As a follow up to many conversations that have taken place recently at various Christian health related conferences and informal gatherings, we would like to propose coming to an agreement amongst interested parties on how we would envision bringing all interested parties together to actually begin producing Best Practices in Health Related Missions consensus papers. I use the word consensus with the understanding that it may go too far in hoping that consensus can be reached by such a diverse and often times highly opinionated group such as we envision being part of this project. But for the purposes of this document I’ll leave the word in place. If this is to be a productive movement then we would do well to come to a “consensus” at least with how we would like to see these groups function effectively. I only write the following as an opening to what I hope will be a final agreement on how these groups will be built and operate.
- From the Center for the Study of Health in Mission website a topic will be selected for its most immediate application to the work being done globally in the realm of health related mission. For instance we could start with the topic of “how to work most effectively through the local church when doing community based primary health care.” Or someone visiting the website could identify a topic of interest and contact us as to their desire to facilitate this working group topic. Next:
- A call would go out in the form of an email to our listserve, as to who would like to participate in this working group. Or the identified facilitator and primary author could choose his/her working group team. Working groups will be made up, hopefully, of 4 to 6 individuals from a global community of Christian health practitioners.
- Structure of working groups: Primary facilitator and author, 2 or 3 to assist in research, and an editor. If it applies we would also seek to get input from other disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, missiology, etc.
- The primary author/facilitator checks for established international standards that may already exist. A decision will be made as to whether the standards are consistent with biblical standards and if so no further work may need to be done, other than comments. If there are elements that are felt to be inconsistent with a Christian worldview then these points will be addressed (this could be very tricky for instance on topics of birth control). If there are no international standards (such as “how to strengthen the local church) then an original working group paper is begun.
- A virtual space is created for group work (googledocs). Assignments are decided upon and deadlines established. We would anticipate at least a six months time frame for completion of the groups work.
- Once the paper is finished it will be posted for comment on the CenterforHIM website, and any others who would like to post it.
- After sufficient time for comments and possible additions the paper will be moved to either the CrossNetwork journal (in the appropriate format which is still being decided) for publication or will go into the archives under the appropriate heading (using the consensus papers format). It must be made search-able on the website.
Role of The Primary Author / Facilitator
- Will be in agreement with the CenterforHIM statement of faith, and overall vision and mission of the organization.
- Will be passionate, skilled and articulate about the topic in question.
- Must be a team player, willing to share the credit for the final product and be open to other perspectives
- Will produce the overall outline for the consensus paper and be the primary author for its content.
- Will assure that all members are complying with their responsibilities in a pre-determined time frame, serving as facilitator. See role and skills of a facilitator.
- Will understand that at times the consensus papers being written will have to do with controversial topics that do not have definite explanations in the scriptures, and as such, the paper will need to be written so as to express the understanding that portions of the consensus document may have other interpretations.
- Will seek to recruit contributors from multi-cultural backgrounds as well as those from varied Christian heritages. Contributors from varied disciplines of study, will also be recruited when appropriate.
Definitions for the role of Facilitator:
- “An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a ‘content neutral’ party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work” – Doyle
- “One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance” – Bens
- “The facilitator’s job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements” – Kaner
Skills of the facilitator:
- A facilitator is an individual who’s job is to help to manage a process of information exchange. The facilitator’s role is to help with HOW the discussion/working group work is proceeding.
- The higher-order skills involve monitoring the group and its individuals in light of group dynamics.
- In addition, facilitators also need a variety of listening skills, even though this may only be via electronic (email) means, including ability to paraphrase; stack a conversation; draw people out; balance participation; and make space for more reticent group members.
- It is critical to the facilitator’s role to have the knowledge and skill to be able to intervene in a way that adds to the group’s creativity rather than taking away from it.
- A successful facilitator embodies respect for others and a watchful awareness of the many layers of reality in a human group.
- In the event that a consensus cannot be reached then the facilitator would assist the group in understanding the differences that divide it.
- Michael Doyle, quoted in Kaner (see below), et al., 2007, p. xiii.
- Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools and Techniques to Master Difficult Situations, Bens, (2000), p. 5.
- Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making (Jossey-Bass Business & Management) Sam Kaner and colleagues (2007) p. 32.