Evangelism. That is a word that makes many mainline protestants feel uncomfortable.
Some are reluctant to talk about faith for fear of being judged as overbearing, or insensitive to other traditions. Many more feel ill-equipped or inarticulate in matters of theology or faith. But we are called to share God’s love and give witness to the power of healing, justice, and peace that is extended available to all. So how do we overcome reticence, exercise those muscles for outreach, and develop confidence to engage in conversation?
Lacy Finn Borgo, Spiritual Director, blogger, and author posits that it begins with listening. Finn Borgo has wisdom for all who nurture children; parents and caregivers, pastors and faith formation leaders. She quotes Quaker Douglas Steere: “To listen another's soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Her book Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together, outlines steps for gentle listening. Adults can play an important role to hear, acknowledge, and encourage young people. We can use wondering questions to help a child hear themselves and their longings and validate their experiences of God.
- Where did you see beauty?
- I wonder how nature is pointing to God?
- What does God have to say about that struggle or hurt?
What can we do to give the same skills to adults who are seekers? The UCC attracts adults from a variety of traditions. Some are seekers without any faith tradition who may feel illiterate about theology.
Author, Richard Peace (now living in the Gloucester, MA) has a wonderful resource for local churches that want to develop tools for meaningful conversation. Peace’s book Holy Conversations outlines a program for small groups with a component for practicing one-on-one conversation. He offers guidelines for dialogue that results in spiritual growth for both parties.
- Meaningful conversation is open ended. It doesn’t have to issue in a decision or produce a winner and a loser.
- Meaningful conversation deepens friendship; it doesn’t drive people apart.
- Meaningful conversation changes people, on both sides of the conversation partners.
Don’t keep it to yourself, find a way to sing a new song and declare God’s Glory. What a gift you will give, and, what a gift you will receive!
Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...