Discernment outline

Discernment as concept might seem overwhelming: I understand what it is, but how do I do it? Here is one way of breaking it down into bite-sized chunks.

Create an atmosphere for discernment. Consider the location, room arrangement, and touchstones that would make your gathering space most conducive to listening for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Set aside distractions. Name and turn over agendas and worries that could keep you from focusing on God’s yearnings for your congregation.

Worship together in your gathering space. Read scripture. Pray. Sing a well-known, much-loved hymn. Join together in a litany. Remember and acknowledge that God wants good for you and your church.

Refine the question for discernment. You are more likely to get a clear response if your question for God is finely-tuned.

Pray for indifference. Indifference means that, because you trust God’s intentions, you will refrain from nudging the outcome in one direction or another. (This is very hard!)

Gather relevant data. Use every resource at your disposal, including but not limited to hard data, conversations with others, scripture, individual and collective memories, pro/con lists, imagination, intuition, feelings, and your senses. No data source is off limits in discernment, because God speaks to us in a number of ways.

Discuss the data. Name what the team has discovered through gathering the data – especially the surprises. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to share.

Pray for wisdom. Ask God to weave the data together and to help the team step back and view the interwoven whole.

Make friends with silence. We are so unaccustomed to silence that when we do experience it, we often feel uncomfortable with it. Start with short spans of silence (30 seconds or so) and build capacity from there. In doing so, you give God a bigger opening. Wait on God to speak.

Identify the resolution that seems (resolutions that seem) to be emerging. What is the team hearing? Is everyone hearing the same thing? Remember that dissent can be another data source for discernment.

Work toward agreement. Identify a way forward that honors the movements of the Holy Spirit in each person and the team as a whole. Don’t rush this process.

Test the agreement. Ask God for confirmation that you have discerned correctly. (See criteria for discerning “is this God speaking?”) Tweak the plan as needed.

Take action. Honor the faithfulness of God by moving forward boldly with the action you have discerned.

This process is not linear! Double-back to steps in the discernment process as needed