What is your big ministry dream or vision? Can you do it alone? If you need to work with others these six pages can give you a simple ‘road map’ to plan a working consultation that can really move you forward. The specifics of your dream may require that you add elements to this process. But, based on many years of experience we would suggest that the sequence of these questions and action steps is important! God bless you!
We recommend that prayer be a constant element in the process – particularly in the small groups as they think and work together to discern God’s guidance in all of their work. This prayer can, of course, be in the wider, plenary meeting. But we encourage at least a brief time of prayer each time small groups meet. We encourage participants to pray for each other and their needs – not just the big problem the group is considering. Note: Your partnership or collaboration consultation may have different amount of available time or special features you require. This is only provided as an example – a place you can ‘fill in the blanks’ as you need. The sequence of ‘unpacking’ the problem and the potential solutions is important but beyond that you can certainly be creative!
This flow of events focused on high-quality outcomes assumes the integrity of the leadership and their commitment to a very simple question: “Is there anything we might do better together to address this major challenge than if we were to continue to work individually?” It also assumes that there is a man or woman with great vision and commitment who can and will serve as a facilitator (not Director or even “leader”). An individual who, as a visionary, draws around themselves a small facilitation or coordination team that can think and pray in a very focused way about the challenge, the process of actually building durable collaboration, and encouragement of the on-going action that results from this kind of very focused consensus-building process.
This model of consultation is not designed around ‘talking heads’ – that is a group of authoritative or specialist speakers. It is designed as a working conference to do one thing: help you explore with others of similar commitment but likely working in various organizations or settings that question above; said another way — Is there could be a collaborative way forward that would significantly increase both the speed with which the goal is reached and the quality of the outcomes? Along the way, this pattern of working together helps build relationships, trust, and durable linkages between you and others. If you want to add speakers, special sessions, etc. you can certainly do so. They can be interspersed at almost any point. Many years of field experience suggest that for best outcomes you and those working with you on planning keep this sequence of the vision, enquiry, commitment, and developing action plans intact. Getting people on the same page, exploring issues and possible solutions, and moving to action and commitment will effectively move you toward your goals.
We recommend that prayer be a constant element in the process – particularly in the small groups as they think and work together to discern God’s guidance in all of their work. This prayer can, of course, be in the wider, plenary meeting. But we encourage at least a brief time of prayer each time small groups meet. We encourage participants to pray for each other and their needs – not just the big problem the group is considering.
Example: High-Quality Outcomes Consultation Flow:**
Note: In this narrative description of the Consultation process we refer by number to the Specific Sessions outlined in the next section titled: Consultation to Form a Partnership, Network, or Other Kingdom Collaboration: Hour by Hour Draft Plan.
- Overview: Who are you, what do you do, where do you do it, what are your hopes or expectations for this consultation?
This is the opportunity to get acquainted – getting to know something about the people and their ministry.
Specific Session #2
Action: Following a welcome and overview of the consultation – history and agenda, (Specific Session #1) this session allows you to actually meet and talk with individuals. Suggest small groups in which each person gets, say, 4-5 minutes to give highlights with opportunity for questions that may naturally follow. While still in the small group, this is a good time to launch the practice of prayer for the group. Once everyone returns to plenary session, have everyone go around with a 30 second limit to give their name, ministry, and geographic location or focus.
- Overview — The big challenge: Numbers, Geographic, Recent Trends, and any special Circumstances
This is where you get to ‘unpack’ the major challenge you’ve come to work on together. It is the first key step in getting everyone approximately “on the same page.” Remember you can never be exhaustive but you can get the main points out and clearly agreed before going to work.
Specific Session #5
Action: Often best prepared and/or presented by a small but well informed panel addressing very specific topics. An excellent alternative is to break into small groups and have the group develop consensus around 4-5 key questions related to this topic; have the small groups report back to plenary; consolidate feedback; prioritize.
- Overview – The picture of current ministry: Where/geographical, #s, Nature/Kind of Ministry, Quality, etc.
Following an overview of the big challenge we need to know who is presently doing what – and how is it related to the big challenge?
Specific Session #7
Action: Out of this can naturally flow smaller discussion/working groups that come together by natural affinities —
- Geographical or type of ministry, for instance.
- These groups can provide high specificity for any action plans that may be adopted by the wider consultation.
- They also offer the possibility of identifying more specialized ministry needs that can be collaboratively worked on from this geographic or specialty perspective.
- In our overall planning, our consultation leadership/facilitation team needs to help encourage the group identity of these clusters and modify or in some way make the overall program responsive to the time they may need based on the potential they hold. (Note that in the example of a possible consultation program included below that these geo/sector of ministry possibilities are taken into consideration.)
- We must always remember that perceived need is almost always highest the closer the proximity to where we live or work.
- Overview – The Challenges or Roadblocks – National (big topic) and within Individual Ministry (relevant to this topic).
To eventually suggest action steps toward greater ministry effectiveness or a ‘breakthrough,’ we need to agree on what are the main challenges or roadblocks to real breakthroughs – both regarding the overall, big problem as well as what the individual ministries face as roadblocks trying to address this challenge.
Specific Session # 8-9
Action: As there are many issues, often not well defined, going around in participants’ minds, this is a process by which all can participate; clarity can emerge; and consensus can be obtained. Again, this is usually done by breaking into small groups – asking two questions –
- If we want to see _____(vision or purpose statement)_____what are the biggest overall challenges we face, together? Be specific.
- If we want to see_____(vision or purpose statement)_____ what are the biggest challenges we face in our individual ministry?
Remember that in these groups, as we pray and think together, we are seeking to discern what God is saying. Unless the Holy Spirit inspires our ideas and recommendations outcomes will be questionable.
- Have each group develop a common list to the answers to these two questions.
- Report back to plenary
- Consolidate feedback from small groups and then prioritize these challenges.
As the small groups feed back it will revealing and encouraging to see both the similarities and unique issues that are identified. Vitally important to move forward, the group must then begin to develop consensus on which of these roadblocks are really highest priority.
Specific Session # 10-11
Action: The full group then prioritizes – one list at a time. This can usually be done by
- Asking if there are any general comments about the list and/or specific items on the list. (You always want to give time for clarification or questions but you need to stay ‘on track.’
- Then simply “vote” giving each person two votes. Keep track of the count. Agree on what are the top 4-5 that have been identified.
- Then, vote again – this time on the 4-5 already established priorities giving each person one vote. See what emerges. It is often a good idea to have the group pray before and at the various stages of this ‘voting’ process – asking for God’s guidance. Keep the lists of all the issues. But, the ideal is to get the list down to three most important priorities.
(Note: Do this process for both lists. Once the group has been able to get the lists down to three top priorities have a brief discussion about these priorities. How does the group feel about them? On reflection, do they feel they really are probably the biggest challenges, biggest priorities that need to be dealt with?)
- Identify a Practical Action Plan regarding the priorities.
As the saying goes, ‘it’s easy to talk.’ This session allows the group to get down to work and begin a practical process of identifying action steps to be taken regarding these priority challenges or roadblocks.
Specific Session # 14-15
- Action: Now that top challenges, problems, or roadblocks have been defined the group can immediately begin thinking/praying about solutions – action steps that can be taken. We can be particularly looking for the ones that can or need to be taken together. Break into small groups again. Ask the following questions:
- For each of the priority issues, what 1-2 things could possibly be done first that will make the most important contribution to progress? This is not necessarily solving the whole priority problem but, rather, breaking it down into key elements if possible. Remember, we can’t do everything at once. Setting limited achievable objectives will help us move toward productive outcomes and a greater sense of progress.
- Who, how would we most likely be able to take this action? Practical ideas.
- Do this for both lists.
- Re-convene in full group (plenary) and share/consolidate the ideas.
- Responsibilities, Schedule/Timetable, Reporting – Who takes responsibility for what?
Once the group has identified possible action plans we need to identify who is ready to get into action in working groups to turn ideas into reality. This session helps identify who, what, and when for that action.
Specific Session # 16-17
Action: Now we turn the challenges and potential solutions into action.
- You are now likely to have (in front on a white board or similar) the three biggest challenges (both lists) and the suggested possible action steps that could be taken.
- Take each of the lists and the priorities one at a time; on priority one, for example, where several possible actin steps have been suggested. Then ask for a show of hands as to who would like to sit in a small group and discuss this challenge and how to turn the suggestion action ideas into reality? These should be people who would be prepared to continue to work with others in the group on these issues after the consultation.
- As you go through two lists with around three priority issues each, this can produce six groups. If there is one or more of the challenges (overall or ministry specific) that has not been ‘owned’ by a group, don’t worry. Move ahead with the work in small groups around the issues where participants have shown interest. Energy and action around those that are ‘owned’ will carry the group forward.
Note to the facilitator: Don’t be too concerned about those items that you feel are a priority and should be dealt with immediately. You are seeking to encourage, create energy, and give hope to the group regarding practical outcomes. Generally the group will become aware of those priorities themselves as they work together.
- Ask each group to take their topic and come up with five things: 1) what are the first 2-3 action steps that need to be taken. 2) Who will take those steps – either individually or together? This may be people from within the group or possibly specialized people who will be needed but may not even be at the consultation. 3) When will the action be taken and how long should be given for this action? 4) How will the group report to each other as progress is being made? 5) Who in the group will serve as an on-going facilitator – helping the group continuing to communicate and share information and progress?
- Summary, Reporting, Commitment, Next Meeting, Communications & Celebration
Nearing the end of our time together, this session reaffirms the commitment participants have made to the vision and their role and it helps define and get agreement on key next steps for the whole Consultation.
Specific Session # 18-19, & 21
Action: At this point you and the group have done great work and with the consensus God has given the group there will likely be a real sense of progress – and anticipation for the future. A large, possibly seemingly ‘impossible’ challenge has been carefully and prayerfully ‘unpacked.’ Practical ideas have emerged as to how, working together, the group can begin to effectively address the challenge – leading to that real ‘breakthrough’ that everyone wants. So –
- Summarize the action points and plans from each of the smaller working groups – importantly
- Reaffirm commitment of the members of the group to keep moving forward with their plans following the consultation, and,
- Identifying who will be the on-going facilitator for that group – and their timeline.
- Ask if there are any questions people may have that emerge now that they see the bigger picture?
- Finalize how the whole group will be kept informed, keep the conversation going (web site, eNewsletter, group email, or????). Who will do this and how frequently?
- Decide when and where the next meeting of the whole group should/will occur/Celebrate – song, prayer, communion, or????
Note: The facilitation team may want to consider adding the individuals who have agreed to facilitate the issue/action specific working group to the main facilitation team to both encourage them, increase the quality and simplicity of sharing, and widen the ownership of the on-going progress. Keep in mind: effective collaboration is about being inclusive of all who are genuinely committed to action, solutions, or breakthroughs. You look for the widest possible engagement consistent with the nature of the work that has to be done.
** High-quality outcomes can be defined many ways but, for this example consider the following:
- High engagement/participation – everyone participates and has an opportunity to share their ideas & feelings.
- High ownership – as a result of high engagement, participants more fully ‘own’ the plans and are more likely to be active in helping them come to fruition.
- High level of common information – the process produces a large amount of information that is now shared. While the picture is never absolutely complete in every detail, the general facts have been identified and agreed which is the basis for any group to take action with a higher degree of confidence.
- High level of specificity regarding action on the priority issues – rather than a consultation or meeting which ends with only generalized information and no specific action plans, this type of process yields high specificity – relevant to the overall topic under consideration AND relevant to the individual ministry – heightening the sense of relevance and value.
- High level of specificity regarding evaluation. By establishing the specific, limited achievable objects (which can be updated, expanded, etc. as progress is made) everyone in the group knows how to evaluate their progress or ‘success.’
- High level of specificity regarding how action will be taken, by whom, when, and what the communications expectations are.