I had the amazing experience of watching communicative rationality play out among a group of high school freshmen yesterday. We held our annual Confirmation preparation day for this year’s confirmands. One of the big tasks for this day is to help the students create a group creed. This has not always gone well in the past. Typically it has been a very laborious and painful process that ends up with one or two students taking the project home and writing the final draft.
This year I decided to use Peter Block’s method of community building to empower the students to co-create. Here is how it worked.
First, I asked the group to nominate students who they believed would be able to stand in front of the group and lead them into making final decisions. Four names were mentioned and written on the board. Each of these students were given the option to accept or decline the nomination. They all accepted.
Next, I asked the group to close their eyes and imagine themselves at school, in a place where they would normally have a conversation with a friend. Then I asked them to imagine that a friend came up to them and asked them what they believe. This person has no church or religious background and they are honestly seeking to know what you believe and why it is important. I then asked the group to think about how they would explain each article of the Apostle’s creed to that friend who is asking the question.
Next, we read Article One of the apostle’s creed out loud in unison.
There was a section in their booklet marked: Round One – On your Own. explain article One in your own words. I gave them five minutes of silence to write down how they woudl explain, or restate, article one to their friend.
Next, I asked them to form groups of three. Half of the triads went to the next room so they could spread out. I asked them to each read their individual answers to the other two members of their group. Then, the three of them had to blend their answers together to come up with one statement.
Once all the triads were finished I merged the triads into groups of six. There were five groups of six, with one of them having nine in the group. These groups of six were asked to read their two statements that were created by the triad and, together, create one statement the they all agreed upon. When they were done with their statement, one person went to the chalkboard and wrote the statement on the board.
We knew that round was finished when five statements were on the board. This allowed a little free time for everyone to gather in the main room and chat a little while the statements were being written. It was a nice break.
Finally, once all the statements were written on the board, the elected student leader stood in front of the group and led them through the process of blending all the statements into one final statement that the entire group agree on. I sat in the back of the room and watched. They made a final decision, read the statement out loud, in unison, and wrote it in their booklets.
This process repeated two more times–three times in total–one for each article of the Apostle’s Creed. The entire process took almost three hours. It culminated in a truly communicatively co-created faith statement that the group will profess publicly at their confirmation service.
I was in awe as I watched this group of 14 and 15 year old students fully engage in every step of this process. They were fully invested in making these statements accurately represent them. It was a proud moment for me. This group has a particularly special place in my heart because they were sixth graders when I started teaching catechism, and now, four years later, they are about to be confirmed. They are maturing in their faith and it is so cool to see.
I was also in awe as a scholar. It is very rewarding when you take a theory that you read in a book and see it work in real time and space. This methodology is a solid process for helping a group of people co-create. It allows every person to have a voice. It empowers attentive listening and the painful process of combining ideas into a win-win scenario.
That was a a good day, both as a pastor and a scholar. Thanks be to God!