Often when we shepherd people, we will feel like the Lord has given us something to say but we will not know how to bring it up. Those conversations in the back of the church building, at the end of a shepherding group meeting, or in the midst of a conversation can be extremely valuable if we are skilled. How are we to handle this situation? To not bring it up is to ignore the person. To barge in is to speak tactlessly and perhaps damage the relationship. What to do? May I suggest the following, two step pattern that the Lord has taught me through much trial and error?
1. Start with a true observation (s).
2. Follow with an open-ended question.
For example, you might say,
“John, I noticed that last Sunday and this Wednesday you seemed down. “(True observation) “What has been happening lately?” (Open ended question).
“Bob, I was praying through the church list the other week and realized that your name is not on the covenant.” (True Observation) “Are you not a member? What is your thinking on that?” (Open-ended question).
“Sarah, in shepherding group tonight you said, ‘God never wants us to suffer.'” (True Observation). “What verses do you base that belief on? Help me understand your thinking. ” (Open-ended question).
“Barb, last week you said to me that ‘I am having trouble with my sister-in-law.'” (True Observation). I have been thinking about that all week. What did you mean by that? ” (Open-ended questions).
“Mary, last year you were wrestling with the issue of baptism.” (Observations). “How did that ever resolve itself? What is your current thinking on that issue?” (Open-ended question).
This type format give you an opportunity to express very real thoughts that the Holy Spirit has put on your heart AND still inquire as to what the other person is thinking. Once you ask the first open-ended question, you can follow up with more questions also.
As we seek to help different ones progress in their faith, may I commend this method to you?