in the stories and select topics for further inquiry.
4. Create shared images for a preferred future.
5. Find innovative ways to create that future.


Appreciative Inquiry Introductory Exercise
1. Remembering your entire experience at our church, when were you most alive, most motivated and excited about your involvement? What made it exciting? Who else was involved? What happened? What was your part? Describe what you felt.
2. What do you value most about our church? What activities or ingredients or ways of life are most important? What are the best features of this church?
3. Make three wishes for the future of the church.


 Step 1: Initiate
1. Lay foundations
2. Determine the research focus
3. Form the generic questions
4. Create initial strategies
Step 2: Inquire
1. Finalize interview questions
2. Develop a protocol
3. Select interviewees
4. Assign and prepare interviewers
5. Conduct interviews
6. Gather data
Step 3: Imagine
1. Collate data
2. Share data
3. Find life-giving themes
4. Decide themes for initial focus
5. Develop provocative proposals
Step 4: Innovate
1. Informal personal initiatives
2. Informal initiatives of pairs and small groups
3. Initiatives and collaboration of formal committees
4. Formal initiatives of official boards

Sample, Step 1 Questions
Set One: On Relationships
Opening Question
1. Reflecting on your entire experience at our church, remember a time when you felt the most engaged, alive, and motivated. Who was involved? What did you do? How did it feel? What happened?
Value Questions
2A. When you consider all of your experiences at our church, what has contributed most to your spiritual life? What relationships or programs or events have been most powerful and helpful in fostering the congregation’s relationship with God? Are there particular characteristics or traits of our congregation that are most valuable as we grow as spiritually, both personally and as a church? Tell me what has made a difference and how that has happened.
2B. What are the healthiest, most life-giving aspects of the relationships among people at our church? What would you say has been most valuable about your friendships? Have certain groups been valuable for you? What would you say is most important about how we relate to each other? Give me some examples of how we live together at our best.
2C. When you think about how our church has related to our community and to the world, what do you think has been most important? When we are at our best, how do we express God’s love and mercy and justice to others? What have been your own most important ministry or missional experiences in relating to others beyond our own church?
2D. Don’t be humble; this is important information: What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our church personally—your personality, your perspectives, your skills, your activities, your character? Give me some examples.
Summary Question
3. What do you think is the most important, life-giving characteristic of our church? When we are at our best, what is the single most important value that makes our church unique?
Wishes
4. Make three wishes for the future of our church. Describe what the church would look like as these wishes come true.
Set 2: On Ministry Areas
Opening Question
1. Reflecting on your entire experience at our church, remember a time when you felt the most engaged, alive, and motivated. Who was involved? What did you do? How did it feel? What happened?

Value Questions
2A. What are the most valuable aspects of our congregation’s worship? In worship experiences at our church, what do you believe has been most significant, most helpful in making worship alive and meaningful? When worship is at its best, how does it shape us? How has worship helped connect us with God? Describe those times when we are most engaged in and shaped by worship.
2B. Concerning our relationships with each other, our fellowship, what characterizes us at our best? How would
you describe those times when you have seen Christian behaviors and qualities that have increased the
congregation’s social health, faithfulness, love, and unity?
 2C. In all of the ways we connect with the local community, the nation and the world, what do you believe are the most important and meaningful elements of our church’s outreach? Describe those times when you believe the church was most faithful or effective in missional activities. What have been your own most valuable experiences?
2D. Don’t be humble; this is important information: What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our church’s ministry—your personality, your perspectives, your skills, your activities, your character? Give me some examples.

Summary Question
3. What do you think is the most important, life-giving characteristic of our church? When we are at our best, what is the single most important value that makes our church unique?
Wishes
4. Make three wishes for the future of our church. Describe what the church would look like as these wishes come true.

Essentials of Provocative Proposals
Provocative Proposals . . .
1. are stated in the affirmative, as if already happening
2. point to real desired possibilities
3. are based on the data
4. create new relationships, including intergenerational partnerships
5. bridge the best of “what is” toward “what might be”
6. require sanctified imaginations, stretching the status quo by pushing boundaries
7. necessitate new learning
8. challenge organizational assumptions and routines