Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

The Exploring Stage

I met last night with a group of leaders to begin working through a decision. Developing this discernment process has been difficult and complicated. Yet, we feel that it directs the decision-making process. As we gathered last night, it was interesting to see how it played out. Fifteen leaders gathered around the table for initial conversations. The question was posed: How will we staff in 2012 and beyond?

Enter stage one: Explore.

The purpose of this stage is to bring clarity to the question. Is this something that we need to decide? Are there particular time restraints for this decision? What options do we have?

By the end of the evening, we concluded that this is a necessary decision. One leader commented, “We have never really had this conversation. Before each area would choose staff. There has never been a overall evaluation of our staffing needs.” The decision of staffing is something that we needed to address. There are many options, really too many. People kept proposing solutions, almost as if they wanted to convince others that their idea was viable. I found myself having to pull them back to the exploring stage. Other times, they jumped ahead to develop a strategy for listening. “We need to talk to __?” or “How do we know if __?” After an hour or so, we finally decided that it would be best to meet again next week to create a strategy for listening.

A few observations:

The group had a hard time staying on track. They kept jumping to solutions, or asking questions about particulars. It was hard for them to simply brainstorm options.

Also, by the end of our time together, the options were far wider than I had imagined. We had identified many items that needed to be explored; most of these items had not occurred to me before. On the one hand, I was more confused than ever. On the other hand, I felt that we had made progress; we had uncovered options and issues that we had not considered before our time together.

Finally, I am sure that time for reflection is a necessary part of the process. People were quick to rush to conclusions. Yet, taking time to allow the Spirit to speak is a necessary part of any discernment process. My hope is that we will experience the power of waiting, processing all that we learn.

I am hopeful that this process will produce a unified decision; I am eager to develop the listening strategy as the next stage of the process.