1. This will take forever.
2. I have no idea how to implement these processes.
It can seem overwhelming at first. And though discernment is a contemplative process, it doesn’t have to take forever. Help is out there. You don’t have to do it alone or without adequate resources.
If you are a leader of a faith community and feel confident after researching and reading up on discernment processes that you can lead, then lead boldly! As long as the group is praying, taking adequate silence for grounding and listening, and committed to following the process it will be rewarding. Even if coming to a decision is difficult, the group will have learned a valuable spiritual discipline.
If you need help, find a spiritual director who is experienced and excited about the practice of discernment. Spiritual directors are trained in the art of deep listening and spiritual guidance. Most of us studied discernment in our formation and training programs and do a lot of discernment work with individuals. It takes some adapting do to the work with groups, but if the person has done group work, such as group spiritual direction, they can handle it. The best listing of spiritual directors worldwide is the “Seek and Find Guide” on the Spiritual Directors International website. You may have to call a few directors in your area to find the right one but it’s worth the effort.
For communities wanting to use the Quaker clearness committee process, inquire with your local Quaker meeting house for the name of someone who might be willing to clerk a session for you. Quakers use the clearness process for their business meetings, so they should have plenty of people skilled in helping you. Some spiritual directors are also trained in facilitating clearness processes.
Communities who want to follow an Ignatian process for discernment have a lot of options as well. If there are Jesuits in your area, contact one of them for information. Spiritual directors from many faith traditions have learned Ignatian principles for discernment in training programs, so you are not limited to finding a Jesuit facilitator.
Perhaps you want to read more about the spiritual practice of discernment and how to use it with your faith community. Here is a list of books and resources on this topic:
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Discernment: The Art of Choosing Well, Pierre Wolf.
Listening Hearts, Suzanne Farnham et al.
Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations, Suzanne Farnham, et al.
Guidelines for Communal Discernment, Victoria G. Curtiss.
The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making, Elizabeth Liebert.
What God Wants for Your Life, Frederick Schmidt.
The Discerning Heart: Discovering a Personal God, Maureen Conroy.
Holy Play: The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose, Kirk Byron Jones.
Sacred Compass, Brent Bill.
A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer.
Hearing with the Heart: A Gentle Guide to Discerning God’s Will for Your Life. Debra K. Farrington.
Practicing Discernment Together: Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making, Lon Fendall, Jan Wood and Bruce Bishop.
Weeds Among the Wheat: Where Prayer and Action Meet, Thomas Green.
A Guide to Spiritual Discernment, Reuben Job.
A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience, John Neafsey.
Discernment: A Study in Ecstasy and Evil, Morton Kelsey.
Listening to the Music of the Spirit: The Art of Discernment, David Lonsdale.
Sharing Wisdom: A Process for Group Decision Making, Mary Benet McKinney.
Discerning God's Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church, Danny Morris and Charles Olsen.
Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders, Charles Olsen.
Faithful Listening: Discernment in Everyday Life, Joan Mueller.
50 Ways to Pray, Teresa Blythe (see the chapter on Discernment).
I wish you all the best as your community faces its most important questions with the spiritual practice of discernment. I welcome any questions you may have. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the series:
Part I - Finding a way forward: the practice of discernment for congregational health
Part II - Discernment Principles in Action
* Looking for a coach or spiritual director for your discernment process?
Visit the ICTG Coaching and Spiritual Direction page here>
She can be reached at email@example.com.