Mark Lau Branson
When First Presbyterian Church in Altadena, California, was asked to provide a mission study report for its pastor nominating committee, the congregation was afraid that they would find themselves engaging in busy work and producing a report that would wind up in a file gathering dust. They then asked professor Mark Lau Branson to consult with them on writing this report, who invited them to join in a process of Appreciative Inquiry—a transformational organization change process—which resulted in a major shift in congregational conversations and a new sense of hope.
Memories, Hopes, and Conversations recounts the experience of First Presbyterian and outlines a process that any congregation can utilize to harness the energies of the congregation at all levels of its common life. Branson first leads readers through the foundations of Appreciative Inquiry and bracingly explores biblical texts for understanding the practice in a faith context. He then outlines and illustrates a four-step process—Initiate, Inquire, Imagine, Innovate—that creatively employs constructive conversations and questions to evoke storytelling and spur imaginations.
Branson persuasively demonstrates how concentrating on needs and problems can mire a congregation in discouragement and distract from noticing innate strengths. By focusing on memories of the congregation at its best, members are able to construct “provocative proposals” to help shape the church’s future. Grounded in solid theory and real-life practice, Memories, Hopes, and Conversations is a groundbreaking work of narrative leadership and the first book to apply the principles of Appreciative Inquiry to the lives of congregations.
For those who purchased Memories, Hopes, and Conversations, click here to download resources.
“Mark Lau Branson has done all of us within the church a great service by offering an understandable and doable model for attentive conversation, critical reflection, and faithful envisioning.” —Inagrace T. Dietterich
“At last a book on congregational change that takes seriously what it means to be the people of God. Mark Lau Branson invites us into a process for forming missional congregations rooted in the conviction that God’s future is among God’s people. The frameworks of Appreciative Inquiry are presented through the story of one congregation struggling to articulate its identity when so much had changed. More than theory, it’s the life experience of a congregation. In its story are the resources for shaping the narratives of your congregation.” —Alan Roxburgh, President, Missional Leadership Institute
“Published studies on local congregations usually focus on high-profile, affluent, suburban churches serving homogeneous populations. The criteria and methods applied in such contexts usually serve only to increase the sense of despondency for struggling urban, small town, and rural congregations. Mark Lau Branson provides us with a creatively refreshing alternative approach. By treating the local church as a living organism, he bases his Appreciative Inquiry on the stories and aspirations of the people. His case study is of a church that is urban, multicultural, and aging, yet the members believe that God has a future for them. Thousands of churches across North America will benefit from the process of Appreciative Inquiry described in this book.” —Eddie Gibbs, Fuller Theological Seminary
“In Presbyterian ordination vows we promise ‘to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.’ Mark Lau Branson helps us unleash godly energy, engages our intelligence, fires our holy imagination, and grounds our love in thankfulness. This book points beyond organizational technologies to an attentiveness that resonates particularly well in relational, nonconfrontational cultures. It integrates ministry and Appreciative Inquiry in a revealing, refreshing way—a creative gift to churches seeking transformation by God’s Spirit.” —Rev. Steven Toshio Yamaguchi, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Los Ranchos
Alban No. AL278
paper, 156 pages
($14.40 for members)