Appreciating Potential

One of our favorite activities with clients is touring their buildings and grounds. As they explain original features and why additions or changes were made, we learn much about a faith community’s history and values.

Sometimes these conversations also reveal regret over changed reality. Many an education wing was built post WWII, when babies were booming and church membership was a societal expectation. Architectural designs with multiple levels accessed by three-steps-up then four-steps-down and no elevator, with the only bathrooms 3 levels back, are an embarrassing frustration today. And all those empty classrooms…

Looking at one’s assets appreciatively can help leaders see potential rather than problems. It helps us see ourselves in the same way God sees us: gifted, strong, a clean slate.

Areas to examine appreciatively include people as well as buildings. What gifts for ministry has God assembled in your congregation? What do people love to do? What needs in the greater community are speaking to the hearts and minds of many in your congregation?

Regarding the greater community, invite some “outsiders” into your building, particularly those doing good works that align with your congregation’s values.  What outside needs could be beautifully met by those empty classrooms?  These potential partners, unaware of your dashed dreams of the past, may jump up and down with excitement about what could be done in the future – and they may even pay rent to do so.

Appreciative work results in a shared vision for a congregation’s future, directing strategic decision-making. It inspires support for changes such as a new partnership with a social service agency to use your space, or launching capital campaign to update buildings in order to make them accessible and comfortable.

Linda Buskirk

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