In developing the approach to ministerial searches that is rooted in hospitality, I put together a meeting structure that weaves together the elements of discernment and the business that teams must attend to. It builds in intentional spaces and means of attending to the Holy Spirit as teams go about the work at hand. This outline can be utilized for a range of congregational processes. Consider the content below, then, a preview of Searching for the Called as well as a resource with many potential applications.
Preparing to perceive God’s guidance
- Create an atmosphere for discernment. Prepare the gathering space in a way that is conducive to worshipful work.
- Set aside distractions. Ask, “What does each of us need to turn over to God before we can focus on the work at hand?”
- Worship together in your gathering space. Invite everyone to name where they have seen God at work this week.
- Refine the question for discernment.
- Ask each team member to give an overview of progress that has been made on agreed-upon actions.
- Celebrate this progress and build in support for actions that are incomplete.
- Identify what the team needs to focus on in this meeting. Parse which pieces are matters for discernment and which can appropriately be accomplished through decisions.
- Clarify the question(s) for discernment that is/are now before the team.
- Pray for indifference. Pray as Jesus did: “Not my will but Thine be done.”
Listen for the wisdom of God
- Gather relevant data. Invite team members to share the details of work done since the last meeting.
- Discuss the data. Encourage each team member to share what they notice from the data presented. Ask clarifying questions. Name what the team doesn’t yet know but needs to know. Listen deeply to one another.
- Pray for wisdom. Acknowledge that the team has done what it can in terms of collecting and evaluating the data. Ask God to move in that new awareness.
- Make friends with silence. Wait on the Lord. Use spiritual disciplines to tune into what God might be saying.
Consider and commit to what God is inviting the team to do
- Identify the resolution that seems (resolutions that seem) to be emerging. Get every concern on the table. Refine every idea that bubbles up.
- Work toward agreement. Start from points of commonality: “What is it that we all seem to be hearing clearly?” Dig deeper on points of resistance: “Tell me more about your hesitation.” Use your team’s previously agreed-upon means of coming to agreement.
- Test the agreement. Let the resolution rest. If your team isn’t able to sleep on it, take a break and then discuss how team members are feeling in their heads, hearts, and guts about the proposed way forward.
- Take action. Make detailed plans for action steps. Who will do what? How, and by when? What support and/or accountability is needed?
Reflect on how God is at work in the process as a whole
- Before adjourning, check in on how the team felt it worked together today and what adjustments to process need to be made.
- Wonder aloud, “What is God up to?”