If it feels like you don't know where you're going, that's okay. Here's something that can help you reflect on what God might have in store for you and your congregation.
Issue 15: March 2022
Lent: A Season of Discernment
“Discernment in its fullness takes a practical heart, fine-tuned to hear the word of God and the single-mindedness to follow that word in love.”
By the Rev. Tim Perkins 
As I write this, I’m preparing for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the season of discernment, when we are challenged to let go of the temptations that draw us away from God so that we might open ourselves to discern where God is guiding us. 
This year, after two years of wandering through the pandemic wilderness, our 40-day Lenten journey seems to be a particularly poignant time to practice discernment -- “to draw back and tune in to explore our inner life as leaders,” as Bob Ullman put it in his February Tending the Soul article.
In her book “Pursuing God’s Will Together,” Ruth Haley Barton defines discernment as “an ever increasing capacity to see the work of God in the human situation. It’s a quality of attentiveness to God that over time, develops our sense of God’s heart and purpose for the moment.” Or to borrow from Susan Beaumont, when we deepen our discernment, we’re seeking to see what God is up to (from “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going”). 
Consultants, authors, and spiritual leaders like Barton and Beaumont encourage us to practice discernment as a way to shift toward a more soulful approach to decision making that requires careful preparation and intentionality and the spiritual transformation of leaders. 
According to Barton, corporate discernment begins with attending to the spiritual formation of each individual leader. For her, discernment is much more than decision making; it is, first of all, a habit, a way of seeing that can permeate our whole life. 
To discern is to develop habits of the heart, spiritual disciplines (prayer, meditation, scripture reading, study, worship, retreat, music and the arts, etc.) that encourage us as leaders to: 
  • Broaden our focus and slow down the decision-making process to consider options and possibilities beyond the limits of a problem-solving stance. 
  • Ground our decisions in guiding principles that may come from scripture, our congregational values or our mission. 
  • Shed or lay aside ego or biases that may be preventing us from focusing on God’s will. 
  • Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the people in our congregations. 
  • Explore options, weigh what’s best, and choose through consensus. 
  • And finally …test decisions with rest before drawing our discernment process to a close. 
As we journey through Lent, the Supportive Ministries Team of the Wisconsin Conference invites you to participate in a Zoom conversation about discernment from 1 to 2 p.m. April 6. Register here
Questions for reflection 
  • What spiritual practices have helped you as a leader and as a congregation make more soulful, God-directed decisions? 
  • How has discernment played a role in your congregation’s decision making? 
  • What have been the barriers to discernment in your congregation? 
  • What resources or resource people have you used to help develop the discernment process in your congregation and in your personal life?
Further reading 

The Supportive Ministries Team welcomes your recommendations for additional reading on discernment and other leadership and congregational development topics. Send your recommendations to Tim Perkins or share on April 6.
Join the Discussion: Discernment
The Supportive Ministries Team hosts a monthly discussion on topics from this newsletter. The next one, "May Lent Be a Season of Discernment," takes place on Zoom at 1 p.m. April 6.

Please join us for a discussion on discernment, from Tim Perkins' article above.

Missed these articles?

Revisit these thought-provoking articles from previous issues. Many include questions for groups discussions in your congregation, or for personal reflection.

Conference Supportive Ministries

In addition to the direct support to pastors and congregations provided by Wisconsin Conference staff, here are some of the supportive ministries congregations can take advantage of. Follow the link below to learn more about this programs and how your church might benefit.
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Grants and assistance programs
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations
  • Readiness 360
View a comprehensive list with more information about Supportive Ministries offerings.
Photo of Supportive Ministries Task Force
Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force provides articles, discussion guides and other resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members from top left are Bob Ullman, Lisa Hart, Bonnie Andrews, Cathleen Wille and Tim Perkins.
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