United Methodist congregations can face potentially difficult discussions about plans submitted by the Commission on a Way Forward by using resources available from the Courageous Conversations project at Discipleship Ministries.
The commission’s three plans, which will be presented to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, offer ways to move the denomination past its decades-long struggle with issues around LGBTQ.
“So how do we have conversations about the plans so that congregations are best informed?” asked Scott Hughes, director of Adult Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. “Courageous Conversations is a toolbox that local churches can use to inspire and encourage the church and individuals to participate in conversations that might seem difficult.”
Many congregants hesitate to engage in difficult conversations because they are fearful of causing further harm to relationships or they believe the discussions are pointless because they will not result in changed opinions, Hughes said.
“With careful planning and structured dialogue, the aim of Courageous Conversations is learning. Adults learn best when they question their assumptions and others’ assumptions. Additionally, adults learn best in community; that is, in dialogue with one another,” Hughes said.
A sample outline for how to plan and conduct a Courageous Conversation about the Way Forward proposals is available online here. The outline includes four sessions, with PowerPoint© presentation templates, but allows for flexibility to meet a specific congregation's needs. The resources also include links to support materials and videos produced by the Way Forward Commission and Council of Bishops.
An online pamphlet, How to Have a Courageous Conversation, is available here.
Courageous Conversations is structured so people are not just having a conversation for conversation’s sake, but are learning from one another, Hughes said.
“There will be more conversations taking place following the special called General Conference. I think having these Courageous Conversations on the Way Forward before then will lay the groundwork for more difficult conversations to come,” Hughes said.
The special called General Conference, set for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, will consider three plans proposed by the Way Forward Commission that offer a way for the denomination to stay together and ways to split. (For more information about the plans, go to https://bit.ly/2LBlZt7.)
Courageous Conversation outlines are available from Discipleship Ministries on other topics, including Gun Violence, Race, Immigration, Climate Change and Human Sexuality.
For more information about Courageous Conversations, including tools for leaders, sample outlines, sample guidelines, webinars, prayer guide and blog, go to www.umcdiscipleship.org/topics/courageous-conversations.