Building a Social Imaginary

Brad M. Griffin | Sep 30, 2011

What gives your ministry the most life?

How would folks have answered that question five years ago? Twenty-five years ago?

How do you hope people answer that question a year from now?

Recently Fuller professor Mark Lau Branson spoke with our Sticky Faith Cohort about utilizing the toolkit of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to help learn life-giving lessons from congregations in order to lead them forward into a new season of life. The basic definition of AI involves the discovery of what gives life to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable

One of the assumptions behind this approach is that there are successes and life-giving narratives in every organization, and listening to those narratives is essential to moving forward in healthy ways into the future. In fact, carrying forward pieces of the past into the future gives people more confidence in where the organization is going.

My favorite part of this is what comes after you listen. You enter a phase of imaging together, or as Branson says, exploring what might be by interpreting what youve heard, taking the risk of imagination, and building toward a social imaginary concerning what should be.

I love the image of a social imaginary. Maybe its just a fancy word for brainstorming. But maybe its something more akin to what true leadership facilitates in a community. Over the next month, listen for whats giving life to the people around you as they participate in your ministry. Then go build a social imaginary with them as you dream toward the future together.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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