Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Visioning with Shared Wisdom

As part 2 to the previous blog entry on ALOHA Facilitation, I was facilitating a leadership group at my church in a visioning process that uses shared wisdom.

Here are the four steps of the process:

1. Identification of a pastoral issue

An example of a pastoral issue might be that some parishioners do not feel welcome in our parish.  Such issues may come directly from the pastor, may surface from parishioners, from the council, or from other sources.

2. Pondering the issue

This is a period of study, focused on the pastoral issue, usually a mix of: 

- reading (e.g. letters to the pastor, articles, books), 

- listening (e.g. to parishioners, to invited speakers),

- reflection (e.g. on data gathered on the issue), and

- prayer.

3. Sharing wisdom

Now the council members seek the Spirit’s guidance as they share their perspectives on the issue. This sharing phase can take several meetings.

4. Pursuing action

Once the council has heard the wisdom of all members, they choose a course of action and develop the plan for pursuing it.

The Pastoral Council at my church, St Matthias in Somerset NJ, has been using this process for years.

It's based on the book Sharing Wisdom by Sr Mary Benet McKinney.

Now, Sr. Mary's book is unfortunately out of print. While Sr. Mary was writing about developing effective pastoral councils, I believe that her model has broad application wherever an organization's leadership is endeavoring to discern the "right" path or course of action to take.

This discernment process she calls "sharing wisdom" (SW).

SW is based upon several underlying beliefs including one that says that the people in the organization already possess the wisdom to discern the "right" path. No one individual has all the wisdom (though some may think that they do).

What is needed is respectful facilitation that seeks out everyone's "piece of the wisdom" and puts all the pieces on the table, even if there is conflict and disagreement.

All the wisdom is needed, all the wisdom is honored.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, November 19, 2008

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