Monday, February 23, 2009

Herding Cats

My Sunday evening small-group is made up of 16 phenomenal people. We have 16 active members, with anywhere from 12-16 present at any given meeting. Our format is simple: we eat together - along with the Parents of Teens support group (POTs), then gather in the church library for conversation, Bible-study, prayer and mutual encouragement.

We used to be the POTs group, but then our children all graduated and moved to college and beyond. So our new designation is "POGs" (Parents of Grads). One of our members just turned 60; the youngest is in her mid 40s; the rest of us are in between.

These people are all motivated, smart, and deeply credentialed. Just about everyone in the group has served as an elder in the church at some point, and the range of professions they have pursued includes bank executive, school principal, military officer, veterinary technician, school teacher (several), nurse, minister, public health, psychology, heating and AC contractor, software engineer, network administrator, chemical sales, finance manager, auditor, writer, airline pilot, merchandising....

I am, in title, the designated leader, or group facilitator; but I've got to tell you, bringing all the elements together for the 90 minute "meeting" portion of the evening is a lot like - as my friend Ben pointed out - herding cats.

My goals are simple:
  • Everyone contributes
  • We will all know each other a little better by the time we go home
  • The context or umbrella that covers our time together is 100% our commitment to grow as disciples of Jesus
  • We will read, discuss and be challenged by a passage of scripture
  • Everyone will share a prayer concern
  • We pray together
Fortunately, we are a "covenant group". This means that we operate under a group covenant or set of promises that include confidentiality, respect, active listening, unconditional love, mutual accountability, a commitment to refrain from judging one-another or offering glib advice.

Part of that covenant gives me permission to interrupt, redirect, draw out conversation, proactively bring us back to topic, ask probing questions and generally act like a former middle-school teacher when necessary!

BUT SOMETIMES FACILITATION CAN BE HARD, HARD WORK!!! The energy level in the room yesterday evening was ramped way up. Some people were just uber-full-of-themselves; the air-line pilot, the banker and the veterinary tech thought of hilarious comments every two or three minutes and never once refrained from sharing them with the group;

But the Spirit was there. It's Okay to be hilarious around God. People of faith who are comfortable with one-another and who love deeply are more fun, and fun can be healing in so many ways.

Then the Bible discussion was - as always - deeply illuminating. "My food," Jesus said to his followers in John 4, "is to do the will of him who sent me...." We talked about how we receive spiritual sustenance not just from worship or prayer or meeting together - but in living out a life of faith in the nitty-gritty of our day to day.

More on this as we move forward.
Love and blessings - DEREK

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