There is an antidote to lone wolf, silo-type living, and it is “conference.” Conference, author Joanne J. Jung shows us, is a practice of focused, spiritual conversations that promote ongoing transformation.
You will find out how churches can use conference to escape silo-type living in Jung’s new book, The Lost Discipline of Conversation: Surprising Lessons in Spiritual Formation Drawn from the English Puritans. What follows is a selection from that book: how to cripple your small group in 12 easy steps.
As helpful counterexamples [for your own small group or small group ministry], here are suggestions for how to create [a] small group environment where conference is diminished.
- Be unclear about expectations and commitment. Set the bar low for both, but expect your group to grow in depth quickly. It should not take that much time to reach the protected soul.
- Keep people guessing by not creating a rhythm of meeting days and times. Avoid weekly meetings because people do not need to debrief and recalibrate their ongoing lives. Not enough life happens between meetings; it is just easier to “not bring things up”—to save ourselves the time to explain the backstories of such life situations and events. It is easier to just keep things to ourselves.
- Do not meet or communicate outside of these times through social media or meeting for coffee. Avoid having fun together. Avoid invitations to attend events together (such as ball games, movies, camping trips), as Christians are not allowed to enjoy life. Most people are too busy for these activities anyway.
- Be unprepared. Do not do any homework, but show your group how much you know while belittling them for their lack of biblical knowledge. Better yet, minimize the time spent in Bible study. Focus on the world, not the Word. There is more interesting subject matter to discuss, such as sports teams, culinary experiments, and vacation plans. Talk more and listen less. Hang out, do not hang tough.
- Avoid opportunities to genuinely care for one another. People want to be left alone to fend for themselves. Keep your honest thoughts to yourself. Other people cannot really help your situation.
- Share as few meals together as possible. These only provide for comfortable conversations and unnecessary debriefing of life stories.
- Assure people that they are the only ones who have a sin problem, or a sin problem as great as theirs. Remind them that only those who have their lives together will fit in and there is no room for struggles, shortcomings, conflicts, weaknesses, or doubts.
- Avoid sharing prayer concerns or praises. People are more interested in bringing their own needs before God, not the needs of others.
- Close your group to anyone else who would want to join, especially someone who would require investment and attention because they are new believers.
- Do not exercise any of the means of grace, such as prayer, Bible reading and study, worship, and silence and solitude, and definitely do not reflect on these together as a group.
- There is no need to celebrate small or large victories and life accomplishments. People do not want attention brought to themselves.
- Decline any opportunity to serve the larger community. Convince your group there are no real individual or corporate benefits in serving together.
The quality of time spent with each other is vital. Each point above reduces opportunities for conference, and thus for a deeper community that lives the gospel.
How to Use This Book
Want members of your church to follow Christ more profoundly? Have your small group, Bible study, and spiritual formation leaders read this new book by Joanne Jung. Its insights will guide these leaders into fostering “a deeper sort of existence” for group members, writes Kyle Strobel—an existence characterized by “meaningful, authentic, and life-changing relationships,” and soul-deep transformation. Get your copy today and see how it would help empower your small group-related ministries.
Theologically speaking, “there is a sanctification gap in evangelicalism,” continues Kyle Strobel in the book’s foreword. “We need to recover the wisdom of our fathers and mothers in the faith.” Joanne Jung has identified a crucial aspect of this gap, and “instead of simply prodding readers to pick up Puritan works, Joanne walks us into their insights directly, shepherding us through their wisdom and showing how we can recover it for the church today. The goal is not simply understanding our tradition, but learning from it so that we can follow Christ more profoundly.” Learn more and get copies today.
The Lost Discipline of Conversation: Surprising Lessons In Spiritual Formation Drawn From The English Puritans
Joanne J. Jung