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Coaching Vitality with Integrity

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VIVA and other Tools to Resource

Congregational Health and Transformation

(Contents of page as you scroll down)
1. The VIVA Series: three to four sessions of appreciative process for discerning congregational
           identity, vision, goals and action plans.
      2. Miscellaneous one time workshops to enhance particular congregational needs.
      3. A Process for a Mutual Ministry Valuation (MMV)
      4. Readiness for coaching

1. The V.I.V.A. Series

VIVA is a four part Appreciative Process for Discerning Communal Direction.

VIVA = Values + Identity + Vision + Action

VIVA is about figuring out:

(1) Who you are,

(2) Where you ought to be going, and

(3) How you are going to get there.

Stage One (Values & Identity: “Appreciating theBest of What Is”)

·Overview of the Process

·Transformations and the Appreciative Way

·Video: “What’s Right with the World”

·Positive Trends

·Discerning and Drafting an Identity Statement

Stage Two (Vision: “Imagining theBest of What Might Be”)

·What is Vision?

·Video: “Focus Your Vision”

·Visioning from different perspectives

·Drafting a Vision Statement

Stage Three (Goals: “Determining What Should Be”)

·What are appropriate Goals?

·Discerning Goals to for the next two years

·Prioritize and Condense Goals for ministry

·Discern Resources to accomplish for each Goal of the Congregation’s ministry

Stage Four (Action Plan: “Creating What Will Be”)

·What is an Action Plan?

·Draw an action plan for your ministry Goals

2. Workshops to Encourage

Congregational Health & Transformation

Changing Attitudes

· Small Churches are Great Churches

· “Changing the Conversation” with the Appreciative Way

· The Power of Congregational Purpose

· Anglican Identity: What’s so great about being an Anglican?

Introduction to Anglican Evangelism and Identity


· Congregational “Town Meeting” to Discern new Directions

· Parish Council Saturday or Overnight to Discern new Directions

· Discerning our Congregation’s Personality Profile (PPP)


· Reawakening Passionate Spirituality: Connecting Role to Soul (task to gift)

· Celtic Practices to Bring Balance to Life

Leadership Training

· Gift Discernment utilizing MBTI process (for our Church Council or leadership group)

· Team Building for a Parish Council or a Ministry Team

· Falling in Love with Ministry Again: Overcoming Leadership Tiredness

   Workshop to foster a congregational Caring Ministry (Befriender Ministry)

Congregational Development

· Looking at New Ways (models) of becoming a Sustainable, “Fluid” Church

· Discerning “What we Can Do for Our Community”

·H ow to Begin a wholistic, parish wide exploration of the Bible and its application to daily life (Kerygma Program)

· Building Bridges to the the Younger generation

· The Congregation as an Emotional System

3. A Simple Process for a Mutual Ministry Evaluation


1.Form a MMV team of theperson being valuated (call him ‘pastor”).

2.Both the Valuation team and the pastor brainstorm all the positive qualities of the pastor.

3. Consolidate the brainstorms to approximately 5 to 8 leadership qualities. These are the qualities that are evident in the pastor’s present ministry.

4. Pastor and team each brainstorm positive leadership qualities that you would like to see in the pastor two years from now.

5. Consolidate the brainstorms to 5 to 8 wishes for the future.

6. Pastor and team prioritize the wish list and create 4 goals from the top wishes.

7. Pastor and team, create an action plan for each of the goals.

8. Pastor and team, devise an accountability process for reviewing the progress of the action plans.

Rational for a Mutual Ministry Valuation

Adapted from Rob Voyle’s Clergy Leadership Institute Web Page

Mutual Ministry Valuations (MMV) provide an opportunity for the entire ministry community to come together and discover what is valuable about their mutual ministry. While many congregations have used a process known as Mutual Ministry Review the MMV process is distinct in that using appreciative processes we seek to discover and build on the things that give value to a congregation's ministry. In the valuing process we do not seek to discover what has not happened nor who was to blame for something not happening because it is impossible to build a future on what hasn't happened. In the valuing of a congregation's ministry we find the seeds of future ministries and the resources required to accomplish them.

The valuing process is also used to help people put the dagger of constructive criticism back in its scabbard. Have you ever noticed that the term " constructive criticism " is generally used by the criticizer and even when solicited often leaves you feeling stabbed rather than inspired to make changes? In contrast, we have continually found that a valuing process provides the inspiration to make continual improvement in the direction of increasing value. In this process we do not avoid problems. Rather we seek to establish a mindset that enables solutions to be discovered, for we have also found that problems cannot be resolved from the mindset that created them. Likewise we do not gloss over poor performance, rather we are seeking to create an environment that will energize performance in the direction of enhancing value.

Below is a comparison of the questions that are traditionally asked in Mutual Ministry Reviews and in a Mutual Ministry Valuations. 

Comparison of Traditional and Valuing Ministry Reviews

Parish Goal: To revitalize and re-energize the 10:00 am worship service.

Traditional Ministry Review

Mutual Ministry Valuation

How are we doing at accomplishing this goal?

How could the rector be more helpful in accomplishing this goal?

How could the Vestry be more helpful in accomplishing this goal?

Tell me a story of a time in the last 12 months when you have felt energized and enlivened by our 10:00 am worship service.

What made this service particularly inspiring for you?

What do we need to do to provide more opportunities for this type of inspiring worship?

Analysis of the Methodology

The traditional method is vulnerable to a wide variety of responses that may or may not be helpful in either celebrating accomplishments or in planning for the future. If the worship has been revitalized the review will probably be positive and may lead to some helpful information and enthusiasm to continue the worship development. On the other hand if very little has been accomplished, even if much effort has been expended the review is likely to result in blaming and judgment of those supposedly responsible for the failure. The two subsequent questions of the rector and vestry are also likely to provide focus for the blame and lead to defensiveness. In this environment little energy will be found to create inspiring worship in the future. The subsequent changes that are made to reach the goal will in all probability fail because they are made from a motivation of defensiveness and fear to avoid further judgment rather than a loving desire to provide inspiring worship.

In contrast the valuing approach seeks to discover those times when the worship has been inspiring. Even if the performance has been poor and the goal largely unmet the people are focusing their attention on the desired goal and discovering even the rare occasions when it has occurred. At the same time these instances, even if few in number, are providing valuable information on what needs to be done in order for parishioners to be inspired in their worship.

Beyond the simple gathering of information the telling of stories in the valuing process enables a congregation to hold in their corporate consciousness examples of how they function at their best. This corporate consciousness of valued best experiences is the fertile ground upon which the Spirit of God can grow the future church.

Diocesan Coaches are available to assist in developing mutual ministry valuation resources. We do not provide a “canned " process as we have found that the valuing process needs to be tailored to the specific needs of the congregation. We do however offer the following recommendations for those engaged in a review and valuing of a congregation's ministry. Most of these recommendations also apply to more traditional ministry reviews.

Things to Consider When Conducting a Mutual Ministry Valuation

1. A ministry that is valued will be easily sustained whereas a ministry that is not valued will wither and die.

2. An MMV is not a performance appraisal of the pastor or priest, it is the valuing of the entire congregation's ministry.

3. For clergy seeking to review and develop their personal ministry we recommend a coaching model that provides opportunity for 360 degree assessment and ministry development goals. Please refer to the coaching page for more information on innovative strategies for personal and professional growth.

4. MMVs or ministry reviews are not a method of conflict resolution. While MMVs can be conducted amidst creative tensions, they do require a degree of trust and acceptance and are entirely inappropriate when factions within a congregation are seeking the removal of personnel.

5. When conducting MMVs it is preferable to use a neutral third person as a facilitator. One of our goals is to train parish clergy in the appreciative philosophy and process so that they may provide MMV facilitation for each other within their dioceses or regions.

6. If you plan on using a facilitator involve them in the entire planning and process and not just in the final review of the findings.

7. The most effective MMVs occur after a clear set of goals, with plans for accomplishing the goals, time lines and mutual expectations have been clearly articulated to the entire congregation.

8. The most damaging ministry reviews occur when there are none or poorly articulated goals and plans. In these instances ministry reviews are too vague to be helpful or are potential conflict igniters when they degenerate into a blaming game for poor performance.

9. If the congregation doesn't have a well articulated mission and strategic plan rather than trying to conduct an MMV we recommend that the parish engage in a strategic planning process. We have found that a parish wide appreciative inquiry process to be an effective method of developing both the mission and the commitment and enthusiasm to carry it out. Please see the Appreciative Inquiry pages for more details.

10.The questions you ask will determine the answers you get.
Some questions just shouldn't be asked. For example: Consider a congregational survey question in which the parishioners are asked: "In the past year when has the Pastor not been available to you?" This question will never allow discovery of how available or compassionate the Pastor has been. Even the most available pastor in the universe will fail this test. A much better question is the positive one: "In the past year when has the Pastor been available to you?" Even if the pastor has been rarely available to the congregation the positive question enables the people to gather the examples of availability and then they can ask. "Now, what do we need to do so that the Pastor can do more of the things that enable him or her to be available?"

11.Ask questions that help you discover what needs to be accomplished and not why something wasn't accomplished. Seek to catalogue valuable accomplishments rather than failures, for the failures generally will only tell us what not to do but will not necessarily inform us what to do.

12.Just conducting a survey and tabulating the results is not an MMV. The results are only important in as much as they help a congregation hold in mutual consciousness the things that are valuable about belonging to the congregation. Mutual story telling is more effective than surveys for changing congregational mindsets.

13.Effective Ministry will result in enjoyable MMVs and lead to a whole lot of celebrating and thanksgiving. Compare the seventy returning to Jesus after being sent out on mission.

4. Readiness for Coaching

Congregational Readiness for Visioning and Planning
(adapted from an article by Robert Leventhal)

Before I agree to work with a planning team, I determine if the leadership is ready for re-imagining itself. Congregations are different. Some are doing great and don’t need to do developmental planning now. Others lack a readiness to plan. I have developed some characteristics of successful planning teams for leaders to consider. If a congregation does not have enough of these assets, they may need to set more modest goals. They may not be a candidate for serious planning. Even if they feel they are ready, many still struggle with key issues related to readiness. Look for signs of readiness for planning. Have a mental checklist: Do we have board approval? Is the clergy on board? Do we have planning chairs? Do we have a budget?

There are three key elements to sustain change:

  • honest assessment of the present,

  • hopeful vision of the future, and

  • practical steps to move forward.

Although you may find that everything appears ready on the surface, one of the challenges is to try to understand the deeper readiness of the culture for change. All congregations have informal norms that they don’t articulate. There are also deep, unconscious (tacit) norms that they may not be aware of. The planning team must be humble about the ability of new plans to overcome the underlying DNA of the congregation. Planners need to check readiness but to expect surprises.

Let’s look at some of the factors to consider.

1. Clergy Must Be Supportive, Enthusiastic, and Committed to Planning

2. There Must Be Urgency for Change

Leadership guru, John Kotter gas learned from experience that unless 70 per cent of a community has a sense of urgency, change will not happen.

3. Key Lay Leaders Must Be Committed to Planning

There is seldom well-defined readiness for leadership development programs. Even when I get a contract to work with a congregation on visioning and planning, the leaders usually have an incomplete agreement. Some do not endorse the plan. Others actively oppose the process. Still others are passive-aggressive. They will listen attentively but not agree to work on implementation. I try to review the plan with the core leadership and then ask for a meeting with the board. The entire leadership community needs to work through the issues. This models the kind of consensus-building skills needed in the process later.

4. There Needs to Be a Financial Commitment to Planning

5. Planning Should Not Be Directly Competing with Other Major Projects

6. Planning Requires Some Capacity for Creativity

Some congregations have little capacity for creative vision exercises. They are so resistant to change that they won’t allow creative stakeholders room to brainstorm. They tend to interrupt brainstorming verbally or nonverbally. They discourage creative thinking in group sessions. Older established leaders remind new leaders that their ideas “have been tried before.” They provide background information on why the culture won’t respond to a proposed idea. I put a premium on creativity and collaborative learning to help overcome the reluctance of some stakeholders.

7. Planning Requires a Tolerance for Feedback

Some congregations are not used to getting feedback. They don’t have much of a history of trust. It follows that these groups are often reluctant to empower new individuals or groups. Empowered groups will provide the leadership with the opportunity for new energy and creativity (as I noted above), but they will also ask questions, raise concerns, and provide some challenging feedback.

Adapted from Stepping Forward: Synagogue Visioning and Planning, copyright © 2008 by the Alban Institute. Reprinted with permission