In January of 2009 I attended a conference on Appreciative Inquiry. It was to be a way to get additional training for Interim work once I left my tenure as a rector. It turned out to be something far more foundational. I was given a key for an approach to work, and to life. Rob Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute refers to it as the Appreciative Way. It is not just a technique it is a way of approaching life. Simply put it sounds far too simple – What you focus on you get more of. If you focus on problems and blame you get more problem and enough blame to mess up lots of lives. But if you focus on what is working, what is life-giving, what you want more of that emerges.
This positive approach is altering the way I think, and has altered the way I approach personal problems as well as professional dealing with congregations. No longer do I spend a lot of time figuring out what went wrong to bring us to the problem that is the present state. It really does not matter! What matters is defining what is valued in the present and what we want the future to look like. If there are seeds of the future in the present and the future has more value to us that the past then we can achieve it either as an individual or as a group or faith community. Once we understand what where we want to go then we look to see what resources we need to get there.
It sounds so simple but it requires a shift in our thinking form the medical model of diagnose the problem and fix it. Instead we look for the positive result we wish to achieve and focus our energies and on achieving it.
This Appreciative Way is not some sort of “cockeyed optimism” but a way to focus our energies on the results we wish to achieve rather than on what created the situation in the first place.
(I commend the Appreciative Way to you. I suggest visiting at Rob’s website [www.clergyleadership.com] for courses introducing the Appreciative Way and particularly for resources for Interim Ministry, Transition Ministry and the Clergy Search process, as well as training in personal coaching. His newest resource on resolving grief and loss is particularly effective and a technique that can be learned and shared to great benefit.