Basic Tools 3A:
Hints for Discerning Your Present Daily Missions
For use with the worksheets of Basic Tools 3B.
Experience has called for a user-friendly workbook for WTMATM. These paragraphs from the Workbook clarify the discerning of your daily missions. In Basic Tools 2 and 3, you saw that all you are doing right now to make life better were missions and part of God's mission. This resource helps you to complete the worksheets of Basic Tools 3B.
Before you start the worksheets, here are some hints and suggestions that may help you. If a question stumps you, take a look at the two examples for that question. One is from a mother who looks at her home life. The other is from a postal worker. Do not feel intimidated if your life is not full of exciting examples of God's work. God gladly accepts and works with you wherever you are and in whatever you do. Think afresh about Jesus' story of the harvest (Matthew 20:1-16): Each laborer received the same pay even though some toiled all day in the fields and others only an hour. All contributions both great and small were needed to complete the harvest, and all laborers were given the same reward for their service. It's your service that counts whether you're eight or eighty. Take your time with these hints. They become the helps for the worksheets that follow.
As you start, a few examples that point to areas of action or to specific actions in each of the daily mission fields might help:
Home—parenting, marriage, friendships
Work—solving job-related issues, managing the home, taking on volunteer work or working through issues in it, fulfilling school responsibilities for students
Local Community—soccer referee, elected town official, school board member
Wider World—writing a letter about a social issue to a newspaper, working in an environmental group, working for a political party
Leisure—hobbies, favorite recreation, puzzles, rest times
Healthy Spirituality—regular prayer time, a Bible class, regular activity for physical and emotional health
Church Life and Outreach—choir, teach Sunday school classes, food pantry worker, visit newcomers, invite nonchurch friends to church events, interchurch or interfaith activities
Mission Field (number): Discerning my present mission in (this mission field) (a current mission or one I will begin).
You may be led to focus on a mission in which you are already involved or in a new one. By the time you reach the fourth question, it should be quite clear whether you are working on a current or a new mission.
1. What has God been doing in (this mission field)? What message am I getting about it? Try a response beginning with: "I believe God is . . ."
Hint: God is already at work in this field. Maybe you've made mistakes here in the past. Then, remember God's forgiveness and try to figure out the Lord's current message to you and get ready to try again. Or, what's foremost in your mind in this area? What really needs to be fixed or changed? What are others saying to you that sticks in your mind? What is happening around you? What do you sense that you want to do or should be doing? Do you sense a need to confront and seek to correct some wrongdoing or evil in this area of life? Do you see anything blocking love or justice? Or any way in which love and justice need to be increased?
Home example: A mother senses this message: "I believe that God is telling me that my family life is fractured and that we are not as close as we could be."
Work example: A postal worker senses this message: "I believe God is telling me to speak up about the unfair workload that all of us share."
2. As I think about God's message, what is my vision or goal for how I want life to be (in this mission field)?
Hint: Think of a vision as the best possible scenario. If you could dream about remaking, for example, your work life according to what you believe is God's message for you, how would it look? What might be different? A vision is a general statement and provides you with a sense of direction, such as: "My vision is to have a close working relationship with my team at work." A goal, on the other hand, is a concrete step that is clear and specific; for example, "My goal is to meet with my manager regularly for better communication." As you phrase your vision or goal, be direct; use a simple sentence to express it.
Home example: "My vision is for my family to spend more time together and enjoy it."
Work example: "My goal is to start speaking up about unfair treatment."
3. What am I doing right now to make this goal or vision a reality?
Hint: Name even the smallest effort. God will value any work for caring and for fairness, for love and for justice. Do be honest if you're not doing anything to work toward making your vision or goal a reality. Say so here and let the hints for the next question stimulate your imagination.
Home example: "I am trying to get us to find regular family time to talk, laugh, and share what we're doing outside the family."
Work example: "I am trying to get to know my coworkers here better and to find common ground with each of them."
4. What do I still need to do? As a good starting point, think of where you need to bring or to increase caring or love, fairness or justice. Take into account your gifts, limitations, and convictions.
Hint: So often, we know what we need to do. It's the actual "doing" that's so hard. As difficult as it may be to be honest, strive to be just that. If you're struggling, thinking, "If I knew what to do, I'd already be doing it," take an extra moment to pray for guidance. Once you get a feeling or idea as to what you might do, write it down—even if you don't think you have it quite right. Guard against the fear of failure that can sometimes inhibit concrete goal setting. Lean on God's unlimited help and even try again to do something that you did not do well in the past. These two examples are good ones because they are very specific; defining who will do what and precisely when. Being too general such as the postal worker responding with, "I'll try to be more assertive in the future if I perceive that we are not being treated fairly" tends to ensure that no real change will be made. You can see that he has moved past that and is now ready to take real action in a well-defined time frame.
Home example: "I need to turn off all the distractions in the evening so that all of us can give more attention to one another as a family."
Work example: "I want to be able to speak up when the manager is being unfair."
5. What, specifically, will I do or continue to do to make my vision or goal a reality? Limit yourself to just one positive change. This is or will be your mission (in this mission field).
Hint: Here's the critical moment. Let your answer to Question 4 guide your answer to this question. Know that at this point, you need to be very concrete. Decide on a way that you will try to reach your vision or goal. It must be a very concrete and specific action. Be as specific as you possibly can, as in the following two examples. Each example is specific—what will be done and by when. Being specific will help you to evaluate how you are doing.
Home example: "I'll work toward spending every Tuesday night eating together and doing something as a family with no distractions—TV or the like. If we can just do this three times starting next Tuesday, I'll feel we've gotten started and I'll look forward to going on from there."
Work example: "I need to speak up the very next time we're not being treated fairly."
6. Whom do I need to work with me to achieve this change? How will I talk about the change I want to make? Think of this task as a team effort. For the best results, you will probably need to work with another person or with several other people. Consider how you might word this mission in a way that will appeal to a specific potential teammate. Answer with the person's name and words you might actually use.
Hint: Any work for change goes better with a teammate who knows what you are trying to do; who regularly checks on your progress; and who offers whatever insight he or she has. A teammate is one of the ways that God helps us. Your mission, put in appealing words, will also help your desired teammate to say "yes" when you ask. For more help with team building, see Basic Tools 10.
Home example: "To be able to make this change I'm going to need some help. I'll need my husband to agree to help me get things going. I could say something like, 'I bet you want more family time as much as I do. Let's do a family night once a week—no computers, TV, or video games. Let's just take time to do something together. What do you think? Will you help me get this started?'"
Work example: "I'll encourage the other workers to speak up when there's discontent. I'll check with a couple of people when I have something to bring up to make sure I am on to something that's important to all of us. I will remind them that whenever we stick together we can make a difference."
7. As I recruit and work with my teammate and when the time is right, what could I say about how I see that what we are doing is or can be part of God's mission? Answer with words you might actually use.
SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1
Hint: Words, as well as actions, make up a full mission. It can be awkward to talk like this. Most of us have not had much practice talking about sharing in God's mission. Remember that you don't have to sound like a pastor or a theologian. One way to do this is to mention how this work connects with your faith. Be yourself and use everyday words. Think also about the best time to talk with your teammate. Keep in mind that your teammate will be working with you and not for you. So you need to be ready to listen to your teammate's comments and ideas and, possibly, reshape your vision of the mission and how to pursue it.
Home example: "Since I've been going to church these last few months, I've been thinking about how I'd really like for our family to be closer. The kids are growing up so fast I feel I hardly know them."
Work example: "I believe we are made to work together in harmony so that everyone feels that they matter and are heard."
8. As we work together for this needed change and when the time is right, how could I encourage my teammate to turn to the church for help and support? Answer with words you might actually use.
Hint: Missions are costly. Don't worry that you are burdening your teammate—he or she needs to know where you go for help so that he or she might find help there too. Missions are made up of words and deeds. These are some of the needed words. Begin with your own sense of how church life helps you. Suggest that it might help your teammate as well. Invite your teammate to come to church with you even if he or she is not a churchgoer. SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1If your teammate is a churchgoer, hearing how the church helps you can open the door to a dimension of church life that may be new to him/her. If what you share is already familiar to your teammate, your sharing is still a useful affirming of the power available to us in church life. If you yourself are not a churchgoer, you may find yourself inclined to go as you take up your daily missions. When you sense that prayer and church life are giving you some needed power for daily life, share that with your teammate. You may even suggest you can pray together. If you're not a churchgoer—you can come back to this question later. In the meantime, it's OK to leave it blank.
Home example: "Since my husband tends to be a Christmas and Easter worshiper, I might suggest, 'Come to church with me for a few Sundays. My week always seems to go better when I've been to church. See if that happens for you, too. And, maybe, while we're there—or another time—we can pray for our family time to go well.'"
Work example: "Most of my coworkers are not churchgoers, so I don't push. I'll talk about God indirectly. If I speak up and it makes a difference, I'll be ready to say something like, 'I think we made some progress. We must be getting help from somewhere.' They may change the subject but I will usually hear something later that tells me they heard me suggesting that help came from beyond us."
All of the previous examples did not involve what we would think of as being "religious" in nature. The mother is not asking her family to begin daily prayer together. She does not even mention God in so many words. She only hints at the chance that it might be God who is leading her in this direction. In her talk about church on Sunday with her husband, she is trying to offer a genuine invitation without making a demand of some kind. The postal worker likewise knows he needs to avoid pushy "church talk" while, at the same time, suggesting to the others that he senses that God might be at work among them already.
So often, when we think about doing God's work, we narrow our thinking to work such as volunteering in a soup kitchen or literacy programs. But God also wants to make life better wherever you are right now. This is why we look at all of the areas of our lives. This gives us a chance to let God lead us in any situation. We also don't want to focus so much on one area that we forget the others.
Finally, looking at the areas opens the possibility for God to make maximum use of our unique combination of talents and abilities. The Lord will put them to good use and help us to shore up any weaknesses in our daily places.
Alternative methods: oral and rapid written
Before we continue, it's important to note that some people may be put off or intimidated by having to write out their answers to the questions. Some people are simply more verbal than others and do a better job working out their answers orally. The following pattern can be substituted for the eight questions.
1. What do you sense God might want you to do in this mission field? [combines questions 1 and 2]
2. What, specifically, do you see yourself doing? [combines questions 3, 4, and 5]
3. Who might be your teammate/s and how might you recruit him/her/them? [question 6]
4. When you believe it's time to talk with your teammate/s about God and the church in some way, how might you do that? [combines questions 7 and 8]
If you prefer to use it yourself or have someone in your group who otherwise won't complete the exercise, use it with caution. People who use this method often find they are able to write out their answers later as they come to see the value of a written record of their faith journey. This record will also show you just how much you have accomplished. After several missions have been completed, you will be amazed at all that God has done through you and how many of your prayers have been answered.
Rapid written method
There is also a secondary use for this format. Once you have been through a series of missions, you may find that you know the questions so well that you simply want to get right to identifying your next mission to achieve your vision. You can run through the questions of the oral method rather quickly and jot down your updates to keep you focused on the next steps. We call this the "rapid written" method.
Again, go through all eight questions in writing for each mission field a number of times before you switch to the rapid written method. Give yourself the time you truly need to become thoroughly familiar with the process before shortening it.
To review, enhance, or share your worksheets
Do not miss how essential questions 7 and 8 are to the fullness of mission. A mission always has two parts-what we do and what we say about God. Still further, if your teammate is not a church member, a mission is incomplete until we have invited him/her to join Jesus' people and his mission. If your teammate is a churchgoer, hearing how the church helps you can open the door to a dimension of church life that may be new to him or to her. If what you share is already familiar to your teammate, your sharing is still a useful affirming of the power available to us in church life. Questions 7 and 8 are much of what we know as evangelism. These questions put evangelism inside of mission where it should have been all along.
To ensure effective discussion of these worksheets, follow these steps:
1. Review the table below: "Enhancing Responses to Activity 2 Questions."
2. Try to work with a partner or group of three to five to share responses.
3. After each person shares and guided by the table, the other participants affirm the sharing and, where needed, suggest what might enhance it.
4. If the person sharing has difficulty answering a question (such as 7 and 8) ask the rest to imagine they were that person and to come up with an answer.
Table: Enhancing responses to Activity 2 questions
Question 1: Is this response clear? Clarity is more important than theological accuracy.
Questions 2, 3, and 4: Did you get the sense that the responses to these questions are leading up to question 5?
Question 5: This is the key question. Does it state a specific action and when it will be done? Can you tell what the person is going to do and when?
Question 6: Does the response name a specific person? Does the request sound inviting?
Question 7: Is the description clear? Does this sound like something you could say to a potential teammate?
Question 8: Is the description of how the church helps the member and how it might help the other clear and specific?