Creating “Buy-In” in Tough Places
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Experience has taught me that one of the best practices for introducing something into an environment that may be hostile, ignorant, or indifferent is to use a group process that involves focused conversation. This process allows for more significant “buy in” because it is “grass roots up.” It is a process that moves the conversation from being objective, to being reflective, to being interpretive and on to decisional. At the objective level, people become comfortable in sharing because the conversation revolves around something purely objective. This helps people open up and allows the conversation to move to a reflective mode, which is more personal. The next step -- interpretive -- brings the conversation to a point of determining what the reflections mean to the group. The group is then able to make decisions and establish goals that have come from their own process. Through this conversational process, the group discovers answers for themselves rather than having answers imposed upon them. Focused conversation creates “buy-in” and raises the possibility of the accomplishment of goals exponentially.
To introduce greater awareness and the need for stronger lay leadership involvement, I would suggest the following process for both the laity and the clergy:
1. Reflect on Acts 2:42-47. “The Fellowship of Believers” includes the key ingredients to church growth. (What was happening? Who was doing it?)
2. Have the group describe a church in which the pastor does everything. Display their responses on newsprint or whiteboard. What does that church look like? Have the group describe a church that has active lay involvement. What does that church look like? Display those responses. Ask which church the group would prefer to be a part of.
3. Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
- What have been or are now their strengths?
- What have been or are now their weaknesses?
- Have them take a mental walk through their community. What unmet needs do they see? What opportunities for ministry do they see in their community, both inside and outside the church walls?
- What threats or obstacles do they see that need to be overcome?
4. Prioritize the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. (Use sticky dots, giving each person one vote per category.) What are the common themes?
5. Using the SWOT list, what are some of the implications for the mission of the church (or for the overall mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world)? How do they use their strengths to overcome obstacles and turn their weaknesses into strengths in order to respond to the opportunities they have? Which ministries need to be focused on? Which one do they see themselves helping to manifest? How? What help or resources or tools might they need? (i.e. Lay Servant Ministry training/education)
6. Create an action plan using something like a SMART Goal. Pick the three or four highest priorities from the SWOT list and form a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely goal around the priorities.
7. Come back together after a defined period of time (i.e., 3-6 months) to CELEBRATE the accomplishment of the goals! What this does is create small victories that instill enthusiasm for further ministry. Excitement grows and more laity become involved in opportunities for lay servant ministry.
8. Celebrate and then revisit the SWOT/SMART Goals for people to see how they have grown and what new goals they can make for themselves to keep the energy and enthusiasm going.
As you can see from this process, the laity are engaged every step of the way. It focuses them on the mission, brings alignment to the ministry of the church and strengthens the partnership between the laity and the clergy. This really diminishes any kind of hostile environment because they (both clergy and laity) are engaged in the process.
If you would like me to discuss any aspect of this further, please contact:
Jodi L. Cataldo
Director-Laity in Leadership
Leadership Resources Division
Discipleship Ministries | The United Methodist Church
1908 Grand Ave.
Nashville, TN 37212-2129
Toll-free: (877) 899-2780 Ext. 7179
An excellent resource to learn more about “Focused Conversation” is:
The Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace by R. Brian Stanfield