This text is a summary of the key tools on this website.  We use this text to generate a pdf for workshops

Expanding your options when working with groups

Community Development Workshop Baptist Care

There are many processes for getting groups to work together.  Many of us in ministry have often relied on just three.  The worship service, the bible study and the committee meeting. Each of these are groups processes has a clear set of expectations and a fixed form everyone knows and understands.  And each of these processes will continue into the future.

But what you might not realise is that the dominance of these three processes inhibits our ability to see other options.  We miss the other tools.  Those which stir group creativity.  Those which change depending on the topic in the room. And even those which harness group dissent!

List of Tools

We offer you this list to expand your repertoire so you become better at working with groups of people in your congregation and in your wider community.

With more tools you will find you have more options for working with your church and community groups.

The list is neither exhaustive nor perfect.  You might already know ways of working with groups that aren’t on our list.  And we know you will have to adapt any given suggestion or tool into your local setting.

Each of these tools has been tried and tested by us and others like us who are discerning God amongst the people around us.  These tools work with church people and the wider community.

Notice the way we have gathered processes under three headings:

  • Groups Process
    Group process are like the ‘committee meeting’ process.  It is what you use to organise the groups time together as a whole.  You can apply and follow the process (open space, world cafe and variations).
  • Mini Tool
    Mini tools are like calling a group to prayer – it is something particular we do inside the meeting to help us move past a particular point.  You use mini tools inside a group process.  They don’t stand alone (sticky notes, dot democracy):
  • Intention
    Intentions is the way in which your mental attitude you carry into the space of working with groups.  This is the most important matter out of the three.  If you have clear intentions and poor group process your people will still work with you (discernment, questions principle based learning).

Group Process – Asset Mapping

The primary aim of asset mapping is to connect resources and people together and to flush out the hidden resources which are available to a community.  The secondary aim is to create a physical map of the people and resources of a community.  There are both complex versions and simple versions of this process (eg. that which they know (head) that which they are personally passionate about (heart) and that which they can do (hands).

Groups Process – Open Space Technology

Open Space is a powerful process for people to come together to explore and plan the issue that they most care about. There is an over arching question (‘wicked question’) which is developed by the initiating group.  Open Space is effective when people are passionate about something, there is a wide variety of perspectives, when there is potential for conflict and / or if the issue needs to be addressed quickly.

Group Process – Circle Gathering

Gathering in a circle (without tables between us) to get people to speak with intention, listen with attention and care for the group is a powerful way to slow and deepen  conversations. This works best with smaller groups- up to 12.

To do this well you as the host you should get across the Four Fold Practice for hosting

1: To be present – Host yourself

2: Practice Conversations – Speaking with intention

3: Hosting Conversations – Inviting Communities into meaningful conversations

4: Co-creation – working with others to create something new together

There is a great youtube video of a person talking about this hosting process and the practice.

Group Process  – World Cafe

A World Cafe is a series of conversations in a cafe style setting (with coffee and cake). People spend time around tables considering one question per table.  After a time the majority of the group moves to a new table with a different question.  Working up the questions and flow is really important in this process.

Mini Tool – Sticky Notes

Sticky notes give people equal opportunity to share their ideas or concerns in a structured and respectful way.  At the start of the session sticky notes help people to land on what their main concerns are before putting people into group work.

i.e. asking people to articulate on three notes what they are sad, mad, glad about or what contribution they might make from their head, heart and hands.  You might use this mini tool in conjunction with Open Space Technology.  You can use sticky notes inside traditional committee meetings and even worship when seeking a response from people.

Mini Tool – Dot Democracy

So your group has created a long list of things to do- but how do you priorities the list?  You give participants five sticky dots and ask them to put their dots next to items which they are willing to give their own time and energy.

Intention – Discernment

Christians believe that God’s voice can be discerned, we assume that God is accessible and amongst us because of the reconciling role Jesus has played in human history. Each church traditions offers an approaches (contemplative, charismatic etc) for this discernment purpose.   One of our tasks as Christian leaders is to discern God’s call.  To discern God’s call on our own lives and the lives of those around us, as individuals and as a group.

We each have sought to discern God in our lives and the lives of those in our congregations.  But we often have put less thought of how we might engage our community in a similar processes of discernment.  Hence this paper!  We aim to expand the options you have for engaging your congregation or community in discerning with one another.

Intention – Questions

Framing questions to is vitally important.  People grow in the direction of the questions they ask. The questions we ask and the way we construct them will focus us in a particular manner and will greatly affect the outcome of our inquiry.

Resource: The Art of Powerful Questions – Catalizing insight, innovation and action by Eric E Vogt, Junita Brown and David Isaccs

Intention – Principle Based Learning

Sometimes we try to copy what has worked for others even when we know intuitively that this isn’t going to work.  So if there is no point copying what is an alternative?

The answer is simple.  We are searching for the principles behind  a successful project.

So we ask questions like

  • What has worked well here?
  • What are the principles behind this project or event?
  • If we take these principles to my people and place how might they shape what we are already doing?

Principle based learning looks for opportunity to learn and expand our thinking and discernment as a group.  It looks for overarching principles and is not interested in following programmes.


‘Expanding your Options’ was written  by

Rev. Peter McDonald, Uniting Church Minister

Executive Manager Advocacy and Community Relations – Uniting Communities

The workshop was conducted by Rev Joanna Hubbard, Senior Consultant, Church Community Development, Baptist Care March 2015

Faith in Action is a small group of people in ministry committed to improving the way we lead and interact with groups.  It is shaped by Asset Based Community Development Principles which invites us to look at our strengths and capacities before considering any  needs and what is wrong.  We offer training, hold monthly reading group and offers a quarterly  professional development experience using our own case studies.