In the video, you learned that detached presence includes a disposition of genuine curiosity that includes asking open questions. It also includes direct communication: making observations about what you are noticing when another person talks to you about their calling experience, and then verifying with that person to see if your observations are accurate. Here are some additional characteristics of detached presence:
I don’t tell the person what to do.
I don’t tell the person how to think.
I don’t judge the person no matter what I hear.
I trust that the person is in God’s hands and on a sacred journey.
I trust that my genuine care for the person is a vehicle God can use to move the person along on their calling journey.
I trust that if I listen authentically and actively, God will do the work of guiding and directing.
Detached presence is like being a supporting instrumentalist for an improvising soloist. Your goal is to stay out of the way and to let the other shine in collaboration with the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Recognizing an Open Window
The first step in starting a calling conversation is to recognize when someone opens a window for you to see that they are pondering a calling. Here are just a few of the numerous possible ways you might notice the opening for each of the eight windows. As you read each sign of an opening window, feel free to add more to the list. Building Loving Relationships
Someone is struggling with a relationship and is not hiding the fact that they are struggling.
Someone shares with you a desire to take a relationship with another person deeper.
As You Are Today
Someone expresses to you that they are unclear about their own gifts, talents, or what is most important to them.
Someone tells you that they aren’t sure what direction they want their future to take.
Finding Meaning in Work
Someone shares with you a pondering about a career direction or a job change.
Someone tells you that they have hit a dry spell or a plateau in their work.
Someone wonders out loud in your presence about the value of what their job produces.
Moving through Life Transitions
Someone is entering a life stage milestone such as adolescence, young adulthood, midlife, or older adulthood, and they express curiosity about what it means.
Someone is experiencing a significant life change such as marriage, child rearing, empty nest, retirement, divorce, etc., and they bring the topic up to you.
Someone shares with you that change is difficult for them.
Caring for a Person in Need
Someone begins to share with you about the challenges of caring for an aging family member.
Someone is caring for a sick family member and looking for support or even just a listening ear.
Someone who works in healthcare expresses a desire to understand the deeper meaning of the job.
Sacrificing for Others
Someone works as a first responder and shares with you that they have been wondering about what all the suffering and tragedy means.
Someone tells you about a risk they are considering taking for the benefit of others.
Someone loses a loved one to death.
Someone loses a marriage to divorce.
Someone loses possessions due to a natural disaster.
Someone expresses concern about losing mobility due to illness, injury or the aging process.
Serving the World
Someone expresses concern about the needs of the poor and marginalized members of society.
Someone is pondering out loud about the possibility of doing a mission trip or going overseas to offer another kind of service.
Someone expresses concern about any number of social issues impacting their community, the nation, or the world.
How to Start a Calling Conversation
Starting a calling conversation could be as simple as saying, “Would you like to talk about that?” or “Tell me more about that.” But there are some circumstances that could make getting started trickier than we might expect. The main thing to do is to switch to curiosity mode and to avoid getting into I-have-all-the-answers mode. Watch the next video for some simple and practical things to consider when you are about to enter a calling conversation.
How to Sustain a Calling Conversation
Now that the conversation is started, you have the opportunity to keep it going and to build momentum for the person’s calling journey. Your genuine and caring curiosity coupled with keen and respectful observations will be very important during this part of the conversation. Keep in mind that your goal is to allow God to move them along their own unique calling journey that may have a very different destination from your own. The power of your presence will be amplified the more you detach yourself from what you think is best for them and allow God to guide them to what really is best for them.
Powerful Questions & Follow-Up Questions
Study the list of questions below that you might ask during a calling conversation. Notice that they are open questions and requests, that is, they can’t be answered with a yes or no. They encourage the other to do most of the talking and to gain new insight and new awareness by hearing their own voice talk it through. There is a significant difference between thinking something through and talking something through. Your job is to ask questions, make observations, and stay out of the way while they talk it through. If you’re talking more than the other person is, you may be getting in the way of the calling process. Feel free to add more questions in each category.
To help a person get to the heart of the matter:
What aspect of this is most important to you?
What does this most important part mean to you?
When you are unclear about something or missed something the other said:
What else can you tell me about that?
Give me an example of what you mean?
What does that word/phrase you just used mean to you?
Please repeat that. I’m not sure I got it.
I’m sorry, I was still thinking about the other thing you said. Please repeat that last part?
To lay the foundations for potential solutions to emerge:
How do you want this to end?
If all goes well, what will the result be?
What do you want to be celebrating at the end of this journey?
What are some things you might do to learn more about this experience you are having?
To assist their spiritual journey:
What role is God playing in this?
How is the Spirit moving in your experience?
How is God calling you through this?
What is God calling you to do?
Making Direct Observations
Making direct observations about what you are noticing in the conversation is more than parroting back to the person what you heard. Making a direct observation is a way of repeating what you heard or what you observed in body language or in vocal inflections while using your own words and expressing your own interpretation of what it might mean. It is an act of communication generosity. You are giving the gift of your insight for the person to freely ponder. As a gift, you give it away and remain detached from it. This means the other person is free to accept it as true, reject it as false, or modify it to suit their own calling journey. Whatever they choose to do with your observation is up to them, and it’s important for you to give them the freedom to accept, reject, or modify. You can easily give them this freedom by asking whether or not your observation is accurate or needs modified in some way.
Whatever their response is, you can count it as a win in these three ways:
If they verify that your observation is true for them you have affirmed what they know to be true.
If they reject your observation as false or inaccurate, you have learned something new about their calling journey and can close this line of inquiry while opening a new one. Now you are a step closer to the truth of their calling journey.
If they modify your observation, you have given them a rough gem that they can polish and treasure.
How to Transition to an Invitation to Action
How will you know that it is time to wind down the conversation and suggest that the person can continue deeper exploration of their calling at AllCalled.org? Here are some things to listen for:
The person wonders about where to find more information about the calling experience.
The person indicates some new insights or some new awareness about the calling experience and is excited to learn more.
The person asks directly if you know of a resource that has helpful information about the calling experience you are discussing.
Because this person is not connected to a church community, inviting them to church in most cases will not work. The exception, of course, is if the person expresses a desire to join a church or to participate in a church program. In that case, send them to your church website or go ahead and invite them to a program that would be helpful and offer to attend with them. But our assumption is that you are using this training to prepare for conversations with people who have little or no interest in church participation. God is working with them in another way outside of church structures, and we need to respect that process. Because of this, you will need to choose your transition-to-action words carefully.
Here’s what you might say:
“I understand that you’re not a churchy person, so I have some information about some really good free resources that might help you, and you don’t have to connect with a church to access them. Would you be interested in checking out the website where you can find these resources?”
How would you say this in your own words?
If the person is interested in more information, direct them to AllCalled.org where they will be free to explore many dimensions of calling in any of the eight windows of calling conversations.
How to Close a Calling Conversation
Closing a calling conversation is an opportunity to encourage continued growth by affirming the other and offering ongoing support.
Here’s what you might say as you close the calling conversation:
“I can see that this really matters to you, and I think that’s great! I enjoyed this conversation and hope you find some answers soon.”
“If you’d like to talk more, you know where to find me, but these resources might end up guiding you to someone or some group that could help you even better than I can.”
The first statement affirms their discernment; the second keeps the door open in case the person discovers some interesting content on the website and wants to talk more with you.
How would you affirm and keep the door open? Use your own words.
Practice Guide Here is a 5-step guide that you can use to practice a calling conversation:
Notice the open window.
Enter without prying.
Questions, follow-up questions, and observations (verify observations) – no advice.
Transition to action.
Affirm and keep the door open.
The C3 Project and the Thriving Congregations Project are services of Vibrant Faith funded through two grants from the Lilly Endowment Inc.