How can local churches, congregations and communities use their strengths to best effect and drive forward transformation?
That is the question at the heart of a new book and website Appreciating Church, in partnership with Appreciating People, experts in positive organisational development.
Launching in both London (Thursday 9th February) and Liverpool (Monday 20th February), the resources draw together, for the first time, the ways in which a range of denominations are using the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to draw on the strengths and energies of local congregations and communities as the driver for transformation.
AI begins by asking questions about the strengths and positive experiences that a community already has, and builds from there. Appreciating Church is 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, including the United Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Quakers, Congregational Federation and the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool. This accompanying website for Appreciating Church offers supplementary exercises and content.
Who is the book for?
Intended as a resource for existing and aspiring AI practitioners within churches and the communities connected with them, the book will be applicable throughout the UK and of interest to churches and church-based organisations in other English speaking countries.
The practical examples in the book include community organising by a Pentecostal church in Manchester and our work with St Bride’s Liverpool to re-imagine the future of their community and their building, and Open Table, an ecumenical Christian worship community for people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA), to develop a shared vision and values between all the churches in its network.
Appreciating Church is an example of the work Appreciating People does in adapting AI to different sector groups. Other sectors in which they have applied AI methodologies include the National Health Service, schools, and a national museum.
Where has it come from?
Appreciating Church has been produced by a group of AI practitioners drawn from ecumenical partners, advised and supported by Appreciating People. Co-founder Tim Slack is the son of the Revd Kenneth Slack, an early leader within the United Reformed Church.
In a foreword to the book, Professor Lindsey Godwin, Director of the Cooperrider Centre for Appreciative Inquiry in Vermont, said:
‘Given the kindred spirits that echo within both AI and the Church, I cannot think of a more philosophically aligned methodology for the work of our modern-day churches than AI.’
Published by Wordscapes and available to buy for £16, the 120-page book features dozens of Appreciative Inquiry practitioners from a wide variety of churches drawing from diverse theological sources.