Not Just Harder Questions — Better Formats To Nurture Engaging Harder Questions Please

“We must ask harder questions.”

I loved it when my friend and colleague spoke this recently. We were in a conversation about the future of church institutions and some shared work. She spoke with emphasis and exclamation, as many of us are these days. In this instance, it was an issue of digging deeper to who the church and its peoples want to become. Or transform to. It wasn’t a question about how to replicate the past to perpetuate more of the same.

I’m on board for asking “harder” questions. Deeper questions. More personalized questions. More exploratory questions. More evolutionary questions.

And,…

I’ve learned it’s not just asking the questions that makes a difference. I’ve learned we also need formats that enable us to engage the harder, deeper, exploratory, evolutionary, truth-telling questions. Asking the harder question from the pulpit or front of the room — yes, this has its place to help begin to shape a narrative. But we also need formats that emphasize going together in those hard questions.

I rely so much on circle for encountering the harder questions.

I rely so much on simple structure to have us turn to one another, nurturing the harder questions — that’s quite different that shouting hard questions at town hall meetings.

I rely so much on relationship to a center and the emergence that can come from it — that’s quite different than lobbing certainties and accusations upon each other.

I rely on a slowed pace, receiving contributions from many — that’s different than a race to finish and getting on with the next.

I rely on personal presence, to reclaim relational ways of being and leading — that’s different than performing and cajoling manipulated outcomes.

And, more…

So, yes indeed, harder questions. More reaching questions. Questions that don’t have immediate answers. Questions that don’t obligate us to more of the harmful same old, same old.

And,…

We need to reclaim more formats, like circle, for encountering each other, and for encountering ourselves, and for encountering ourselves in the context of each other — in the compelling issues of our times.

4 Replies to “Not Just Harder Questions — Better Formats To Nurture Engaging Harder Questions Please”

  1. “More reaching questions. Questions that don’t have immediate answers. Questions that don’t obligate us to more of the harmful same old, same old.”

    I’ve been working on this, in the setting of my adult “Sunday school” … I call it Adult Faith Exploration. And I’m quite serious about the *exploration* bit. So I usually open with a question. And have the participants write it down. I haven’t been sure if they are ready to share their responses, so I don’t ask for that in a way that obligates them. I do open the door by inviting the sharing. Sometimes the questions are, in fact, probing enough. Sometimes not. I’m learning there is an art to allowing the question to find me, instead of “okay, now I have to think of the right question.”

    1. “…allowing / welcoming the question to find me…” I relate to this too. Often I tell myself that the questions matter immensely, and, that they are all connected. Many doors in to this house of exploration!

  2. I’m involved in imagining and then generating a space/place/means to equip facilitators/hosts to guide the work of systemic, institutional shifts with the Unitarian faith community in Canada. This posting resonates with me today profoundly. Thank you Tenneson for centering us into asking the harder questions, being in relationship, and in circle. We are in this together. With love,

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