Ground Rules

Ground Rules Chalk BoardOne of the things that I have discerned and developed in working in congregations and providing consultation to other congregations and non-profits is that it is important to have ground rules.  Ground rules allow for a safe space to have conversations, discussions and meetings.  They are especially helpful when engaging in difficult conversations where everyone may not agree.  They are also important, as such conversations often involve people’s wide range of emotions.

As I ponder some upcoming blog posts, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ground rules I have helped to develop. What I provide here are adapted versions of ground rules I used for leading a particular ministry team in a congregation.  I think that these ground rules generally apply to nearly every setting.  If your meetings or difficult conversations don’t have ground rules, you might think about creating some for yourself.  They can always be adapted as long as they are reviewed frequently.  Towards this end, I recommend actually taking a couple minutes at the start of every meeting to look over the rules in order that the conversation is grounded in them.  I also recommend that they be tailored to your particular committee, team, congregation, organization, etc.  

Ground Rules for the Team

The Team commits to each other that we shall at all times strive to:

  • Engage in active listening.
    • This means that when one is unsure of what another is saying or trying to communicate, that fellow committee members will ask clarifying questions.
  • Acknowledge that what we may be discussing may be at times difficult and be emotionally taxing.
    • This means particularly that given the situation of the larger community, conversations by this committee will happen amid tenderness and anxiety.  We acknowledge that anxiety can influence us to do things and act in ways that may not be normal, and we commit to each other to be honest about how we are feeling and to communicate to each other when we feel that we are speaking with too much anxiety and/or going in a direction that is not healthy and may be harmful or hurtful for other team members (even though likely not intended).
  • Act and communicate at all times with respect.
    • This means that we will be honest with each other, fair, but also speak appropriately and in constructive ways, not destructive.
  • Offer comments and perspectives that are constructive.
    • This means that instead of speaking out of ill will, malice, or hurt, what we say and do will be in the hope of building up each other as the team and as part of the larger work and mission of our organization.
  • Speak out of love.
    • This means that we will assume each other means well of one another, and that in order to express how we are feeling statements, that we will use “I Feel…” statements instead of directing feelings on another person or deflecting them elsewhere and not being direct about how we are feeling.
  • Revisit these ground rules frequently.
    • This means that we will continue to reflect on these rules to hold each other accountable, as well as to support each other in our work together in as healthy as means as possible.


What do you think?  Would these be helpful for you? 

Image Credit:  Ground Rules Chalk Board

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