Queries for our state of the meeting report

At our business meeting last Sunday (2/10/08), we used the following five queries to provide input into our State of the Meeting report. There was time for three sequential worship-sharing groups, so people got to pick which three queries they most wanted to respond to. The exercise was well received, and several people who had to leave early got to participate in at least one small group.

Afterwards, I realized how important it is in an unprogrammed Friends meeting to have time for "voice and choice." We spend the bulk of our official time as a community in large group meetings for worship or for business, and in practice only a few people talk much. Breaking up into small groups is a crucial way for more people to have a chance to speak up and be listened to.

And the opportunity to pick which three of five queries meant that people had some control of what they would talk about and in what order. That seems important, too -- so often, the clerk or perhaps the committee clerks set the agenda for business meeting, and so to offer an occasional chance for individuals to help regulate the flow for her- or himself seems healthy.

Here's what we considered:
  1. In what ways are we a community for growth and transformation – individually, corporately and in the world?

  2. What challenges do we face as a meeting? In what ways can we make our challenges into opportunities for growth?

  3. What are the gifts and assets we have as a meeting, that we bring to all of these questions?
      » spiritually: personal spiritual gifts, community relationships
      » financially: investments, assets, donations (to and from meeting), property
      » communally: acts of service and care for one another and the wider community/world

  4. In what areas do we need to know more, either through education or through worshipful discernment?

  5. Where is God calling us at this time?

If anything, we didn't have enough time for the amount of possible material. Most of the groups were three to five people, which seemed just right. I received several positive comments that engaging this way was positive and inspiring. I also realized that in writing the queries -- as with any set of Quaker queries -- I got to insert my own values implicitly into the process by which questions I posed. All around, an interesting process!


cubbie said...

my values and i really like those queries a lot. i also really liked that experience. thank you. my only critique would be that the questions could have been more clearly labeled. but see, the "ideal solution" for me would have been that each of us would have had a piece of paper with a little map with the questions in the places that we would go-- so that we'd know all our options at once, and which number was which, etc. but, um, hello paper... and lots of work! so, that's not ideal, and then i think to how it worked, and i think it was generally workable. some of the older folks seemed to have some difficulty grasping it all, which is part of why i thought if the map, so i can't necessarily say it was all perfect since i can't speak for them. but i liked it.

Chris M. said...

cubbie: I'm glad you and your values like them! Yes, yes, the logistics were totally last-minute. I was blessed to have put together the queries and some other prayerful thinking a week ahead of time. Then I got an ear infection on Friday evening and I wasn't able to do any more planning. So the result was what you saw, put together ten minutes before business meeting on Sunday, with a little help from Jeff to hang the papers!

leftistquaker said...

My meeting has used worship-sharing for SoS reports for at least 8 years, which I helped institute. Prior to that M&C did all the writing. We are having the next session on 2/24. We are probably too small at the moment to have break-out groups.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments. I have passed them on to our M&W to consider as we draft our State of the Meeting report. Hope that's OK.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for sharing this process, Chris. I'm always looking for new ideas to get more worshipers involved and engaged in the life of the meeting, and having input into the state of the meeting reports is a fine opportunity to do just that!

I also appreciate the attention to small groups as a way to "change it up" and hopefully encourage more Friends to speak up.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Anonymous said...

I wish our Mtg. had had your queries earlier! (but I'm sending them on to our M&C com.; hopefully, they'll remember them next year). I felt they really got at what we should be looking at as a Religious Society of Friends, especially since they went beyond focusing on looking inward.

Chris M. said...

@LQ: That's good to know. It does seem like a really helpful way to gain perspective more widely from the community.

@Susanne, Liz, and Sherrill -- I'm glad to hear of your reactions, and that these were useful to consider.

-- Chris M.