Faith Based Facilitation model going from strength to strength
BY LERISSE SMITH
An exciting initiative focused on creating a safe space for Salvos to explore their viewpoints on a myriad of topics is proving to be a great tool for ministry.
The Faith Based Facilitation (FBF) model has gone from strength to strength with a diverse range of more than 100 FBF Facilitators now trained to run facilitated conversations throughout the Australia Territory, coming from all different roles, ranks and life experiences.
No topic is off limits, no question is wrong, and there are no hidden agendas. So, what is the key to its success?
“It’s an excellent model, a great way of getting people – who differ in perspectives and experiences – to sit together to discuss topics that are important in their lives, in a way that is non-confrontative, says Casey O’Brien Machado, Territorial Faith-Based Facilitation Coordinator and Trainer, and Alternate Chair of the Moral and Social Issues Council (MASIC) Australia.
“There is nothing remarkable about the FBF model in itself – it’s simply a way of working that has turned out to be very helpful to people. The safety of having a cycle to follow gives people a process by which to discuss things that are sometimes difficult otherwise.”
The ways in which the FBF tool can be used are limitless. It could be used to address issues within a corps, implement a new model or community program, to discussing sometimes difficult topics such as racism, voluntary-assisted dying, sexuality and more. FBF conversations usually take the form of a facilitated discussion between eight to 10 people, lasting 90 to 120 minutes, sharing viewpoints and ideas, reflection, reading of Scripture and prayer.
Equipping FBF Facilitators with great resources has been integral, while MASIC has produced guides to help support facilitators in running discussions on topics such as vaccinations and religious freedom, with more to come.
Captain Richard Day, Corps Officer at Port Augusta (SA), is a great believer in the effectiveness of the FBF tool, having been trained as a facilitator – and highly recommends it to others.
He recalled enjoying the practical elements of the training and putting into practice the FBF process by having conversations utilising the process. The training also gave the participants some general examples of topics to give them an idea of how they could use the FBF process.
“The thing I love about the FBF process is you never know where the conversation is going to go,” Richard said. “You can go in thinking it’s going to go down the path of XYZ, but then you get the conversation happening and, all of a sudden, it’s like going down the path of HIJ. It’s about where the people are at, what they are thinking, what comes out of the conversation.”
Richard said he used the FBF process a lot in decision-making and talking to different groups of people about daily life. It’s also used amongst his staff too.
“The thing I love about it is that it’s not about getting everyone to get to the same point and everybody to agree,” he said. “But it’s about getting people to a point to think about why they believe, what they believe. It might re-enforce what they believe or change their thinking slightly or give them something more to think about. And it’s ok to disagree. Life was not meant to be so simple where everyone agrees on everything.”
“You can get to the heart of an issue using the FBF process. It’s been fantastic. Hopefully, a lot more people will get involved and pick it up.”
One discussion topic that can often prove difficult to talk about and divisive within the church and wider community is same-sex attraction and relationships.
But this has not deterred Auxiliary-Lieutenant Roderick Brown, Corps Officer at Launceston (Tas.), who gave his congregants the opportunity to discuss the topic in a safe, non-judgmental, and respectful environment.
Roderick believes some contemporary issues Salvationists deal with, including sexuality, are not best addressed in the preaching platform but in the FBF space, as there are so many complexities and different experiences that people have and different circumstances and exposure.
Furthermore, he said a key component of FBF was to understand, as people of faith who want to share the love of Jesus, how best to explore this with people who have different world views to our own or people with different life experiences to our own.
“My view is, what is our role as disciples of Jesus Christ? To love people, to care for people, to show them the way of truth. But if, and if is a very strong word there, if there is any change needed, then it is not our job to convince people to change. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit,” Roderick said. “There is no condemnation for those who love Christ Jesus.”
The FBF tool also enabled authentic conversations where every voice was heard and valued.
For church members who took part in Roderick’s FBF conversations, it was an empowering experience.
“I found the whole session very comfortable, and it allowed everyone in the group to be open and honest and have a dialogue around same-sex relationships,” said John*, who attended one of the sessions.
For Sue*, it gave her an insight into how to be welcoming within the church-based setting and the role of believers within this space. “I am encouraged that The Salvation Army is having these conversations and allowing safety and space in suitable settings to allow conversations to occur,” she said.
Another participant, Jane*, said sitting with a group of like-minded people was lovely. “It did give me ideas on actions I could take to be more inclusive and challenged me to speak up when I am in discussion with other church members.”
In Port Augusta, Richard also led a successful FBF conversation with staff and volunteers on same-sex attraction, having been on a journey with the topic with friends who are in same-sex relationships and undertaking a research essay on ‘Holiness and Human Sexuality’. He’s looking forward to facilitating more FBF sessions in the future and opening it up to any topic.
In her role as an FBF Facilitator, Casey said she often found that people experienced God moving or speaking to them through others in an FBF cycle, particularly when they were open to hearing or learning things that they perhaps did not know before.
“I have found it really moving that often, when an FBF conversation finishes, people don’t necessarily all come to the same conclusion,” she said.
“I think there’s a beauty in that ... that supports our theological belief that God created each of us as individuals, each with the capacity to think for ourselves. We believe that God reveals himself to all people, and we can trust that he will do just that.”
Looking to the future, Casey hopes FBF will become ‘business as usual’ and another tool Salvationists have in their ministry.
For more information on FBF, you can contact Casey O’Brien Machado directly or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Names have been changed to protect their identity.