Some Organizing Tips
by Wade Wright
I would like to share some personal thoughts about what the folks who have organized PYM’s Spiritual Formation Program did that insured it was vital in the life of our community. I do so because most of these ideas seem foundational to rightly ordered action leading to transformation now, with fifteen years of perspective making it easier to see and evaluate.
From the very beginning we tried to have confidence that we were not in charge of the program. We listened to God, to our Inner Teacher, we consulted with other folks in order to discern way forward, and we trusted the answers we got and moved, usually by risking taking the first step. BYM told us that organizing this program took a committee of three people: one with skills to design and lead workshops, one to organize registration and one for book selling. So our first committee was three people, and when it lost a member, we just carried on. God stayed with us and people came out of the woodwork to help and to participate. We saw ourselves as stewards of the program for a time, with God as the householder. Participants often felt welcome simply because of our humility: we were certainly not the experts, but only fellow travelers on the journey. The conference where I first heard about this program from Thom Jeavons and Virginia Schurman was called Companions Along the Way. When we hold to this attitude, we create a space of safety and trust that participants can use to open up to one another and to God.
When we approached tasks that were new or scary to us, we took the responsibility to own them thoroughly, and simply trust that our (hard) work would be enough. This is particularly true in leadership positions in retreat workshops. I can remember time after time when one of us was leading a piece we had never done before. Because the leader took lots of time to ponder the goals, the old designs, the resources new and old he or she could find, and spend time in prayer and discernment, and finally really claimed and owned the workshop, miracles often occurred, and new ground was plowed.
And finding ways to trust each other when one of us broke new ground in our approach to a particular workshop segment is important. Or when one of us went off script as the Spirit moved in our hearts. “Wait a minute, what is going on here? That’s not the way we do this piece!…” When we corralled our fears and trusted and supported one another, sometimes with some transparent co-leadership, really sweet new things emerged.
One essential piece of our success: our Collaborative always has seen itself as its own Spiritual Formation Group. We start our work with an extended worship sharing of our individual spiritual condition/recent experience with God, and with worship. We routinely do exactly what the participants are doing while at the workshop (perhaps excluding the segment leader and his/her elder, perhaps not). We savor times when we can “hold one another in the Light,” pray vocally for one another, discern and speak about the spiritual gifts we see emerging in each other. We always leave our Meetings with more energy and inspiration that when we came. Being leaders in the program encourages us to develop and nurture our own spiritual life, our daily practices, our prayer life and our social action in the wider world.