Spiritual Discernment with Congregations

What is spiritual discernment?

We are living in the midst of an immense “sea change.” At every level of our life together, from the climate, to politics, to economy, to healthcare, to education, to community, to our own local churches, we can feel the sand shifting beneath our feet. Such immense change is not easy. We see divisions deepening. Tensions rising. Fears consuming. It’s easy these days to feel overwhelmed, over committed, outraged and often isolated in the midst of it all.

But what if we remember that we are not the first to live in times such as these? Throughout human history, the Holy Spirit has called people of faith to join together in pursuit of a more just and generous world. What if we trust that this same Spirit is moving among us today? Whatever we may be facing within our local churches, the task before us is to learn to listen deeply to the Spirit and to discern with Spirit the next most faithful step forward.

When might spiritual discernment be helpful for your congregation?

  • A time of transition moving toward a call from an interim to a settled pastor
  • A needed update in the church’s profile
  • A review of the relevance of the church’s mission, ministries or location
  • A review of the church’s resources and their optimal use
  • Rethinking who the church’s neighbors are, and how to best serve them and allow those neighbors to also serve the church
  • The congregation is facing a major decision regarding its ministry priorities, its building or its staff—or possibly all three

Questions for consideration

  • Do you desire Spirit to be at the center of your daily decision-making?
  • Is there an issue, or issues, around which you need deeper clarity?
  • Does your congregation need/desire a better understanding of the meaning and process of “spiritual discernment” as a vital practice that can be adopted as an ongoing method of operation?
  • Does your church find itself “stuck” on an important question of ministry or logistics of operation that has gotten caught in conflicting preferences, likes and dislikes, and desires of individuals or groups within the congregation?
  • Is there some interest or enthusiasm for a particular project or ministry, though the “why”, “how” and “when” still need more thorough consideration?

If you answer is yes to any of these questions, spiritual discernment may be an appropriate and fruitful path forward for your congregation.

Further questions for consideration

  • Are you hoping for a magic wand to fix what feels broken?
  • Are you hesitant to put in the time and commitment to a deeper inquiry into who you are and why you are here?
  • Are you determined to hang on to the way “you’ve always done things”
  • Are you resistant or unmotivated to change?

If you answer is yes to any of these questions, spiritual discernment may not be an appropriate and fruitful path forward for your congregation.

Interested in spiritual discernment? Here’s what to do:

Step 1:
Make an initial contact to either Rev. Joanne Buchanan or Rev. Erin Gilmore for an initial conversation

Step 2:
If there is a desire to continue to move forward following the initial conversation, we will set up a meeting with the pastor(s) or lay leader of the congregation, the moderator and vice moderator of council/board, a member of Conference staff, and Joanne. The purpose of this meeting is to provide enough information to collectively discern if this is the right next step for the congregation, and to outline a potential process, including a timeline for moving forward.

Step 3:
A covenant will be created that will lay out what the church will do, what Joanne will do, and what the conference will do as partners in this work.

Step 4:
Process proceeds

Step 5:
Evaluation and next steps.