No tools, techniques or theory! Just facilitation theology

Manifesto Header 1

You may not know that I was once the director of religious education for a church in the 1980s. I have always been quite fascinated with religion and theology. I do not profess to be a scholar of religion. I have been brought up in, practiced and studied several. But I do know of all my many colleagues, friends and family, who practice from a wide variety of religions or spiritual beliefs, that we share many underlying core values that also must show up when we do our best facilitation work.

So today, no, I am not going to share theory, tools, techniques, rather, I am going to share a little bit about my own philosophy of life and a few brief theology of facilitation tips.

I’m going to offer a few of my recent discoveries as I study and practice. One in particular that I learned from Brené Brown, who did the famous Ted Talk on shame and vulnerability (see resource section below), is about an exercise called building your own life manifesto. I will share mine with you – and yikes – yes, that feels a little scary! But my hope in doing so, is that it gives you something really intriguing to think about. It will also help you discover what is really most important to you and what is your life’s work in this or another profession. Please share some of your practices or values that help you be a masterful facilitator, trainer, mediator, coach or consultant. We’ll publish if you email them or you can offer comments directly below the blog.

Theology of facilitation tip # 1

If you look at some of the major world religions, they generally share some common values that I think are key to our work with groups. These common values include, but are not limited to: serving others, doing unto others what you would have them do to you (see resources below on this specific one), not harming or hurting others, loving one another, working for peace in the world, being tolerant of others, not taking that which is not freely given, and telling the truth.



So ask yourselves:


      1. How do you put this into practice with your groups?


      1. How do you ensure that you do not harm when you design and execute your agenda?


      1. How do you ensure that you are building peace?


    1. How do you ensure that everyone in the room is encouraged to tell the truth, to be sensitive and tolerant of others?

I think if we put this lens on every thing we do, our work with groups will be much more satisfying, and much more sought after. People will leave with a definite sense of being uplifted.

Theology of facilitation tip # 2

I was on a weeklong silent meditation retreat recently. The meditation facilitators did many things that I really loved that I found uplifted my spirits and gave me a clear focus. First thing they did was read a poem at the beginning and/or ending of every sit. I find appropriate poems, i.e., ones that really resonate with the values of the culture and the organization are a beautiful gift to offer. I have had facilitation colleagues who have used poetry. I have not and it is something that I hope to do more of. I had the inspiration during my retreat, to start a global facilitation poetry page on my webpage soon. So please send me your poems you’ve found helpful in groups you are facilitating. It would be wonderful to see it in its original language (if not English) and with an English translation, if possible. We can start this “shareware” page and have poems of all different languages that might resonate with different groups.
So the tip is: quote or post relevant poetry or inspirational quotes when you can.




Theology of the facilitation tip # 3

Know yourself and your own values really well. Know what is most important to you. To help you think about this, I share some of the questions that Brené Brown asked us to come up with our life manifesto. I would really like you to enroll in her online course, however, so I’m not giving them all to you. Her online courses are called Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. You can find them below in the resources section. By doing this, you will have much more confidence and clarity when you are working with groups.

Here are some of the questions:

• The values that guide me in my effort to show up and be seen are . . .

• I must do something about . . .

• I am most passionate about . . .

• I have the courage to . . .

• I am on this planet to . . .

• I will dare greatly by . . .

And below is a copy of my life manifesto based on answering all the questions plus more. Please feel free to share with those who you think will respect it. Otherwise just keep it for yourself. It does make me feel a little vulnerable.


Manifesto 2

May you all go well. May you be happy and healthy. May you know that you are exceptional in the work you do.




• A great book by Jon and Maureen Jenkins: The 9 Disciplines of a Facilitator
• Brene Brown Ted Talk: search on “ted brene brown vulnerability youtube”

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. TreeBressen on June 1, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I suggest that a central experience in “facilitation theology” is deliberately engaging with spirit in some form as part of the work. Personally, i need to set time aside before each session to center/ground/pray, to move my ego out of the way so as to offer a clear channel for whatever the group requires. When facilitators gather and let our hair down, practitioners acknowledge that when the work is flowing at its best, there is a sense of something larger than our small selves moving through. In the Group Works deck, the pattern entitled Spirit is an attempt to acknowledge this: Cheers!

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