How can local churches, congregations and communities use their strengths to spark transformation and growth?
That is the question at the heart of a new Appreciating Church website and book written by Fiona Thomas, United Reformed Church Secretary of Education and Learning, and Tim Slack, founder and co-director of Appreciating People.
They worked as part of a group of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) practitioners drawn from ecumenical partners, advised and supported by Appreciating People.
Launched in London (9th February) and Liverpool (20th February), the resources draw together – for the first time – the ways in which a range of denominations are using the process of AI to draw on the strengths and energies of local church communities as the catalyst for transformation.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) begins by identifying the positive core of an organisation and builds from there. Appreciating Church is designed to be a user-friendly, accessible and practical resource with theological underpinning and pointers for worship, integrated with AI theory and practice. It includes case studies from UK churches which have used AI, among them the United Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Quakers, Congregational Federation and the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool.
Speaking at the London launch in the chapel at Methodist Central Hall, Fiona Thomas said,
‘All churches do something really well, and they all have great strengths, however small; Appreciating Church starts by discovering these and building from there. It also takes seriously the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit and the possibility of newness coming from surprising places when a church draws on its strengths.’
Tim Slack – the son of the Revd Kenneth Slack, an early leader within the United Reformed Church – added,
‘The aim is to create a self-sustaining community of AI practice across the Churches and so much has already happened. The Quakers have been using AI for about 10 years, and the Methodists and the Congregational Federation have also made a particular impact in supporting this. The book and website are part of that ongoing story and training process.’
The Revd Kevin Watson, Moderator of URC General Assembly, spoke at the ‘northern launch’ at St Bride’s, Liverpool, and commended AI in the book:
‘Appreciative Inquiry encourages and enables everyone in the church to be involved, to know their story is heard and matters, and to see their strengths and achievements valued.’
Appreciating Church, and its accompanying website offering supplementary exercises and content, come as a resource for existing and aspiring AI practitioners within churches and the communities connected with them. Appreciating Church will be applicable throughout the UK and there has already been interest from churches and church-based organisations in other English speaking countries. The practical examples in the book include community involvement by a Pentecostal church in Manchester, and the work of St Bride’s, Liverpool with its commitment to being creative, progressive and inclusive.