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The Enabler

Stephen Rymer recalls a profoundly moving experience which changed his way of thinking.

"A friend invited me to sit in on and to observe the workings of a group of business leaders that he mentors. He arranges for them to meet for a day each month in a hotel, starting early in the morning with breakfast. After breakfast they gathered to share the good things which had happened to each person since their last meeting and when someone found it difficult to identify anything worth reporting, Richard's gentle and affirming questions teased out the small but vital achievement.

After a presentation by a guest speaker and lunch taken together during which the events of family life were shared, the real work began. Three of the group had brought difficult issues that they were facing in their companies with the understanding and expectation that the rest of the group would be able to offer insights and wisdom to enable their decision making.

It was fascinating to watch the process and its rituals. A tennis ball was placed on the table ready to be picked up - only the person holding the ball was allowed to speak. The responsibility of the rest was to listen carefully. One by one, each situation was described and then there was space for the listeners to ask questions. Here Richard, the Mentor had a vital role, because questions could only be asked to gain clarity. No expression of opinion or advice was permitted.

The response of the person in the 'hot-seat' to those questions was revealing. "I hadn't seen it in that way." "I hadn't thought of that." Getting new views from a variety of different perspectives was all important and provided sufficient wisdom for personal decision making.

That method of working, the mentor as Enabler of a conversation, not provider of expert knowledge, and the group members as providers of different perspectives rather than their own expertise, values everyone equally. It functions best in a trusting community, encouraged by hospitality.

It could be a model for ministry in the church. In fact, it is in some parts of the world and it promotes 'ownership' of ministry by all God's people because it values the way in which God speaks through each person."

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