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  1. Become settled in God's presence.
  2. Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, imagination, and rational faculties).
  3. Do not interrupt. And pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.
  4. Speak for yourself, expressing your own thoughts and feelings and experiences. Avoid broad generalizations.
  5. Do not challenge what others say. Rather, ask questions that enable you to wonder about things together.
  6. Listen to the group as a whole—to those who have spoken aloud as well as to those who haven't. If someone hasn't spoken, feel free to ask what he or she is thinking. Some less assertive people have much to offer because they have been listening and observing.
  7. Hold your desires and opinions lightly. Be willing to be influenced by others.

Notice without judging

The listening phase is to gather as much data as possible. Use the following to notice everything without judging.

Pertinent facts. Gather background information, financial reports and implications, pertinent research and statistics, actual proposals, advice from experts, etc.

Voices from the community. Listen to those affected by our decision, those who will carry out our decision, and those who have a special giftedness, experience, or expertise in the area we are discussing.

Leadership discernment involves listening with love and attention.

Direction and calling. What fits best with the direction and calling of God on this church or organization? (It can be helpful to review your mission statement here.)

Scripture. Is God bringing to mind Scripture that has direct bearing on what we are discussing? Do the larger themes of Scripture provide a context for this decision?

The life of Christ. Is there anything in the life and teachings of Jesus that informs our considerations? Does this decision reflect the mind of Christ as described in Philippians 2?

Fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:22-26. Which choice will nurture the fruit of the Spirit in our community?

Consolation and desolation. Which alternative brings us the deepest sense of life (Jn. 10:10), inner peace (Phil 4:7), freedom in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17)? Which brings us a sense of wholeness, authenticity, congruence with who we are in God? Which choice fosters a deeper level of surrender to God and to love? Which would draw us away from God? Pay particular attention to distress, confusion, desolation. Even the more difficult emotions need to be acknowledged.

Tradition. Is there a guiding principle or deep wisdom in our faith tradition (particularly the wisdom and charism of our founders) that could give guidance?

Love and unity. Since our ability to love one another and to come together in unity is Jesus' desire for us, which alternative would foster the greatest unity among us? Since love is our highest calling, what is the most loving thing we could do—for God, for ourselves, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for those we are called to serve?

These questions can be on-ramps to the discussions most fruitful for discernment. They are interconnected; one quite naturally leads to others.

Listen in silence

After you have listened together, there are several things that might happen, and silence is the appropriate response to all of them. One possibility is that a solution might start to become clear to the group and someone is able to name it. That's fine. Do not shy away from this, but don't rush to make this happen. Keep in mind, however, that "way opening" (as the Quakers would characterize it) is very different from brainstorming and working hard to come up with a human solution. If some clarity opens, receive it; it will be part of what everyone takes into silence. Silence will provide an opportunity for God to confirm it, reveal more, or raise additional questions and concerns.

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Fall 2012: Ministry's Core  | Posted
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