Good questions, thoughtful answers are important
As we in the church continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus, (at least up to Epiphany), and the rest of the world, at least in merchandising, was setting out Valentine things during the week of December 24th, I was thinking about how precious it is to be able to connect with those we love during the holy/holidays like Christmas for so many of us.
Sometimes the conversations around dinner/meals isn’t very deep, but still, I get to hear some of the thoughts and feelings of those I care for so much, and I value that.
I wonder in these days of so much talk about so many things with such a competitive tone, how we are able to have sensitive, open conversations about faith, and the things that really matter to us.
I have a strong bias about the importance of good questions and thoughtful answers. One of my basic definitions of a good friend is someone who asks good questions that help me think deeply about important things, and also call me to think about things in new ways. And as a pastor, I love when we can share some of what’s in our hearts about our relationships with God in safe ways with trusted people, and I’m not sure that those conversations are happening as easily these days as they might have been years ago. Or maybe that’s just me where and who I am.
Anyway, here at St. John’s Lutheran, Pastor John and I have hit upon a way to have valuable discussions with people about our gracious God, how we try to be Jesus-followers, and how that’s really going in our lives. We’ve been sitting down with small groups of folks over a meal, and giving them a pass-around container with some questions they can choose to answer or not and inviting them to share, and we’ve been very pleased by the results. We’ve called the gatherings, “A Warm Place + food”.
They were named after reading, recently, a book called “Growing Young: 6 essential strategies to help young people discover & love your church,” a scholarly synthesis of studies of more than dozens of churches in the last decade, written by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin. (And yes, the book was published before the pandemic.)
They emphasize that when youth experience the church as a warm place where they matter, they are more likely to be there. And in reading it, I have come to believe that, not just youth appreciate a place that is “warm,” where a loving God and a loving church welcome you — just as you are.
We’re using a list of questions that I would be happy to share with anyone else who’d like something new to stimulate new thought and new questions for us to share the old, old story of the Gospel, as best we can, with everyone we can. There’s nothing particularly sacred about the list, except it is asking about things that matter, but don’t have a particular right or wrong answer, and invites people to share of themselves. (You can reach me for a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org)
And I wish you a blessed new year, full of God’s love experienced in warmth, and welcome, and growing more deeply in God’s grace.
Mary Kaye Ashley
Interim Associate Pastor
St. John’s Lutheran, Kasson