Almost 12 years ago I was seated around a U-shaped table with about a dozen other like-minded strangers curious about something called “The Journey” and sizing up two men in the room who appeared to be in charge.… Randy Reese and Rob Loane.
Within the first couple hours of our multiple days together, they did more question- asking and listening than they did teaching or talking. The strangers were becoming people I wanted to learn from as well, the atmosphere was safe and welcoming. I could feel myself being authentically invited into a conversation around “what is required to help adults grow spiritually toward Christ and maturity” which we would explore together over the next couple days.
I was hooked!
Everything that I had learned to be true about how adults best learn and grow during my graduate school preparation for a Ph.D. in Adult Learning—which I had every intention of using in an academic or corporate setting—was refreshingly being applied to adults wanting to discover who God is, who they are, and what God wants to do through them for Kingdom purposes.
I was not unique.
Around that table 12 years ago, and every year since, in locations scattered across North America and beyond, the ministry of VP3 continues to uncover developmentally minded leaders.
What is a developmentally minded leader?
I have a hunch that as a reader of this blog you lead adults and care about their ongoing development. With my “Practical Pam” hat firmly on, let me encourage you with my top three non-negotiable adult learning tips. You will notice similarities between them.
I challenge you to identify an upcoming adult meeting, small group, or important gathering, thinking about how to integrate these strategies as you lead.
1. Ask and Include.
Resist the urge to be the answer-man/woman. There is so much more to be gained by asking and including participants’ input before you begin, when you gather, and all along the way. “Why did you choose to come? What expectations do you have? What will make this a good use of your time? What do you hope for?”
In the process of including others through our questions we gain so much more than answers. We demonstrate our ability to listen, earn respect, observe, build enthusiasm, show that we are in this together, and create a warm, safe, trusting environment.
2. The power of dialogue.
A couple of statements we repeat around VP3 are, “conversation creates culture” and “the answers are in the room.” Both mandate a way of being together that put a priority on contribution from everyone, through a process of questions, reflection and generous conversational space.
I would like to have a dollar for every conversation I have with a friend, a facilitator of one of the VP3 processes, a pastor or leader, and even with myself, around “what are you thinking about for next steps?”
Deep in the DNA of my spiritual life, and therefore the lens I see others’ personal spiritual DNA, and also the “BIG C” life of the church, is that we ought to be thinking about our next steps for growth. There are always next steps. Jesus talks about things that grow all the time. There is an expectation that we, too, will grow. And in my language, I’ve adopted the words, “What are your next steps?”
To a friend it may sound like, “So, what’s your next move?”
To a facilitator of The Journey process, “Are you helping each of your group participants think about their next steps after The Journey concludes?”
To a Pastor and church leader, “Are you thinking about your church’s next steps for adult spiritual growth? Do you find yourself thinking about some kind of pathway for that growth?”
Let me pull back the curtain on ways we may find our selves thinking about next step conversations.
I am declaring here, that it cannot be done.
You must choose.
Forward steps OR paying attention.
But not both at the same time.
One of my roles with VantagePoint3 is to support the more than 100 facilitators leading a VP3 adult process in their local church. It is a role I deeply enjoy.
Whether you are one of those facilitators or not, my hunch is that if you are reading this blog, you are leading a group of adults right now. That’s the kind of people we are. Perhaps my own experience of hitting the pause button and “really noticing each person” is well timed for you.
The small group I am investing in is participating in The Journey, the first step in the VP3 pathway for adult development. I have led groups like this many times. But this year I found myself a bit disappointed with how well we are all bonding. The depth of sharing isn’t what I desire. There is also one individual that just seems more removed from the others. Less invested. Cautious. This has been troubling to me. So I’ve wanted to “fix” that person. You know, show them the light of my leadership and get them moving along. I asked for an appointment so we could talk about what I was seeing.
I absolutely love learning. Sign-me-up-Sally for the next opportunity! So over the years, as I’ve accumulated a degree or two, it’s been a humbling thing to frame the diploma only to recognize that God has shifted my career trajectory and I don’t have the ideal credentials.
This humbling wave rolled up to my doorstep again last week as we gathered for our annual VP3 Team Days. This is only my second year at the Team Days table and the focus for more than half of our time together: THEOLOGY!
What the rest of the team didn’t know is that every time I hear a Pastor or colleague say, “that’s a question of theology….or theologically speaking…” I question if I know enough to contribute to the conversation because I don’t have the right degree. I even looked up what “theology” meant earlier this summer during one of my private waves of insecurity.
Brother Vic Gordon, VP3 Board Member and founder of Gospel Depth was our guest teacher and he helped me SO much! Vic’s goal for our time together was to help us be better reflectors on God and his truth for a more fruitful relationship with others.
He explained that theology isn’t something we know about from the past,
theology is HERE AND NOW.
And, he explained, that every Christian is a theologian.
Brother Vic gave us a definition of theology as:
faith seeking understanding.
How many times have you heard yourself saying, or thinking,
“I don’t think I’m going to go to (fill in the blank).”
And then, you summon the energy, obedience, or heart to show up.
Later you hear yourself saying, or thinking, “I’m glad I went.”
What’s that all about?
I think I know the answer.
I’ve been reading comments included in The Journey assessments we have received at VP3.
Here’s a few that stood out:
“Once again I am faced with the fact that I cannot make this earthly journey alone.
I see saints all around me and know that they have a story that would shock me and yet a story that God wrote, is writing, and is totally IN!!!
Understanding that each of us has a unique story makes me so much more accepting of all people….everyone has some kind of battle.”
In my role with VP3 I have the privilege of swimming in a sea of beautiful feedback about how our ministry processes are actually impacting the spiritual growth of individuals and their local setting as a whole. This includes personal stories from facilitators as well as a lot of hardcore data gathered through online assessments participants choose to complete, and a more extensive research inquiry project underway.
To be honest, those of us involved with a VP3 process KNOW a lot of good things are happening in people’s lives. But to see the impact of this ministry work “by the numbers,” well, it’s a beautiful thing. So it is with a growing confidence and humble joy I share what we are learning.
Today’s facts are about participation in The Journey process. You may have a person or two you will enjoy sharing this with as well.
The top five reasons an adult in the local church will choose to say yes to participate in The Journey are:
1. Desiring to draw closer to God and grow deeper. 2. Desiring to re-ignite life with God; feeling their life of faith has grown stagnant. 3. Searching for purpose in life. 4. Recognizing that being with others–accountability–helps them grow. 5. Trusting the person that asked them.
Based on the combined assessment data voluntarily completed at the end of The Journey, we are learning that:
May is a sneaky month. I find it to be as full as December, but without any signals from the consumer market that there’s important days ahead.
Take a glance at the month ahead of you. What important dates, or more importantly, what special people, could be cause for celebration this next month? Mother’s Day is May 11. Graduations from preschool (!) all the way through graduate school are forthcoming. Add in end-of-the-year concerts and banquets for school age students. Neighbors or co-workers may be changing jobs or moving. For those of us involved in a VantagePoint3 group, we are coming to the end of meaningful months together.
I’m curious how your spirit of celebration is in the midst of many good things? My hope is that you will follow through or take time this next month to celebrate the good friends, special people, accomplishments, and growth you see in others.
We celebrate what we delight in, what we appreciate and value. At its core, the church is a celebrating community. This usually looks like good food, good conversation, and careful noticing of others.
Celebration is at the heart of Jesus’ way of life.
Jesus celebrated even when there was much to be unhappy about. We face this same challenge.
Years ago I would have convinced myself that I could mastermind my sanctification and create a growth plan on my own time. But this Lone Ranger approach would skim the surface of what God intended and what I need.
This reminds me of my angst with a mandated seat belt law when I was a teen-ager. I thought it was an abuse of power by the State at the time. Only a few years later I realized that this mandate was put in place for my good because I was not mature enough to know what was in my best interest.
As I have matured as a Christ follower, I have learned a similar lesson. There is simply nothing better than a small learning and praying community stretched by reading and conversations that I did not even know were for my good. These experiences will protect me and grow me up to influence and serve beyond what I imagine and as God desires.
I have been particularly grabbed by three experiences during my Way of Life year that have been for my good.
1) The Way of Life material teed up crucial conversations about prayer, scripture reading and living truthfully that tore away my veil of performance anxiety and self consciousness and made these practices real and easier to discuss.
2) The session on Spiritual Gifts was the deepest and most meaningful dive I’ve taken into that subject. We were led through a beautiful process where I gained clarity on my gifts in the company of friends. Their encouragement will sharpen my “yes” and my “no” in serving well.
3) My absolute favorite experience during this Way of Life year has been the focus on our work as a place of mission. Our class split into small groups of three or four and we actually visited each other’s place of work. The host gave us a short tour, shared the challenges and highlights of their work, we asked questions, and prayed. To a person, every report on “how I see God-at-work in your life” was sacred ground. I even dare to say, this was as paradigm shifting and Kingdom enhancing as the sharing of our life stories during The Journey year. I was taken by surprise at how this impacted all of us.
If you, or your church is interested in more information on the Way Of Life process, please contact us. A Way of Life picks up where The Journey ends…deepening and empowering the life of the believer so that we might better participate and model this life of faith and finish well.