A Camel is a…

Written by Burt Braunius /
April 15, 2014

A camel is a horse created by a committee. It’s an expression. I first remember hearing it in the 1970’s. So today many of us avoid using the term “committee” in favor of words like “team,” “group,” and “task force.”

The reality is that it does not matter what a group is called. If the leader is spiritually mature and competent in group process skills and the participants are supportive and open, the results will be more effective than a single individual making decisions herself or himself… especially in Christian groups.

And, actually, any leader who uses expressions like “A camel is a horse created by a committee” does disservice to camels, horses, and his or her leadership abilities. The God who made the animals created us to live and lead in community.

The book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton, called my attention to the spiritual dynamics of group leadership. A lay leader-friend recommended the book. He is currently reading and discussing it with his church board while also recommending it for discussion by a non-profit board on which he serves. It is an excellent resource for individuals and groups as a guide for transformation and discernment.

Pursuing God’s Will Together has two parts. Part one is about becoming a community for discernment. Its emphasis in upon personal, inner transformation. Part two describes the process of practicing discernment together. The “practicing” part incorporates four stages: preparation, openness, doing, and going. The stages are briefly described below. They are also available in chart form by clicking here.

Ready – Preparation
–Clarify the question for discernment
–Gather the community for discernment
–Affirm (or reaffirm) guiding values and principles

Set – Putting Ourselves in a Position to Be Led
–Prayer for indifference (openness and objectivity)
–Test for indifference
–The prayer for wisdom
–The prayer of quiet trust

Do – The Will of God
–Communicate with those who need to know
–Make plans to do God’s will as you have come to understand it
–Keep discerning as you do God’s will

Go – Discerning God’s Will Together
–Set the agenda for listening
–Listen to each other
–Listen to God in silence
–Reconvene and listen again
–Identify and work with options
–Agree together
–Seek inner confirmation
–Affirm God’s guidance

Pursuing God’s Will Together is a must for Christian leaders, including senior leadership groups. Unlike many ministry resources, this one is deeply rooted in theology and historic Christian literature, while at the same time providing contemporary examples and application. Those looking to make meetings into expressions of spiritual formation will enjoy this work.

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