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.
An important question we all need to be asking ourselves is, “How deeply rooted am I with God?”
How blessed is the man
Who does not walk in the counsel
of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates
day and night.
He will be like a tree
Firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
From my perspective, there can (basically) be three possibilities. Since this is about being “deeply rooted,” lets look at trees as the example…
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.
“The Journey has changed the way I think about my role as pastor.
I have a greater boldness about my mission and calling.”
In a recent coaching call with our Sioux Falls The Journey Facilitator Retreat crew, we heard great testimonies of the impact already being felt and seen within Journey groups across South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. At a point in the conversation when the facilitators were talking about how the process was impacting them, the above quote is how one of the pastors replied.
I took the opportunity to talk with that pastor and I asked him if he would be willing to answer a few questions and share about his experience implementing The Journey in his church for the first time…
We are in the midst of the Facilitator Training Retreat season here @ VantagePoint3. 3 Retreats done (by the time this posts) – Glendora, CA, Kelowna, BC, and Indianapolis, IN. There are still 6 more Facilitator Training Retreats on the schedule…Atlanta, GA – in 5 days – and, in August, we will be in Dyer, IN (just south of Chicago), Grimsby, Ontario (the Greater Toronto Area, or, the southern end of “The Golden Horseshoe” ;), Sioux Falls, SD, Kelowna, BC, and Calgary, AB. So…It’s not too late to join us at one of our Retreats!
As we are nearing the “home stretch” for Facilitator Training Retreats, we are also thinking about what we can do to help all of our “Tribe” who has been trained to facilitate groups gather the people to experience the transformation that comes from intentionally walking with others through The Journey, A Way of Life, the Equipping Experience, or an Enriching Conversation.
Here is where we need help from you…
One thing we are working on to help our facilitators invite participants is a “Starting a Group” page on our website. The plan is to put sample invitations, ppt slides, notes, and letters that our partner churches have used in the past to invite participants and form groups. Ideally, these samples would be easy for people to download and edit with their church/organization information to personalize it for their unique context.
Susan (my wife) and I decided to tag team leading a Journey group in our church. Seven strong women (Judy, Jayme, Carla, Hannah, Rebekah, Andrea, Susan) as well as Seth and myself (we felt much less strong at times) made up our group. Everyone who leads a VP3 group believes they have the best one, and that would be true in my case. We quickly became a trusted community, learning more fully who we were as persons in the good company of each other.
Something shifts during the narrative sharing time. And it shifted for us. A level of honesty surfaced from the fathoms of our lives…an honesty that brought with it stories of visions and broken dreams, accomplishments and failures, cozy places and harsh desserts, influential heroes and painful abusers. All of it somehow used as tailored curriculum by the Spirit of God to etch out who we really are, and to prepare us for what is yet to come.
What caught my attention when Hannah shared her story was her written prayer–a prayer that reflected her courage to question and to confess. Hannah agreed to share a part of her story and her prayer. May both be a reminder of the One who draws near in those vulnerable moments of honesty.
I feel like I’m swimming in the dark.
On a moonless night, my frail arms and legs thrash about in black despair.
I can’t see where I’m going or where I’ve been.
I can’t see the danger lurking beneath the surface,
but I know it’s there.
I am terrified of losing what little independence I have left.
I grope for a glimmer of purpose to keep me afloat, but I cannot find it.
Floundering. Gasping for air. In thick water I can feel but cannot see.
Then I sense your voice speaking to me stirring my soul:
“Look up, child. Put your feet on the rock bottom.
It is solid ground. Holy ground. Stand up and live.”
My mother-in-law is 88 and the small role my husband and I play in the fabric of care for her is spending Sunday afternoon into evenings together. We most often pick her up and bring her the 15 miles back to our home. She seems to really enjoy our intentional conversations about things from the past, and when I include any kind of squash in the dinner menu. Until a couple years ago she was living pretty well. But dementia is having its way with her and to be honest, conversation can be an uncomfortable task. She is many times in the room, but not really with us. It seems.
On several occasions we have been startled when we are talking “about” Mom only for her to say, “I’m right here,” in a gentle yet disappointed voice.
This “I’m right here” is at first embarrassing. It feels like getting caught sneaking or hiding. And then taken another step, her catching us doing this, grounds us in the reality and the mystery that we just don’t know what all IS going on inside her changing cognitive function. Her voice saying, “I’m right here,” wakes us up and humbles us.
Thomas Hart’s The Art of Christian Listening (Paulist Press, 1980) has consistently provided me fruitful perspectives for the work of walking alongside others on their spiritual journey. Hart’s thoughts point to fundamental realities of helping another person. As I reread the book I found myself translating some of his thoughts into self-examining questions. As you think and pray about your desire to walk well with others as a mentor or friend or facilitator this year, allow these questions to orient and ready your heart:
1. Am I willing to listen? Listening is fundamental to building trust in the relationship. By listening attentively to one another we remind each other that our lives profoundly matter.
It is a good practice to glean what you can from those who know how to practice well. Last week VP3 hosted a webinar called, “Best Practices in Local Church Leadership Development.” Three panelists joined our time to share what they have learned over the years regarding an investment in the formation of those within their local communities. Pam, Kent and Beth are seasoned at knowing how to notice the particulars of those whom they walk alongside. All three know how to “call out” what they see dormant in peoples’ lives. They are careful, yet direct in making appropriate and tailored prescriptions, helping people move toward a better place of maturity and a truer place of service. Quite frankly, I was impressed with the practices they keep in this sometimes misunderstood deal of leadership development. Their practice grows from a conviction that leadership development from a Christian perspective is first and always tethered to helping people tend to their followership to Jesus Christ. You will benefit from listening in on what they said. Here are some highlights…
Today Brian Steenhoek and I facilitated a webinar called, “Discipleship: The Critical Need in Leadership Development Today.” It seemed to scratch an itch from the responses of those who attended. We thought we would offer you a condensed version of some of our notes here.