Setting Priorities

Two of my recent posts titled “The 80 Percent Rule” and “How Many Hats?” caused some respondents to bring up the subject of setting priorities in ministry. I’d like to share a tool that proved useful to me during my years in full-time parish ministry.

 

It’s called the Nominal Group Technique (NGT). If you Google “Nominal Group Technique” you will find a wealth of information about this approach to group decision-making. I first heard about it from Chuck Dull when he helped the Southeastern District plan its 40th anniversary convocation in 1979. I was asked to lead the task force that implemented NGT at the convocation with about 600 participants (about 60 groups of ten people in each group, as I recall, with a trained leader for each group). We used the questionnaire-by-mail companion to NGT known as the Delphi Process to reach another group of people whose input we desired but who were unable to attend the convocation. The convocation produced several priorities for ministry and mission that helped to set a course for the District (led by its president, Richard Hinz) for the next five to ten years.

 

Since then I have used NGT in various other settings, including the Board of Elders at Holy Cross in Fort Wayne when I came there in 1993. The use of NGT gave the Board an opportunity to clarify its expectations of me in my service as senior pastor. We started out with 30 items (all valid and good aspects of pastoral work) and ended up with nine top-priority items. The Board said, in effect, “We expect you to focus your energy, attention, and influence primarily on these nine items. We pledge ourselves to work with you.” That action proved to be a watershed moment influencing and shaping our work together for years to come.

 

NGT and Delphi are well and clearly explained in the 1975 book by A. L. Delbecq and A. H. VandeVen titled Group Techniques for Program Planning. When you do the Google search you will find a number of helpful and useful summaries of NGT.  I do suggest the book for the most comprehensive description of NGT and Delphi. (Most likely you will not have a need for Delphi, but it might come in handy in some situations.)

 

God bless you in your faithful service in His name, by His power, to His glory!