Tag: Faith

Can Agile transform faith communities?

Last Sunday, I had one of my most rewarding experiences as an agile coach. This wasn’t with a software team, as I normally work with, but with a small group of adult friends longing to belong to a vibrant faith community.

For a long time I have been disappointed and discouraged at the lost potential within church congregations, at the hunger for real community left unsatisfied. Most people attending church are not active nor engaged. A few people are doing a lot of work, much of which is not resonating and thrilling. It’s time to re-imagine how we in a faith community want to be in relation to one another, what we want to strive for together. We must take responsibility to create a healthy, vibrant community. For those who gathered on Sunday, this was the first tiny step on that journey.

Agile thinking and the Scrum framework have shown me that the processes and control structures we use greatly influence the values embraced and outcomes achieved. For our session I wanted to avoid it turning into a long rant of everything that is perceived wrong with the current situation. For me the goals of the session were:

  1. to find common ground across our individual experiences
  2. to establish a vision for the faith community experience we long for
  3. and to identify some steps needed to work towards that vision

After a hearty potluck meal, we began by sharing in a few words why we came and what we hoped to get out of our session. I then introduced the Remember the Future game, one of EnthiosysInnovation Games. The game helps people to define an end ‘product’ by looking at the steps in reverse. As humans we find it easier to understand and describe a future event from the past tense over a possible future event, even if neither even has occurred.

I asked everyone to pretend it’s a year from now, October 2010. were part of a vibrant faith community. Describe what it looks like. Jot down steps that were needed to get there. Each item was written on a separate sticky note. After 10 min of brainstorming we posted our stickies on flip chart paper and looked for emerging themes. From that process, four groups emerged. Taking the time to label each group brought deeper awareness of what matters to us in a vibrant faith community.

People became more comfortable sharing and participating as the evening progressed. I had hoped to continue the evening with the Sailboat game, a variation of the Speed Boat Innovation Game. This exercise would help us identify obstacles and opportunities towards reaching our goal of a vibrant community. Since time was running out and our kids were no longer interested in the movie they were watching, we skipped that and finished with an exercise to determine what to do next.

Circle of Questions is a retrospective activity from the book Agile Retrospectives by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby. In this activity, the group sits in a circle, and going around the circle, each person takes a turn asking a question to the person on their immediate left. The question can be about anything they like (barring anything offensive or attacking). The person to the left answers the question to the best of their ability, and then they ask the person to their left any other question (or the same question if they feel they’d like a better answer). This continues until the allotted time is up, or until you have gone around the entire circle twice, whichever comes last. (Thanks to John Wilger for the writeup)

The goal for our activity was to decide what to do next. What transpired was a deep sharing of desires, needs, struggles and hopes. Four guys being vulnerable to one another, listening attentively as each person took their turn. No fluffy stuff, no lighthearted chit-chat. This was a taste of that vibrant community we seek.

So what’s next? I plan to invite another group of people to go through the same exercises, and slowly build a group motivated and empowered to reach our goal. We’ll gather everyone together in about a month, again around a shared meal, and start to discuss community models already out there. Hopefully each gathering will contain the elements of lives connected, spiritual partnership, bonding mission and positive power.

This small experiment was a moving, powerful experience and we were only a group of 4. Imagine if this was done on a big scale with a congregation. We might find the shared vision and motivation to make a vibrant community a reality. I remain hopeful and determined, feeling called to use the gifts from Agile coaching to transform both places of work and worship.

It’s about relationships

The following is a posting I made on the DeoWeb discussion group, which reflects my thoughts on where online communications in the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie needs to shift (and DeoWeb‘s focus as a communications solution).

Have you been enjoying the discuss taking place? Have you been pleased to meet new people through this group, other people of faith who are interested in the same topic as you?

For myself, I give an enthusiastic “Yes!” to both of those questions.

You’ve now had a (small) taste, perhaps for the first time, of how online communications can help to draw people together, either to form new relationships or to strengthen existing ones.

We are so busy and so isolated nowadays that we don’t know who our neighbours are or the people next to us in the pew. Yet, we also have a need for meaningful and fun relationships.

Because of DeoWeb, I was able to find two people to help my busy wife with our two newborn twins and toddler. I did not know these people, and they did not know me. In a parish of 1100 parishioners, with 3 masses, the odds of us finding each other at church are slim at best. For Rowena and I, they are now a special part of our parish family.

Paul Falcioni, we really need to share the story of how DeoWeb is helping to revitalize your parish by re-connecting with schools. Perhaps I can get someone to write a story for you. I’ll get back to you.

This is just the tip of the ice berg. There are many more opportunities to build community using online tools.

Fact: More than 50% of time spent on the Internet is for social reasons, and not for research or buying another book at Amazon. My pastor spends more time counseling youth using instant messaging than in person. He has a profile on facebook.com.

Hence the proliferation of social networking sites like facebook.com, myspace.com, linkedin.com, mychurch.org.

Getting volunteers to input content for their ministry work has largely failed, and I am more convinced now that this won’t change, unless there is internal motivation to do so.

I think people are much more motivated to share about their personal lives, their hopes, questions and interests. Facilitating that kind of dialogue will bear much more fruit than say trying to get every CWL parish group to maintain a workspace. In fact, sharing the *personal* may spur the desire to promote the *pastoral*. When a lady shares what the CWL means to her personally, spiritually, others will connect with that and want to know more about the CWL.

I envision a revamped DeoWeb, where the focus is more on connecting people, where the information published is more personal and from the grassroots, and less from the established Church (parish and diocesan offices). A system that connects people who want to know each other, that builds meaningful relationships.

Paul Labelle, I hear your concerns about the people out there with extremist views that tear down rather than build community. There are very effective ways to avoid and mitigate a lot of that. We’ve just never invested much time on the people side of content… yet.

I also see a system that makes it easy to find quality faith-based content on the web, to nourish people on their spiritual journey. Some of this is being done already, but on a small scale. This would require the help of volunteers, to find those resources.

Who would like to see a Q & A section, where people could ask a hand-picked group of religious people from the Diocese questions about faith? There are already examples of this on the web.

We received last week a letter from the Ontario Catholic Bishops. What if there was a way to discuss it, and together come up with ways to live out the spirit of the letter, and then enable people to share what they are doing about it?

Jesus’ ministry was carried out through relationships, those intimate encounters that left people touched and loved. The woman at the well. The apostles in the boat. Martha and Lazarus.

If Jesus were physically present on this earth today, I think he’d be on facebook and in the chat rooms, while blogging about the challenges of following God’s path. Wait a minute. He is present now, through you and me. We’ve got work to do.

– Gerry

Grab your credit card for the big show

On Friday of last week, I got Fr. Tony’s podcast up on iTunes. The process is fairly straightforward. There is a large icon on the main podcast page in iTunes for adding your own podcast. You then have to type in the url of the podcast feed. The url is then grabbed and all the associated info (title, image, description, url) is displayed for you to verify. If there is anything wrong, it has to be fixed in the originating feed.
We’re using SermonCloud to host the homilies and it has some built-in iTunes support which is now much better after I reported a few glitches. Justin, the one guy who seems to be doing all the support is pretty quick to patch anything up.
You do need your own iTunes account and a credit card, even though you’ll never be billed for your podcast. I wish Apple didn’t treat podcasters the same as consumers who purchase music / games / videos / TV Shows through their site.
That aside, it’s pretty cool to see the podcast up there. There aren’t many other Catholic podcasts on iTunes yet, and I honestly think that Tony has the best homilies out of the handful of offerings, not to mention the best mug shot of them all. 😉
Go have a look at Tony’s podcast under the iTunes bright lights. Oh, and I should mention Fr. Tony is calling his podcast “This Foreign Land.” I’ll have him explain the meaning in a guest post.

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Breaking new ground

Fr. Tony Man-son-hing is one of the people pushing the boundaries of DeoWeb and online communication in the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. He was very active while working as the Chancellor, publishing content on a steady basis. This includes a weekly “In the Loop” news item for priests sent out via the message centre and published privately online.
In July, Fr. Tony was assigned to Christ the King parish in Sudbury and since then, I’ve been working with Fr. Tony on a podcasting initiative, which is tied in to DeoWeb’s 2nd anniversary celebrations. Well, now it’s up and running, with Fr. Tony’s last three homilies. The text as well as the audio is available, and people can log in and share their reflections. Check out Fr. Tony’s Pastor’s pen section. We’ve received a lot of favourable comments already.
The next step is to create an iTunes subscription, and to start getting the word out. This is an exciting development, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more priests climb on board. There are some gifted homilists in our diocese, including Fr. George LaPierre at my parish, St. Gerard-Majella. It seems every week someone is asking him for a copy of his homily (which he doesn’t have because they aren’t written) or wishing so-and-so had been at mass to hear him preach. Time will tell. 🙂
I’ll share more about how the podcast is put together in another post.

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