Conversations that Matter

Conversations that Matter

Principals, Vice Principals, Teachers and Counsellors will all call upon the Chaplain to have a conversation with a student, parent or staff member:

“Can you meet with this particular student? Can you ‘have a chat’ with this particular parent?”

Having conversations with people (students, teachers, staff and parents) lies at the very heart of the role of the School Chaplain. Paul Barnwell points out that, “conversational competence may be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.”

We can all learn to communicate more effectively.

In this short (12min) TED talk (10 ways to have a better conversation), Celeste Headlee points out 10 basic rules of communication.

(Celeste Headlee is the author of ‘We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter’)

Below is a synopsis of the 10 basic rules, but it is well watching the video also.

PRACTICAL STEP: Choose 1 or 2 points at a time and intentionally work on communicating more effectively. Ask someone you trust for feedback – possibly someone else in your Small Group.

  1. Don’t Multitask. Not just turning your phone off, but actually be present. Be in that moment. Don’t be thinking about other things. Don’t be half in the conversation and half out.
  2. Don’t pontificate. Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn: “True listening requires a setting aside of one’s self” (M. Scott Peck). Sometimes that means setting aside your personal opinion: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t” (Bill Nigh).
  3. Use open ended questions. Start your questions with: who, what, where, when, why, or how: “What was that like? How did that feel?”
  4. Go with the flow. Thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. Stories are going to come to you – you need to let them come and let them go.
  5. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. If they are talking about losing a family member, don’t talk about when you lost a family member. Your experience is NEVER the same; don’t talk about yours in response to others’. More importantly: it’s not about you.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending and really boring.
  8. Stay out of the weeds. People don’t care about the year or the day of the week (the unimportant details). People don’t care about the details. What they care about is you.
  9. Listen. This is the most important one. If your mouth is open, you are not learning. Why do we not listen to one another? We would rather talk. If you can’t actually listen to someone, you are not having a conversation – you are two people talking at one another. “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand” (Stephen Covey). Listening is not waiting your turn to speak.
  10. Be brief. “A good conversation is like a mini skirt. Short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject” (unknown). Be interested in other people.

Boundaries within ‘care’

Boundaries within ‘care’

Small Groups can be the first line of support when it comes to caring for people. But sometimes there are situations that go beyond what a Small Group can handle. So how do you know when it’s appropriate to help someone yourself, or when you should help the person find other support? Hopefully these notes will help you in these situations:

Principles of group care

Here are a few basic principles that we like to use when considering caring for people in Small Groups:

First, consider the role of the group. A Small Group is designed for fellowship, equipping and championing one another to practice the way of Jesus in all of life, but always with the purpose aligned to the mission of making disciples. A Small Group is not designed to be a counsellor or a parent.

Second, view situations through the lens of ,’what would you do for a friend?’ You would listen to a friend, care for a friend, pray for a friend…

Third, each group members needs to maintain responsibility for their own actions and next steps.

Scenarios when you should help the person find support elsewhere

One situation that could come up from time to time is borrowing money from someone in the group, when someone in the group is in financial need. This can be particularly hard because people want to help. They want to do something to help someone in need, but they can feel like they’re in a tough spot: If they say “no”, they can appear stingy and uncaring. If they say “yes”, they’re afraid they’re potentially being taken advantage of. In these kinds of situations, it’s best to have the person needing financial assistance talk to someone else: either someone on staff at LifeCare, or refer them to a financial professional. It’s often very hard to figure out what someone’s real financial need is without asking for a lot of personal / private information.

Another situation might be if someone is trying to push extreme views on a topic. This can be really polarising to the group. As the leader, you need to be careful how you let people talk about things like this. It’s definitely a tension to manage because you want to let people to be open and to grow. You want to let people talk about things that are important to them. But you want these conversations to be guided what Jesus said, and not by what an Internet article says

Another big situation would be mental health issues. These are things that a Small Group is just not designed to help someone overcome. You can be there to walk with someone, to help encourage them – but people may need therapy or they may need medication. And no matter what the mentally ill person says, the group is not a substitute for that, under any circumstances. In this case, you, as the leader, needs to direct them to seek the help of a professional. You and your group members need to put boundaries up on what they will and won’t do to help this person. This can be really hard depending on the situation, but in reality it’s the best thing that you can do.

Finally, there can be conversation dominators: people who are always coming to the group with some sort of problem. It’s important to learn how to appropriately cut those conversations off once you see someone is continually doing this, and pull the person aside to talk to them and let them know that their problems can’t dominate the group every week.

Scenarios when the group could help the person, yourselves

One of the most important times a group can help care for someone is when they’re grieving the loss of someone. This is one where groups may have questions on what they need to do; and it’s really not about knowing what to say or what to do – it’s just about being there. This is somewhere where a group is perfectly designed to help someone: showing up to group says you care, sending a note, making a phone call, bringing a meal…

Another example might be supporting someone who is sick. Just walking, alongside someone who is sick and helping them in those times can be a huge help.

Consider when it might be 'too much care'

A caution here would be around 1 Timothy 5:8: For if a believer fails to provide for their own relatives when they are in need, they have compromised their convictions of faith and need to be corrected, for they are living worse than the unbelievers.

For example, sometimes someone might have a sickness that can be all encompassing for a caregiver. If a group member is spending so much time caring for someone else that they’re not able to care for their own family, they’re doing too much. In these cases, you either need to get help caring for that other person, or you need to help them find a professional to care for them instead.

It is vitally important to remember that, as group members, we’re responsible ‘to’ people and not ‘for’ people. This means we are responsible to love and care for them, to listen to and support them. But we’re not responsible for them, for their happiness, for their financial security, for carrying their daily responsibilities.

So a helpful question to ask is, ‘when are you doing it ‘for’ them?’ The person in need needs to be a part of the process and you’re just supporting them in that process.

Some examples may be that group members could be responsible to provide emotional and spiritual support, and they are sometimes responsible for providing temporary physical assistance. But group members are not responsible for providing legal support, medical support, or ongoing physical support.

Boundaries

It’s generally not appropriate for a group member to call you at 3:00 AM just to chat; but , it may be appropriate for them to call you in the middle of the night for a time sensitive emergency, like someone in their family’s passed away or a medical emergency.

Sometimes individuals that don’t understand healthy boundaries, however, think that their situation is always an emergency. We see this in care all the time: someone may reach out saying ‘my spouse has left me and I need to meet with somebody right now to get them to come back’. Or someone will reach out and say they’re in a financial crisis: they need rent money immediately or they’re going to be evicted.

So it’s important for you as the group Leader to remember that usually situations like this have taken months or even years to build up to where they are today. And are not going to be able to solve things immediately. The person in need likely didn’t get into this situation overnight, so it’s not going to be solved overnight. They can wait until tomorrow.

Ultimately you need to care for people, but have appropriate boundaries in place. It’s not that you’re not going to help them when they need it, but you don’t have to be available 24-7. 

Boulders vs Backpacks

Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written a book called “Boundaries: When to say yes, How to say no” where they use this analogy of a ‘boulder’ and a ‘backpack’ as a guide for us to know when to set boundaries.

The ‘boulder’ and the ‘backpack’ are based on Galatians 6:2-5:

Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles. If you think you are too important to stoop down to help another, you are living in deception. Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves, and not in being affirmed by others. Every believer is ultimately responsible for his or her own conscience.

These verses and the book, ‘Boundaries’, talk about how we should help people carry their burdens that are like ‘boulders’: it’s too heavy for them to carry alone. But we really should allow them to carry their own ‘backpack’, which is their daily load.

However, often we have a hard time distinguishing between a ‘boulder’ and a ‘backpack’. The questions to ask here is, ‘does the group have the resources or the knowledge to handle the situation on their own? Is this a ‘boulder’ or a ‘backpack’ that the person is asking to help carry?’

If it’s a ‘boulder’, for example maybe a group member is facing a serious illness or a prolonged recovery, the other group members can help them practically by providing meals, providing childcare, organising a prayer chain.

But if this is a ‘backpack’, for example paying one’s bills or being responsible for one’s own happiness, what the group member can do is simply support the person by helping them set up a plan and encouraging them to execute it (not execute it for them).

Something to note, however, is if it is a ‘boulder’ please speak to your Coach or Malcolm Campbell to figure out what the next appropriate step might be for that person. Just because something is a ‘boulder’ and the person needs help carrying it, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the person to help them carry this issue.

Watch the 15 minute video (above, thanks to North Point Community Church) and consider:

  • Do I know the difference between a ‘boulder’ and a ‘backpack’?
  • Do I enable irresponsible behaviour in others?
  • Are there areas where I need to set a boundary with others?
  • Is it typical for me to help others too much?

REALITY‭ ‬7:‭ ‬You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you

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Once you have determined to follow God by faith and you have made the adjustments, you must obey Him.  When you do what He tells you, no matter how impossible or bewildering it may seem, God carries out what He purposed through you.  Not only do you experience God’s power and presence, but so do those who observe your life.

Moses came to know God by experience as he obeyed God, and God accomplished His work through him.  Many Scripture passages in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy illustrate how God spoke to Moses and brought him into a deeper understanding of who He is.  As Moses obeyed God, God accomplished through him what Moses could not do on his own.  Here is one example where Moses and the people came to know God as their Deliverer: The people were on their way out of Egypt when they approached the Red Sea.  They couldn’t go forward, and the Egyptian army was blocking their retreat.  The people could see no way out.  It seemed as if by following God’s guidance Moses had inadvertently led his people right into a horrific bloodbath.  But then God spoke:

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me?  Tell the Israelites to break camp.  As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.  I am going to harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh, all his army, and his chariots and horsemen…”

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land.  So the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.  The Egyptians set out in pursuit… Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.”  So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at day break the sea returned to its normal depth… But the Israelites had walked through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.  That day the LORD saved Israel from the power of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  When Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and believed in Him and in His servant Moses.  (Exodus 14:15-17, 21-23, 26-27, 29-31)

Moses must have felt humbled and unworthy to be used in such a significant way.  Yet Moses obeyed and did everything God told him.  Then God accomplished through Moses all He intended.  Every step of obedience brought Moses (and Israel) to a greater knowledge of God (see Exodus 6:1-8).

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REALITY‭ ‬6:‭ You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing‬

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This is a second point at which many miss out on experiencing God.  To get from where you are to where God is requires significant adjustments in your life.  These adjustments may relate to your thinking, circumstances,  relationships, commitments, actions, and beliefs.  I have been asked if every adjustment God asks us to make is significant.  My response is always: To move from your way of thinking or acting to God’s way of thinking or acting will require fundamental adjustments.  You can’t stay where you are and go with God at the same time.

Moses had to make major changes in his life to join God in what He was doing.  Moses couldn’t stay in the desert and stand before Pharaoh at the same time.  God said: “’Return to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.’  So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and set out for the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 4:19-20).

Moses made the required adjustments to orient his life to God.  He had to become convinced God could do everything He said He would do.  Then he had to leave his job and extended family and move to Egypt.  When Moses fled from Egypt forty years earlier, he had been a fugitive.  Returning to the court of Pharaoh could have been tantamount to turning himself over to the authorities who wanted to punish him severely.  Moses had to believe God could do what He said or else Moses’ life was in grave danger.  After determining to move forward, he was in a position to obey God. That did not mean he was going to do something all by himself for God.  It meant he was going to be where God was working.  Then God would do what He had purposed through Moses.  Moses was a servant who was moldable, and he remained at God’s disposal to be used as God chose.  God accomplished His enormous purposes through the ordinary shepherd, Moses.

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REALITY‭ ‬5:‭ ‬God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action

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God wants a watching world to come to know who He truly is.  He does not call you to get involved in His activity merely so people can see what you can do.  He will call you to an assignment that you cannot accomplish apart from His divine intervention.  God’s assignments have God-sized dimensions.  This does not mean God does not ask us to undertake mundane, seemingly ordinary tasks.  But when God is involved in anything, there are always eternal, divine dimensions, implications, and possibilities.

When God asks you to do something you cannot do, you will face a crisis of belief.  You’ll have to decide what you really believe about God.  Can He and will He do what He has said He wants to do through you?  Can God do the seemingly impossible through your ordinary life?  How you respond to His invitation reveals what you truly believe about God, regardless of what you say.

This major turning point is where many people miss out on experiencing God’s mighty power working through them. If they cannot understand exactly how everything is going to happen, they won’t proceed.  They want to walk with God by sight, not faith.  To follow God, you’ll have to walk by faith because without faith, it is impossible to please Him (see Hebrews 11:6).  Faith is more than just belief.  Biblical faith always requires action (see James 2:14).  God does not want you merely to believe what He says.  He wants you to obey what He commands (see Luke 6:4).  All of God’s promises and invitations will be meaningless to you unless you believe Him and obey Him.

God’s invitation for Moses to work with Him led to a crisis of belief that required faith and action.  Moses expressed this crisis of belief in the following statements to God:

  • “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
  • “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me,‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13)
  • “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1).
  • “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent – either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant – because I am slow and hesitant in speech.” (Exodus  4:10)
  • “Please, Lord, send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

Moses offered God numerous objections.  He questioned whether God could accomplish such an enormous task through him (see Exodus 3:11), whether the Israelites would believe God had appeared to him (see Exodus 4:1),  and whether he was capable of speaking eloquently enough to convince Pharaoh and the people of what he said (see Exodus 4:10).

In each case, Moses doubted God’s power more than he was questioning his own ability.  He faced the crisis of belief: Is God really able to do what He says?  God finally convinced Moses to become involved in delivering Israel from slavery.  Moses’ faith is described in Hebrews, however, as a model of self-sacrifice and trust in Almighty God.  Once God let Moses know what He was about to do, that revelation became Moses’ invitation to join Him.  The writer of Hebrews describes Moses’ faith and action:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin…By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for he persevered, as one who sees Him who is invisible.  By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.  By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land.  When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:24-29)


REALITY‭ ‬4:‭ ‬ God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways

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The testimony of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is that God speaks to His people.  In our day, God communicates to us through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will use the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other believers) to guide us.  When you hear God speak to you through a verse of Scripture, it’s always best to verify what you heard through prayer, other believers, and your circumstances.  If you hear God say the same thing through each of these sources, you can proceed confidently.

God will draw you into a deeper and closer walk with Him so you can trust Him and have faith in Him.  He will reveal His purposes to you so you can become involved in His work rather than merely pursuing your own goals and dreams. He reveals His ways so that you can accomplish His purposes in a manner that glorifies Him.  God’s ways are not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  You cannot discover these truths about God on your own.  Divine truth must be revealed. God spoke to Moses through the unique experience at a burning bush to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.

Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush…God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not come closer,” He said, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings.  I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land.” (Exodus 3:2-8)

“If there is a prophet among you from the LORD, I make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My household I speak with him directly,  openly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.”  (Numbers 12:6-8)

God came and talked to Moses about His will.  God wanted Moses to go to Egypt so He could deliver the Israelites.  He revealed to Moses His holiness, His mercy, His power, His name, and His purpose to keep His promise to Abraham and to give Israel the Promised Land, as well as many other things not described in the Scriptures above.  When God spoke, Moses knew it was God.  He knew what God said, and he knew what he had to do in response.

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REALITY‭ ‬3:‭ ‬God invites you to become involved with Him in His work

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God is the sovereign ruler of the universe.  He has been working throughout history to accomplish His purposes. He does not ask us to dream our dreams for Him.  He does not invite us to set magnificent goals and then pray that He will help us achieve them.  He already has His own agenda when He approaches us.  His desire is to get us from where we are to where He is working.  He leads us from being self-centred to being God-centered.  When God reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him in His activity.  When God reveals His work to you, that is the time to respond to Him.

In Moses’ story, God’s purpose was to rescue the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and to establish them as a nation in their own land.  Moses was the one through whom God intended to accomplish His plans.  God invited Moses to become involved with Him in His work: “I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land…Therefore, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:8, 10).  It would never have crossed Moses’ mind to do something like this had God not invited him.  Yet suddenly Moses was being summoned to join in a work that God had been preparing centuries for.

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REALITY‭ ‬2:‭ ‬God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal‬‬

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God created humanity for a love relationship with Him.  More than anything else, God wants us to love Him with our total being (see Mark 12:30).  He is the One who pursues the love relationship with us.  We do not naturally seek God on our own initiative.  Everything we are experiencing from God comes in response to His invitation.  In fact, He reached out to us dramatically by sending His Son Jesus (see John 3:16).  God clearly demonstrated how valuable the love relationship is to Him when He permitted Jesus to die an excruciating death on a cross in order to make a relationship with us possible (see Romans 5:8).

This intimate love relationship with God is both extremely personal and practical.  This is probably the most important factor in knowing and doing the will of God.  If your love relationship with God is not as it should be, nothing else will be in order.

God took the lead in inviting Moses into a personal and dynamic relationship with Him.  Moses had led the sheep he was tending to “Horeb, the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1).  Moses may have come to the mountain for a time of worship, but God interrupted Moses’ plans by encountering him at the burning bush.  God told Moses that He would go with Moses into Egypt.  Many texts throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy illustrate how God pursued a continuing love relationship with Moses.  Here is one example:

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commands I have written for their instruction”… When Moses went up the mountain, the cloud covered it.  The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai…Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain, and he remained on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.  (Exodus 24:12, 15-16, 18)

Time and time again God invited Moses to talk with Him and to be with Him.  God initiated and maintained a growing relationship with Moses.  This fellowship was based on love, and God daily fulfilled His purposes through Moses. The relationship with God was extremely practical as God guided and provided for His people under Moses’ leadership.  (For other examples of the love relationship, you may want to read Exodus 33:7-34:10 or Numbers 12:6-8.)

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REALITY 1:‭ ‬God is always at work around you

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God did not create the world and then abandon it to function on its own.  He has been actively involved in human affairs throughout history.  In fact, He is orchestrating history.  Because of sin, humanity has been separated from a close relationship with God.  God is working in His world to bring about the redemption of those who are alienated from Him and facing imminent judgment and destruction.  The Father is working through Christ to reconcile the world to Himself.  In God’s sovereignty, He has chosen to accomplish His work through His people.  As He carries out His mission, He seeks to move people into the mainstream of His activity.

God was already at work around Moses’ life when He encountered Moses at the burning bush.  God had a purpose He was steadily working out in Moses’ world.  Even though Moses was an exile in the desert, he was right on God’s schedule, in the fullness of God’s timing, in the middle of God’s will for that moment.

Years earlier, God told Abraham his descendants would be in bondage, but that He would deliver them and give them the Promised Land.  God was watching and waiting for the right time to carry out His purposes for Israel.  The time came when: “The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labour, and they cried out; and their cry for help ascended to God because of the difficult labour.  So God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God saw the Israelites, and He took notice” (Exodus 2:23-25).

At the time God was about to deliver the children of Israel, the overriding concern was God’s will for Moses.  God was at work with Israel, and He was preparing to bring Moses into the mainstream of His activity to redeem His people. This truth also applies to your life.  God is actively working in the lives of people around you.  Even when you do not recognise it or see God at work, He is active.  However, unless God opens your spiritual eyes to recognise what He is doing, you will remain blind to His presence and work.

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Up, In and Out

Up, In and Out

One of our ‘GRLC Guiding Principles’ relates to the question: Where is God already at work?

This is a very helpful question when it comes to the practical outworking of our day to day discipleship. What is God doing and how do I join Him in what He is already doing? These are key questions, but how? How can I find out where God may be at work in my world, where I live, where I work, in my community?

Where is God already at work?

The following is taken from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book “Experiencing God”:

(1) God is always at work around you (UP, IN & OUT)

He never sleeps. He never slumbers. He doesn’t go on holidays or cease to be tuned in. He’s always alive, always active, and always inviting you to work out his purposes in, around, and through you.

(2) God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal (UP & IN)

In Scripture, God is often portrayed as the one who pursues, the one who initiates and approaches us to invite us into a thriving relationship with himself. He loves you, regardless of whether you believe you’re lovable or not, and he wants you to experience the joy and awe of knowing him personally.

(3) God invites you to become involved with him in his work (UP, IN & OUT)

When you discover this truth for the first time, it’s a bit mind-blowing. God not only forgives us of our sins on the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our faith in him, he goes on to include and involve us in living in His kingdom starting right now, and bringing the reality of His kingdom to earth.

(4) God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes, and his ways (UP, IN & OUT)

We are never left in the dark concerning God’s will. He reveals it through his inspired word, the Bible. He unveils it to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We hear him in prayer as he reminds us of his truth. We hear him through the wise counsel of others. We see him at work in our circumstances. Every form of hearing from God must always be submitted to what God has said in Scripture.

(5) God's invitation for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action (UP, IN & OUT)

When you know what God is doing, and you know how he wants you to be involved in his work, you have a decision to make. And for a disciple of Jesus, the only true option is “Yes, Lord. What’s next?” Saying “yes” will almost always cost you in the form of time, money, convenience, or comfort. But saying “no” costs even more.

(6) You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing (OUT)

It doesn’t always mean changing jobs or moving away. But sometimes it does. Saying “yes” to God will always require us to do some pruning in our lives, to orient our hearts more properly toward God and the good news of living in His kingdom and not our own. To join him requires me to worship him and not myself, him and not my own dreams and ambitions, him and not my own comfort and happiness.

(7) You come to know God by experience as you obey him, and he accomplishes his work through you (UP, IN & OUT)

In other words, knowing God and doing his will is a repetitive cycle. I see and hear Him. I decide to join Him. I am transformed and I watch Him work. When I see Him work, I trust Him more and decide to join Him. Over time, my personal, experiential knowledge of Him grows as I obey Him.

Experiencing God & Moses' example

The experience of Moses beautifully portrays how God works in a person’s life.  His early life and call to ministry are described in chapters 2, 3, and 4 of Exodus (you may want to read those chapters). Other passages show how Moses came to know and follow God’s will.  Moses’ experience at the burning bush clearly illustrates the way God invites people to join Him in His work.  Henry and Richard Blackaby could have chosen any number of other people, such as Noah, Abraham, Esther, David, Mary, the disciples, or Paul. The following looks at this process and how Moses experienced each reality.

Each of the 7 points above represent an invitation, but they are also potential barriers for us:

  • Is God really at work?
  • Does God love me in a real and personal way?
  • Does God really want me to join him in what he is doing?
  • Does God speak?
  • If he does will he speak to me?
  • Do I have the courage to join
  • God in what he is doing?
  • What if I don’t want to make adjustments in my life let alone major adjustments?
  • What if I am struggling to obey?

Click on each image below to learn more:


Virtual Game Night

Virtual Game Night

Whether your group is new or you’ve been together for a while now, it can be a great idea to spend some time together every now and then to just relax, have fun and get to know each other even better.

If your group meets online, try out some of these virtual games to help combat ‘Zoom-fatigue’! Many of these games can be translated to face-to-face gatherings too.

Musical Bingo

Musical Bingo is just like traditional Bingo, where the goal is to mark off 5 boxes in a row — horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – but instead of listening for numbers, players listen for songs!

Preparation
1.
If you don’t already have a Spotify account, you can create one for free at spotify.com

2. Choose an era of music for your game from one of: 1960s–70s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s+

3. Download the Musical Bingo cards for that era from the Musical Bingo folder and send them out to your group members. There are 12 distinct cards for each era — make sure each player chooses a different card!
    • 1960s-70s
    • 1980s
    • 1990s
    • 2000s+

4. Open the Spotify playlist for that era
    • bit.ly/MusicBingo60s70s
    • bit.ly/MusicBingo90s
    • bit.ly/MusicBingo80s
    • bit.ly/MusicBingo2000s


Playing the game

1. When you open the playlist, choose the ‘Shuffle Play’ option, which will randomise the order in which the songs play.

Note: there are 24 spaces on each card but 36 songs on each list, so any given song will not be listed on one-third of the cards; and one-third of the songs will not appear on any given card.

2. Play the first few seconds of a song. Most of these songs have distinctive beginnings, so 5–10 seconds will usually be enough for people to recognise the song, even if they can’t immediately identify it.

3. As players identify a song, they will mark it on their Musical Bingo cards. If they’ve been able to print their cards, that’s probably easiest, but if not that’s fine too. Most PDF reader software includes tools that allow you to mark up a document. If nothing else, players can make a 5×5 grid on a sheet of paper and mark the locations on the paper as they identify the songs.

4. When a player marks 5 boxes in a row — horizontally, vertically, or diagonally — they shout out “BINGO!” The first player to do so wins the game, and the undying admiration of everyone involved!


Tips

• You can run Spotify from either the Spotify web player interface on your computer (open.spotify.com) or from the Spotify app on a separate device. If you’re running it from a separate device, the volume will need to be up loud enough for people to hear it through your microphone.

• Some web browsers (like Safari) don’t support the Spotify player. Try Chrome or Firefox, or download the Spotify app.

• Unless you have a Spotify Premium account, Spotify runs 90 seconds of ads every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this 30 minutes is based on total song length — not the amount of the songs you actually played — which means after every 8–10 song clips played, you’ll hear an ad. Because you can’t skip the ads, you may want to fill that time by turning down the volume and asking a music-related icebreaker question:

     – “What was the best concert you ever saw in person?”
     – “If you could attend one concert from history, which one would you see?”
     – “If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 albums, what would you choose?”
     – “What was your favourite song in high school?”

Virtual Scavenger Hunt

The virtual scavenger hunt is a race to gather specific items around your house!

Instructions: 

  1. Have all group members find an item in their house that begins with each letter of the alphabet: A – Z. Feel free to only do half of the alphabet, or a book of the Bible, or just G-R-L-C if you’re strapped for time – be creative!
  2. Set a timer (this is up to you how long you want to give people to ‘hunt’ for their items).
  3. Go find the items and then come back to the screen before the timer ends.
  4. Everyone shares their items one letter at a time. 
  5. Each person keeps track of their own points. 

How to win: 

  • 1 point for each item 
  • 2 points for a double letter item (ie: unicorn umbrella) 
  • 0 points if someone else in your group has the same item 
  • Person with the most points at the end wins! 
  • If there is a tie, the most unique item wins (group votes)!

Who Said It: Jesus or Oprah?

The objective of this game is for players to continue guessing correctly who said the quote: Jesus from the Message translation, or Oprah. The last player ‘standing’ is the winner!

Set up:

  1. Download the “Play – Jesus or Oprah” file onto the host’s computer. CLICK HERE
  2. Open the PowerPoint file on the computer. Only the host computer needs the file. The file should load on either a PC or Mac.
  3. On your group’s virtual call, the host will select “Share Screen.”
  4. Then go to the Play – Jesus or Oprah Powerpoint file and select “Slide Show > Play from Start.” This should take the first slide full screen & begin the game
    “presentation.”

How to play:

  1. Starting from Slide 1, the Host will click the Right Arrow button to move to the next slide.
  2. Read game directions on Slide 2 to make sure everyone knows how to play.
  3. The Host will read each quote, and then count to 3 for each member to guess.
  4. Each member will make an “O” with their hands if they guess Oprah or “J” with their hands if they guess Jesus from the Message translation.
  5. After everyone has their guess showing, the Host will click the right arrow to reveal the answer. Celebrate who got it right.
  6. If someone gets it correct, they keep playing. If they guess wrong, they’re out from officially playing (but can still guess on their own for fun).
  7. Keep track after each quote for who is still in the game.

How to win:

  • The last person still guessing correctly wins the game and the admiration of all other group members!
  • If there is a tie, celebrate both of their impressive knowledge of Jesus and Oprah quotes!

Virtual Scattegories

Just like real Scattergories, the objective of this game is to get as many UNIQUE answers as you can before the time runs out!

Set up: 

  1. The host of the Zoom meeting goes to: https://swellgarfo.com/scattergories/
  2. The host shares their screen
  3. Everyone will need a piece of paper numbered 1-12 (and a pen!) 

How to play: 

  1. The host presses ‘Play’ on the Scattergories webpage. The timer will start and the categories will be shown. 
  2. Everyone (on their own) writes down their answers starting with the letter shown.
  3. Once timer is up, go through one at a time and share your answers.
  4. To start a new round, the host presses ‘Restart’ and then ‘Play’ on the Scattergories webpage.
  5. Player with the most points wins.

How to win: 

  • 1 point for each answer 
  • 2 points for a double letter answer (ie: unicorn umbrella) 
  • 0 points if someone else in your group has the same answer
  • Person with the most points at the end wins! 
  • If there is a tie, the most unique answer wins (group votes)! 

Heads up!

Guess the word or phrase and see which player gets the most right. This game can be played like ‘charades’ (with a twist!) or like ‘celebrity heads’.

Set up:

Everyone who wants to have a go at guessing needs to download the app onto their phone:

How to play:

  1. The player who is guessing opens the app on their phone and chooses a card deck category.
  2. The player holds the phone to their forehead like a headband, and 3, 2, 1! Go!
  3. The player tries to guess the words on the screen while the others in the group shout / sing / act out clues.
    OR
    The player asks questions of the others to help narrow down their guess. The others in the group can only say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
  4. Got an answer right? Ding! Tilt your head / phone down and start on the next word
  5. Can’t guess what it is? Just tilt your head / phone up and skip to a new word.
  6. Your turn is over once the timer runs out. Now it’s the next players turn…
  7. Once everyone has had a turn, the player who guessed the most correct, wins!

Asking Good Questions

Asking Good Questions

During times of change in people’s lives, you may not always have an answer or response to the questions and comments being raised by your group members – and that’s OK! It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” In fact, can I suggest that even if you do have the answer, you don’t always have to explain it to your group…

Let me explain:

By asking good and effective questions, instead of simply providing a response, you’re helping others think and problem solve for themselves. This creates ownership in the person of their own questions, concerns, thoughts and feelings.

By asking good and effective questions, you stay in control of the conversation by turning the discussion back to the group, rather than the group relying on you to have all the answers all the time.

By asking good and effective questions, it helps you to stay neutral in the discussion.

Good questions are discovery-based. They’re motivated by a genuine desire to understand and connect with the other person.

Here are some questions you might consider keeping in the back of your mind for your next Small Group meeting:

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • How do you feel / think this will impact you?
  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing with this?
  • What would you like to see happen with this?
  • If you could have things the way you wanted, what would it look like?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What concerns you most about this change?
  • What do you think is the worst that could happen because of this change?
  • What do you think is the best that could happen because of this change?
  • Is there anything you could do to help yourself feel more comfortable with this change?
  • Is there anything we could do as a group to help you feel more comfortable with this change?

For more information on what it means to ask good questions, and the benefits of doing so, click on the image below to view a video created by North Point Ministries:

Think...

On a scale of 1-10 (1 = terrible, 10 = amazing), how would you rate yourself as a question asker?

Review the level 1, 2 and 3 questions described in the video above. Which are easiest for you to ask? Which are most difficult and why?

Practice!

What is one thing you could practice to grow in asking good questions?

Think about some ways you can practice Level 1, 2, and 3 questions in your upcoming group meetings. And ask someone in your group to give you feedback / suggestions.