Exploring spirituality and religion in forum

Our religious and spiritual beliefs and practices can be a powerful theme to explore in forum.  One way to do so is as follows:

  • Invite each member to take about 5 minutes each to answer these questions:
    • The religious/spiritual background of my family of origin was…
    • As an adult, I still believe/practice the following…. I no longer….
    • (Optional, if relevant) My spouse’s religious/spiritual background was…. He/she still believes/practices the following….  He/she no longer….
    • My (or my family’s) current approach to religion and spirituality is working/is not working for me in the following ways…. And here’s how a feel about that….
  • After all have shared this background, members are invited to respond and resonate with each other, sharing what moved them, the emotion they felt, and what new memories or experiences came up for them.
  • At the end, go around the circle and each member shares a new insight, perspective, or question they are taking away from the conversation.

No problem is being solved, but important experiences and feelings are shared, helping all members get to a deeper level of self-awareness on this important topic.

Note: Members may appreciate knowing about this exercise and having the opportunity to prepare in advance.

The many alternatives to a standard four-hour meeting

Many forums standardize on one four-hour meeting monthly plus an annual retreat.  However, there are many ways to mix it up, to accommodate individual scheduling needs, and to build richer connections between members.  Some options to consider on an occasional or regular basis:

  • Try a shorter meeting between 2-3.5 hours, either because that’s what works one month or because your forum is smaller and less time is needed.
  • If you regularly have shorter meetings, consider adding a 30-minute check-in/quick update call between monthly meetings.
  • Once or twice a year, shorten the meeting to about 2.5 hours (time for updates and one presentation), and then go out to dinner or cater the meal in to a member’s conference room or home.
  • Plan a 5-6 hour mini-retreat, with or without a professional facilitator.
  • In the summer, rent a boat (or find a friend who has one). Go on a 2-3 hour cruise, including extended updates only, then socializing.
  • Plan a holiday dinner with spouses or a summer picnic with kids to get to know each other’s families.
  • Don’t limit connections to forum meetings. Meet one-on-one, either as part of the coaching process, as a follow-up to someone’s presentation, or to discuss shared personal or professional interests.
  • When requested by a member with an urgent issue, schedule an emergency meeting. Such sessions have only one agenda item – a presentation of the member’s urgent issue. The meeting usually lasts an hour or less and may be held via conference or video call.  Because the meeting is not on the regular calendar, absences don’t affect member attendance statistics.
  • If too many members are traveling, meet virtually using Skype, Zoom or another video meeting platform.