Pursuing Partnership: 5 Needed Conversations

Conversation #1 – The Power of Story Sharing

By Dr Rob Dixon drrobdixon.com

Together in Ministry: Women and Men in Flourishing Partnerships, IVP

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

This is part 2 of a six-part series of articles that lay out crucial conversations that communities can have in pursuit of a ministry workplace marked by thriving partnerships between women and men. The five conversations include story, theology, culture, boundaries, and representation. 

Do you tell stories in your community? I have a friend and ministry partner who starts every gathering she leads with space for people to share personal stories related to their experience with whatever topic is on the agenda. Over the times I’ve been in the room with her, I’ve noticed how her choice to begin in this way is so helpful for people. Persuasion or explanation of a particular view is not the goal, but rather to understand how each has been affected or formed in their process. Since people immediately feel seen and heard, a foundation of understanding, even trust, is formed as a context to whatever conversation may follow.

As our communities embark on a journey of intentionally forming flourishing mixed-gender ministry partnerships, a good place to start is with a conversation about peoples’ stories in order to gain helpful perspective on these real-world experiences.  People will be served in surprising ways by sharing the story of their journeys around women and men in ministry partnerships. What could it look like to host such a conversation?

First, leaders should diligently set the stage for a fruitful conversation. Consider these 5 tips:

  • Let people know before they come together what the conversation will entail. People might benefit from a list of pre-course questions, such as the ones below.
  • Depending on the context, leaders might want to ensure confidentiality, so that people feel comfortable sharing, knowing that what is said in the group will stay there.
  • Generally speaking, people will share more deeply if leaders go first, so leaders should be prepared to share their own experiences with mixed-gender ministry partnerships.
  • Sometimes people will share stories that involve some degree of pain or brokenness. Leaders should be ready to pastor well should the need arise.
  • Lastly, leaders should model active listening to understand, not fix. In doing so, the group is also encouraged to respond well, without debate or interruption, as their peers share their own personal stories.

Second, here are some questions that a community or organization might consider as a part of a story sharing time:

  • On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being high, how much have you thought about the topic of women and men in ministry partnership?
  • Whatever your number, what have been some of the key influences (experiences, books, mentors, sermons, etc.) in shaping how you think about these partnerships?
  • As you think about the Scriptures, what texts seem relevant to the topic of women and men in ministry partnerships?
  • What questions do you have as you think about this topic?
  • What will you need from the group/community as you continue to talk about this topic?

Years ago, a long-time colleague of mine articulated the importance of story sharing when he said, “what I know about, I tend to care about.” This quote captures the true power of story sharing. When we understand our colleague’s journeys, we begin to care about them, thus paving the way to greater flourishing. 

Register now for the full MissioNexus ‘24’ Workshop on “Pursuing Partnership,” March 21-22, in Kansas City hosted at Avant Ministries.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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