Thursday, February 08, 2007


Over the last year I learned about a theory of organizational dynamics called Appreciative Inquiry which has intrigued me and changed some of the ways I do things. Appreciative Inquiry can be most directly contrasted with Change Management theory, in which a group looks for the problem (in an organization, process, curriculum, etc.), does a diagnosis, and finds a solution. Appreciative Inquiry, on the other hand, suggests that we look for what works in an organization, or what we like about a process or curriculum, and then determine how to replicate the values under girding it. Here’s a great tag line: Change Management looks at an organization as a problem to be solved; Appreciative Inquiry looks at an organization as a mystery to be unraveled. You can see what a significant difference this kind of thinking could make in our marriages, work relationships and friendships.

At any rate, this week at our full staff meeting, instead of surfacing problems and glitches we saw in the last month (which are an inevitable part of church life), we considered the following question: “What about West Houston is especially positive and promising to you right now?” I thought you would enjoy hearing some of the responses:

· I feel very comfortable inviting my friends to West Houston. I am confident they will find it to be a meaningful experience.

· West Houston members are willing and generous about helping.

· We have great people (members) and great placement (location). We are going to make a bigger and bigger impact in this area.

· There is great interest and involvement in the Youth Ministry. People are really stepping up.

· Our administrative assistants have a great attitude; they are positive and eager to help. That sends a good message and is a joy to be around.

· We are a family at WHCC and there is a real hunger for God.

· West Houston is concerned about peoples’ well-being.

· We are receiving a lot of guests each week, many of them not from the churches of Christ. This is a great opportunity.

· There is a strong effort to look forward. The Take the Next Step process is really engaging people.

· There is a new energy and cohesiveness developing among the staff.

· The “Garden of Prayer” time in worship is really addressing a need and is a blessing to our congregation.

· The Children’s Ministry is really getting traction and doing good things.

I guess if someone is cynical enough they could label this an exercise in “back-patting,” but I see it differently. It is an exercise in expressing appreciation and gratitude. As Paul says to the Philippians, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). Not a bad way to live, is it?

I will say this personally and on behalf of the staff: We appreciate you, West Houston folks. It is a privilege to serve the Lord with you! – Matt Soper (2/11/07).


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