Practical advice for encouraging new gifts in vocal ministry

Here is one small practical piece of advice I’m taking away from Brian Drayton at Quaker Heritage Day at Berkeley Friends Church.

I asked a question about how to deal with emerging gifts in vocal ministry: how to notice and encourage a new minister without stepping on the tender shoots nor inflating beyond good measure?

Drayton recalled a Friend he had known who would come up to you after meeting for worship and say, “I was thinking about what you said in there. And it made me think … (whatever had come up for him).”

It let you know that he had noticed and gave an idea of his reaction. But it wasn’t empty or awkward praise or discouragement.

I like this suggestion a lot and I’m going to try to practice it. What do you think?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a very observant suggestion and one that I know works! To offer a follow-up on spoken ministry is to reveal that you were actually thinking about/'hearing' what the other person offered. It opens up a pathway for clarity in the speaker and the listener both, and as you wrote, it isn't empty praise. You are helping to continue the thought along its way...

3/07/2007 5:08 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks. I felt like this way of approaching a minister avoided the problems of intrusive questions or empty platitudes, while opening the door for further conversation or consultation if that were desirable to both Friends.

3/08/2007 2:59 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I'm glad you are starting to write about Quaker Heritage Day... I'm eager to read more and will have to go blog-surfing now that I have a little more free time again (but not for long).

I like what Brian Drayton lifts up; there are times when I could certainly have been helped in feeling less alone at the rise of worship if someone had approached me with a comment like that after I'd offered some vocal ministry. Being faithful to speaking a message often leaves me feeling vulnerable and alone...

On the other hand, sometimes what we bring to a Friend who has shared some vocal ministry depends on what the message was. For example, there was a time during an INTENSE MfW for Racial Healing when I was compelled to offer a message that i did not want to deliver.

But I did.

A Friend approached me at the rise of worship, stood squarely in front of me, looked tenderly into my eyes, and said to me, simply, "Thee was faithful."

Three words that with the right physical approach and non-verbal cues might be enough.

Sometimes it is about our being present to one another after a message has been given, as much as it is about what we say...

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

3/08/2007 7:02 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like that suggestion very much, and will try it the next time a ministry speaks to me. Thee was well favored!

And, what Liz said. I remember a similar situation, after I offered a ministry very much from the heart, and a weighty Friend afterwards said, "Thank you for being faithful."

3/09/2007 12:40 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz, you're right of course that responses to vocal ministry are not one size fits all, and it really depends.

But it is also true that we don't always know from where we sit in meeting for worship if a Friend has been faithful.

Another Friend used to say that the best response after meeting is to ask, "Was thee faithful? Did thee yield?" Sometimes this is right, and sometimes it is too much.

I know that I have had people speak to me after meeting and thank me, or say that I spoke to their condition, or some such thing, but inside I was cringing because I knew that I had not been faithful. Perhaps I had spoken too soon, or in some other way I felt I had not delivered what was meant for me. And I am lucky to know elders in my meeting to whom I can turn to confess these failings who will listen to me until I am clearer about what was wrong and what I have learned from the situation.

I aspire to be someone to whom others may turn as they learn on their own path as Gospel ministers.

3/09/2007 1:02 AM  
Blogger RichardM said...

I have to smile a bit at this advice. Isn't this just standard operating procedure? But then I realize that this very traditional practice has been forgotten in a lot of Quaker meetings and needs to be rediscovered.

It is also true that this kind of verbal encouragement is most meaningful when it comes from Friends with that special gift of discernment called eldering. Some Friends won't be able to tell very reliably when a Friend's speaking in meeting was genuinely from the Spirit and when it was not. Others will be very good at telling the difference. When everything is in gospel order the dual offices of elder and minister will complement each other.

3/09/2007 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't say I'm comfortable with feedback along the lines of, "I was thinking about what you said in there. And it made me think...."

Such a response puts the dynamic on a mental, intellectual level -- whereas my experience of genuine ministry is that it touches me at a level far more basic.

Do you know Rilke's poem, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"? He is speaking in it of a form of ministry that cannot be responded to intellectually. And much true ministry is like that.

When Christ ministered to Zacchæus, saying, "Zacchæus, come down from that tree, for you and I are dining together this night," what mental or intellectual response would have been appropriate?

Some things I occasionally find myself saying to ministers: "What you said spoke to my condition." "It hit me where I live." "It affected me in ways that I do not yet understand."

And also: "Your words opened a door for me."

3/11/2007 7:12 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you Richard M. and Marshall for illustrating some of the ways that one size does not fit all in fostering gospel ministry.

3/14/2007 11:16 PM  

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