screen-shot-2012-07-05-at-1520101Facilitation
What an unattractive word! Yet behind it lies an important skill; that of helping a group discussion to be fruitful and come to meaningful conclusions.

In this short series I will share some of the things I have learned when I have been a facilitator in various settings. For instance, when I help a church carry out a Health Check on a ministry among the poor I facilitate a discussion with the team which allows them to consider the key characteristics and performance of their ministry and to produce an action plan to make improvements. Another example would be a discussion I was asked to facilitate recently about how a team could work strategically in Burundi to contribute to cultural transformation through the outworking of the gospel.

Key features
What are the key aspects of facilitation? There are six:
1. Goal of discussion – outcomes sought
2. Who is involved in discussion
3. Context for discussion
4. Structure and timing
5. Preparation
6. Facilitator’s role and practice

What are we trying to achieve?
When gathering together as a group, whether to review a situation or to make some decisions, it is important for all the participants to be clear what is the purpose of the discussion and what are the expected outcomes.

When I help a church carry out a Ministry Health Check I explain that the purpose of the discussion is to create an action plan to address issues that need attention and thus raise the standard of ‘good practice’ of that ministry by highlighting a) what is successful about the particular ministry and b) those aspects of the ministry which have been less successful.

While defining these expected outcomes it is important to show what benefits will result first for the ministry as a whole and second to the individual members of the team by greater fulfilment and effectiveness in what they are doing. Clearly it is not possible to be very specific in advance as to what these benefits will be but it is important for all participants to be well motivated to be involved in the process. This is helped by sensing how they personally might benefit.

Next time we will look at who should take part and at some very practical matters such as the physical environment for constructive discussion to take place.

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