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Lunch n Learn: How Do We Decide?

By: David Stucke, Dakotas Conference Communications

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Consensus building sounds simple, but lasting consensus is truly elusive. Ann Crews Melton, executive director of The Consensus Council, led participants through the process of truly listening, establishing our values, finding common ground, and building commonalities ("ground rules", in a way) where all stakeholders' views are respected and considered. They probably won't all be 100% happy, but they will feel included and respected.

In all her Consensus Council meetings, Crews Melton begins with everyone checking in. It's important to respect how people are doing when they get to the table, as it provides a frame of reference that they see this meeting in, and helps others respect their experience at this juncture. It can be very valuable to bring in a facilitator, someone who doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome of your group's efforts. Often, the pastor is the facilitator in a setting of church decision-making, but at times a neutrol, outside facilitator can be very helpful.

It is crucial to allow all persons to voice their concerns, to discuss, clarify, and then propose a solution to test it in the group to see if there is a consensus. If not, the group needs to modify the solution and check it again, until a consensus is reached in which all people feel represented and included.

Many voices from participants gave examples of situations they have experienced, both good and poor. 


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