Groups, like people, can get tired and stale. As well as getting rest and refreshment for yourself, it may be time to shake up your meetings and find fresh ways of seeing those you work with – and the cause you share. Corin Pilling offers some suggestions involving curiosity, play and creativity that are guaranteed to liven things up!
The business of building and maintaining community can offer significant moments of joy. There can be times of deep connection that remind us why it’s worth sticking in there. There are the precious breakthroughs, in our lives or with those around us, when situations shift for the good. Sometimes those moments of joy come in the form of the simplest of gifts.
Yet as we all know, for those moments to have a chance to emerge there is the on-going business of heavy lifting and dutiful service. We often spend a good amount of time in meetings, which not only limits the ways we relate to each other, but also how we experience each other’s gifts.
When we consider different techniques for gaining energy for the task in hand, it’s often easiest to think of ways to restore ourselves outside of our context. The business of rest can become the business of escape. Of course, we need these breaks to keep life balanced, but is this enough?
It can be hard to spot the line where duty becomes trudge. Rather than a huge overhaul, perhaps it’s time to look at how we might enliven our life together. If we are burdened by duty, we might all benefit from a little light relief. At the centre of community is relationship, yet routine can keep us relating in well-worn patterns with each other. How about creating opportunities to connect in new ways?
I’d like to offer three lenses which might help us bring new energy to our routine – curiosity, play and creativity.
Adopting a curious approach to activities together can offer fresh perspectives, opening up new ways to communicate and fresh insights into each other’s way of looking at the world.
Speed networking: Spend an evening asking each other timed questions in pairs for three minutes, both at the lighter end of the spectrum and the more searching topics. Encourage everyone to approach each other as if you were meeting for the first time and come prepared with a few starter questions.
A walking meeting: Walking together offers a different dynamic – it seems we process problems with fresh perspectives and also alters the dynamics of meetings. This approach to holding a meeting can work with a small group or in a one to one situation.
Neighbourhood exploration: This is a snippet of an exercise we use with churches to help open their eyes to their neighbourhood. Write a list of questions about your area that might pique curiosity: ‘What works well here?’ ‘Who is around you haven’t noticed before?’ What is the most exciting thing you can see here?’ Add to this list, then send the group out to explore. On returning, share your refreshed perspective on the area.
Play is a crucial skill to learning in our early years, but one we can lose when we become adults. We sometimes need to learn to play together again!
Games evening with a difference: Many of us have tried games evenings, but what happens when we add a twist of asking the children in our community to help plan it? If this feels like a big commitment, perhaps a starting point might be asking them to teach you just one game. Allowing the experts at play to be in charge might shift power dynamics – risky!
Storytelling: Sharing positive stories can be a great way of creating bonding. Ask everyone in the group to share a 5 minute story, of ‘a time when it all came together.’ There will be encouragements to draw from.
Music – Improvising a tune together: This is dependent on having an encouraging musician on tap who can carry a tune and at least a box of percussion! When the tune is picked up, then everyone can be prompted to add their part. Success, if there is such a thing in this setting, is dependent on people being encouraged to ‘just have a go’ and let go of results.
Exercising creativity is something which could apply to all of these ideas, but the business of making something with others, or alone can be incredibly fruitful.
Draw your community story: Using symbols, drawings and only allowing single words, do a picture that aims to capture all that you are as a community. Encourage the use of symbols that might capture feelings. Ask people to share and draw in turn – not everybody needs to draw, but ensure everybody can make suggestions; take time to listen to each contribution and offer an overview at the end.
Share your passion in 10 slides for 10 seconds: This is a wonderful way to learn more about members of your group. The 10 slides can be pieces of paper with doodles or statements which tell the story of something each person feels passionate about. They are only allowed 10 seconds per slide.
Plant something: When you start a project together, mark the event by a shared planting event. Depending on the time of year, numerous options are usually available of what will take and grow. If you’ve got no shared space, seedlings to plant at home might be a more manageable way to share a significant occasion, or a new season of life together.
These ideas are just a few starters to re-energise some of the elements of being community together. I hope that they might lead to some new possibilities and even deeper appreciations of each other as you travel the road together.
Do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how you get on, or if you have any other activities to share that have worked well for your group.