Is your congregation planning something new? If so, there are five key questions you can ask yourself and the group with which you are working. The five questions apply to almost every kind of congregational project. These key questions provide focus. Responses to these questions will provide structure for your work. You and your colleagues can meet your goals when you use these questions throughout a process.

Here are the five key questions:

  1. What’s the challenge? In other words, what problem are you trying to solve? What opportunity are you seeking to address? Keep asking this question throughout the process. Your response will help you make course corrections. It will also keep you on track.
  2. What have we done? Where you have been guides your path ahead. When your team gathers, take a moment at the beginning of a meeting to review what has brought you to this moment.
  3. What are we learning? Every worthwhile endeavor is a learning experience. You aren’t just accomplishing something new, you are learning to do something new.
  4. What’s our next step? It is good to be clear about your mission, vision and values. Yet, at some point ideas become reality by taking one task at a time. Being clear about next steps is a way to make sure they will be taken.
  5. What help do we need? Rule of life: we all need more help than we receive. This isn’t because we inherently lack skills and wisdom. It is because life is full of challenges. Congregations that achieve new things make excellent use of helpers – leaders from other congregations, a book, a workshop experience, conversations with a consultant and so forth. What resource will help you achieve your next step?

Try weaving these questions into the agenda of your next meeting about a new endeavor. Listen carefully to the conversation. Observe when the energy in the room rises. Observe when the energy lags. Share this back to the group. Ask others to interpret responses to the questions. Form your work plan based on what you are hearing.

This is how your congregation learns to do new things.

Resources you can use
You can learn more about these five questions in chapter nine of How Your Congregation Learns.

As you have probably observed, asking questions is a powerful learning and leadership behavior. Two recommended resources on asking questions and congregational leadership include: The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action and Encyclopedia of Positive Questions.

Tim Shapiro by Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – of which the CRG is a program. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation Learns.