5 Questions that Build Consensus

The way people come together to make decisions is really important. How they participate and feel is just as important as what they think should be done. If you want to build consensus in your organisation consider the following questions. You may even use these questions to discuss people’s experience of your decision making process at your next meeting and explore ways to make improvements.

1.  What is the shared purpose of our group?

It is extremely helpful for leaders in your church to be able to express their core purpose. Supporting people to reach a shared understanding of their purpose is a key leadership task. Once everyone fully understands why their group exists, they can live out of that purpose in the way they make decisions. They reflect and articulate their reason for being in the conversations they have and the decisions they make. This is much better than having leaders operating on different assumptions and a scattered sense of purpose. Be focused on why you exist and help people get on the same page to make decisions that reinforce their purpose. Some churches have a visioning retreat or meeting to intentionally articulate their core purpose.

2.  How do we make decisions together?

When people know and trust the process used to make decisions they can fully participate. When people feel unprepared, they cause problems or drop out of the work entirely. Have an orientation at the start of each year when leadership changes so that members are taught, or have reinforced, the way the group makes decisions. Explain the specific steps in your decision making process. Be sure to discuss the terms used so people understand and are comfortable with the way you make decisions.

3.  How do you help people grow in confidence as they gather to make decisions?

Making decisions can be difficult enough without having people’s feelings hurt by reactions to what is said. Foster self-awareness in your leaders so they can monitor how much they talk and how well they listen. Do all you can to promote respect. Encourage people when they participate and affirm them for their contributions. Support one another.

4.  How do you work with different opinions or conflict when making decisions?

Sometimes people disagree on a course of action. This does not make them disagreeable. In fact, exploring various viewpoints can help you eventually arrive at the best decision. Being soft on one another and hard (or serious) about the issues is vital when making decisions together. Take the time to acknowledge differences when they arise and what they mean for the people who hold those positions. Affirm that different ideas are important when working toward consensus. Be patient and provide information about the options that are raised. Explore options intentionally and fully.

5.  What happens to decisions once they are made?

Once a decision is made, your job is not done. A decision is meaningless unless plans are made to implement the decision. Members of your faith community must be informed when a decision is made. Otherwise, you will not get their support. Have a clear timeline for action steps and share it. Be transparent and open to questions from the wider faith community. Take the time to celebrate the decisions you make in appropriate ways. Communicate clearly, and in various ways, to get the word out on what is being done and why it is important to the church.

By carefully answering these 5 questions, you will find that your next major decision is easier to make, engages people and is actually implemented in a timely manner. What questions do you need to have answered if you are going to build consensus where you are? Share them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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Julia Wallace

Author: Julia Wallace

Julia is a layperson in the United Methodist Church, USA who works in Mediation and Conflict Transformation. She is co-author of the book: “The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together.”

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