Much of organisational development work takes on a deficit tackling approach - it asks people to think of the problems that they and the organisation experience and then seeks ways to overcome those problems. The difficulty with this approach is that you focus a lot of energy on what doesn't work and forget to look at what does.
A solutions focused approach suggests that we
* Don’t fix what isn’t broken
* Find what works, and do more of it.
* Stop doing what doesn’t work, and do something else.
Taken from the Solutions Focus website.
Which sounds easy enough but what does that mean in practice? For example you are really worried about the number of people coming to services - it is dwindling. What to do - should you do more posters and fliers, should you put a bright poster on you external notice board, should you put an advert in the paper? None of these things - at least not in the first instance.
First think about when you do get a few more people - it may be at baby-naming ceremonies, for harvest or at Christmas. Think about why those events work - and then ask can we do more? So they might work because people invite friends and family to special events - so
** have a few more special events. Do not overstretch yourselves - special events cannot happen all the time or they are no longer special.
** invite people to your usual services. Perhaps you could extend your ideas on whom to ask along. Do you talk about your faith to others? I was chatting to my reflexologist and kept mentioning (probably most weeks as we discussed spirituality quite a bit) our services and one that I was planning. She decided to give us a try and now she, her daughter and her mother are active members.
** invite another congregation to share a service either another Unitarian one nearby or with another faith community - there may be friends and family of people in the other Unitarian congregation who live nearby who could be invited or you may find people in another local congregation who have never been to you and having been once may come again;
** most importantly think what works for you and do more of that - you identify the problem and then ask when does this problem not happen? Focus on those exceptions and do more to make those exceptions happen more frequently.
It is also useful to ask yourself what skills and interests there are in the community. At our local meeting house we had lots of people who liked to walk so we started a monthly walking group - which has now been going for nearly three years. Other people (family and friends) will come along to walks when you can talk with them and find out what they may be looking for in a faith community and you might get some pointers about what would attract them.
I hope that this posting shows that developing your faith community is about focusing on what you can do - alone or with help - and not about focusing on the problems. It is also about doing what works for you rather than following a list of actions which do not necessarily relate to what works well for you and yours. And always keep smiling! What we have is precious.