Exploring your What

Mar 5, 2021Uncategorized

This lesson is all about imagination and creativity. It is about letting the Spirit rush through the room and hearing one another even as we speak different languages.

We’ve spent some time developing our why. People in our congregations have had a chance to speak and be heard. We’ve walked the community and talked with our neighbors. Now, we want to spend time thinking about what all that means.

What is God calling you to do through your values as a congregation? How can you put that into the context of serving your community? What are we hearing from the Spirit that gives us energy, creativity, and hope?

First off, we want to give you permission. This means you have permission to dream and open yourself to the Spirit. You have permission to disconnect your ideas and thoughts from the constraints that normally bind us. Let go of finances, membership, age, and energy levels. Let go of policies, procedures, and polity. Let go of can’t, should, ought to, and wish we had.

Instead, give yourself permission to let God in. Give yourself permission to love and to hurt, to dream and to hope. This time together is about “yes, and” rather than “yes, but.”

A couple things we should probably note.

This is meant to be a time when ideas are generated. There are no bad ideas. We aren’t choosing a course of action. We aren’t committing the church to a vote or a direction.

This is a moment to wonder. What would it mean to truly live our values? How would our congregation be different if all our ministries aligned with our values and our why? What is possible when we stop limiting ourselves and trust that if it is of God, it will happen?

We are gathering to listen to the Spirit and how it moves in our community. It is a chance to hear the different languages we all speak when we talk through the words of faith.

Developing a Laundry List of What(s)

This lesson leans on our ability to be in the moment together. It requires us to keep the space safe and open. To speak we must know that we will be heard.

Our goal is to cast the net on the other side of the boat so that we might catch as many fish as possible.

Whatever is going on in the life of your community, you may want to explore something new. It’s crawling around in the back of your mind and you want to name it. This is meant to be the time and space to do some of that work together.

Ground Rules

There are a couple of guidelines that you may want to follow during these exercises. What you’re asking people to do requires them to take risks and say things that are personal and meaningful. We’ve provided some suggested guidelines below, but please add your own.

  1. Take care of each other. No one does this alone, we’re here to support one another.
  2. Listen closely for the 10%. Try and find at least 10% of someone’s idea that you agree with. What resonates for you when someone else is describing their idea(s)?
  3. Ban the “buts.” This is about Spirited creativity and holy imagination. Using “but” ends conversation rather than propelling it forward.
  4. Embrace the risks and the little failures. We might not do everything we set out to do, but we are here for the journey of faith together. There is a time and place for lament, this is not that time.
  5. Be willing to follow. Take the journey with others into their ideas and imaginations.

What are other guidelines that are important to you to invoke a spirit of creativity and imagination?

Warm up:

Divide into small groups. Everyone will need some paper and a writing utensil.

Exercise 1:

At the top of your paper, complete the sentence “Once upon a time…”

Once you’ve written down your sentence pass the paper to the left. The next person will continue the story. They will write, “And, then…” completing their own addition to the story.

Keep passing the paper to the left, with each person adding an “And, then…” sentence to the story.

Once you have your original paper back, read the stories out loud to each other.

Exercise 2:

You have 30 seconds to draw a single shape, figure, line, etc.

Pass the paper to the left (or right), the next person has 1 minute to add something to the drawing.

Keep passing the paper around the group until it reaches its original owner. Share the final art pieces with the group.

Alternatively, hang them all on the walls of the room art gallery style and allow the groups to peruse your 5-minute masterpieces.

Finding our What(s):

Now that your creative juices are flowing a little, let’s take it up a notch. Feel free to amend and adapt these to your contexts. You don’t have to do them all, they are suggestions, not rules.

Exercise 1: Conversation with a Mentor 

For the next 5 minutes have a conversation with the wisest mentor you can imagine. Together, you are to answer one of the following questions (or come up with your own open-ended question):

  • How would you go about preparing the church for the next 20 years?
  • What kind of ministry do you think is most important for the world right now?
  • If we had unlimited resources what ministry would you want to start today?
  • When you walk around the community, where do you feel your heart breaking?
  • What advice would you give me about what it means to do church in the world today?

Pick a particular question to focus on in your conversation.

It may help to write down the name of your ultra-wise mentor at the top of a page.

Take notes on the conversation between you and your mentor. What are you hearing them say? Do they keep coming back to a particular point or idea?

When your five minutes are up, look at your conversation.

  • What are two or three key points that you and your mentor talked about together?
  • Where do you, your mentor, and the church’s Why statement align? Where do they differ?
  • What is one ministry, issue, or idea that you talked about in your conversation that makes you more curious to follow up?

In your small groups, share the key takeaways from your conversation. (It may be helpful to have a scribe write down what everyone is sharing).

  • Who was your mentor?
  • What question did you choose to tackle together?
  • What were the key points that you came up with together?
  • What were some of the ministries or issues that make you curious to follow up about?

Once everyone has the opportunity to share, spend time in the larger group talking about themes and where these align with your vision/why.

Exercise 2: What I like…

This is probably best done in a smaller group. You can do this a number of ways. You can have it be an exercise grounded in some of the themes you’ve heard from your relational meetings. Alternatively, you can let yourself loose and free associate with the prompts.

It begins with one person completing the following sentence:

As a congregation we could… [fill in the blank with an idea]”

The first person simply fills in the blank. They get one sentence, no commas, no semi-colons, no run-ons.

For example, “As a congregation we could do more to help the homeless.”

Another person in the group responds to this initial statement with “What I like about your idea is…, and we could…”

“What I like about your idea is that we are helping people in our community, and we could hold a bake sale to raise money.”


“What I like about your idea is that we are helping people in our community, and we could hold a bake sale to raise money.”

This continues until everyone who wants to go has a chance to add to the idea. Each person responds with where they connected to the previous person’s statement (think about finding the 10% or more that you agree with.

For example, the next person might say:

“What I like about your idea is that it pays attention to food security, and we could use a part of our land to build a community garden.”


“What I like about your idea is building tiny homes provides a meaningful solution, and we could research partners in the area who are doing this.”

The point is to play together in a similar sandbox. Once everyone in the group gets to respond to the initial idea (don’t forget to take notes), then depending on your time have another person offer their version of “As a congregation we could…” and repeat the exercise.

By the end of the time, there may be good ideas roaming around (why taking notes is important). More importantly, it teaches us to work together and makes sure we learn to listen and offer our contributions.


Add a shark-tank style presentation to the exercise. Have each group pick one idea and present it to the larger group in three minutes or less. You can have the other groups huddle up and respond with a “What we like about your idea is… and we think we could…”