I just spent the past few days learning the appreciative inquiry model of coaching from Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle, founder and director of the Clergy Leadership Institute. It was the main focus of the “Coaching Academy” organized by the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation, which I’m excited to be a part of. One of the key insights for me was that storytelling is a key component of appreciative inquiry.
In the simplest sense, appreciative inquiry is about asking good questions that focus on the positive aspects of a situation or problem, in order to get a person (or group) telling stories that reveal how to accentuate the positive (rather than how to eliminate the negative). As Rev. Voyle said, “Appreciative inquiry engages all stakeholders in the storytelling.”
It’s, of course, this storytelling piece that is most interesting to me, and a lot of what Rev. Voyle shared with us resonated with me in terms of how well it aligned with my own thinking about kingdom journalism and missional church.
So often in conversations about church — and especially denominational decline — we focus on the negative: “Why are people leaving?” Appreciative inquiry flips that question on its head and asks, “Why are people staying? Why are people engaged in faith community of any kind at all?”
I found Rev. Voyle’s own answer to that question quite compelling: “Grace is somehow available there in such a way that we can receive it.” May it be so.