Discernment Modules

Introduction: Discernment

Reflection Questions: 

  • In your own words, how would you describe what God desires for you? For your congregation?
  • What are some important recent points of decision in your own life? What about for your congregation, or for a particular ministry of the congregation?
  • What are some ways that you and your congregation keep your focus on God’s ways, God’s purposes, and God’s time? Is one of these areas of focus harder than the others?


Kathleen references Ken’s video in this module.

Individual Reflection Questions:

  • What prayer practice do you turn to when you want to listen to God?
  • Consider one point of discernment in your life right now. How would you answer the three questions posed by Michael Himes:
    • Is this a source of joy?
    • Does this tap into your talents and gifts?
    • Is this role of genuine service to people around you and to society at large?

Communal Reflection Questions: 

  • What are the gifts of your congregation? Consider the people; the buildings and spaces; the resource of time; congregational energy; congregational focus; money; relationships with the wider community.
  • What practices do you have (or might you develop) in your meetings for sorting what is of God from pressures and influences that are not of God? How might you empower people to speak difficult insights in a meeting?
  • The video teaching outlines a sequence for discernment that involves story-telling, communal reflection, and making connections to God’s story in the scriptures. What would need to happen in your meetings to make room for a process of discernment like this? How would you decide which decisions require discernment, and how would you make time for such practices?
  • Why is discernment important for congregations?

For more on listening and the three key questions, check out this video from Fr. Michael Himes, SJ.


Individual Reflection Questions:

  • Consider one point of discernment in your life right now. Look inside and take stock:
    • Are you feeling consolation (spiritual gladness) or desolation (noise, restlessness) about the opportunity?
    • What could you do in the coming days to test out the opportunity? Kathleen’s ideas include: trying out different jobs or spiritual practices, a new volunteer opportunity, shadowing someone, traveling, joining a group, learning a skill, and introducing ourselves to a person.

Communal Reflection Questions: 

  • What actions and attitudes on the part of leaders would help their congregations engage in experimentation or testing options in ministry?
  • The video speaks of individuals developing intuition and feelings, an inner knowing, over time that help guide them from within. How might you make room for sharing intuitions and feelings as part of group discernment? How will you deal with differences in this area of knowing?
  • The discussion of individual callings being “for” others and coming “through” others suggests the way in which the larger congregation might function as a proving ground for specific ministries within the church. What means do you have for discerning whether a specific ministry helps the congregation as a whole to live into its purposes?
  • Are there important institutions or other entities in the surrounding neighborhood who would be important conversation partners for discerning a calling of your congregation?
  • Which of the “confirming signs” do you think would be most applicable to a process of group discernment? Can you tell a story of a time when a ministry of your church received one of these signs of confirmation?

For more on seeking, check out this Loyola Press article, “Discernment: Consolation and Desolation.”


Kathleen references Sarah’s video, Adam’s video, and Lauren’s video in this module.

Individual Reflection Questions:

  • Consider one point of discernment in your life right now:
    • What images of God might you need to let go of as you wait for a new understanding to emerge?
    • What do you long for in this time of waiting?

Communal Reflection Questions:

  • What are some times in the life of a congregation that call for waiting and enduring not-knowing?
  • Not-knowing is hard. What is required of leaders in a time when it becomes important to slow down and listen?
  • What have you learned from going through congregational times of waiting and not knowing? What practices did your congregation engage in that time?
  • How might a congregation or a ministry team honor a “not yet” or “not now” discernment without losing energy entirely?
  • What ongoing congregational practices and ministries might help a congregation live into the mystery, into trust in God, into faithful not-knowing?

For more on waiting, check out this prayer from Thomas Merton in his book, Thoughts in Solitude.


Individual Reflection Questions:

  • Consider one point of discernment in your life right now:
    • How could you live into the opportunity in the coming days to test it out?
    • What is the risk of making this decision?

Communal Reflection Questions:

  • There is much in this video that could inform the work of a congregational board or committee, as people seek to make a good decision about a proposed ministry. The process is: 1) to seek God’s help in making the decision through prayer; 2) to live imaginatively into the various options and their consequences; 3) to seek confirmation of the choice; 4) to wait and trust; 5) to make the decision and carry it out.
  • An important and difficult insight for congregations is: “Decisions don’t have to be perfect. They don’t come with certainty.” What qualities and actions by the leadership are important for living into decisions wisely, both lightly and with confidence?
  • How do congregations learn to tolerate risk? What is hard about risk in congregational life?
  • What is your congregation’s experience of sacrifice and joy?
  • What rituals are meaningful for your congregation when you have made important decisions? What rituals are meaningful for committees when they have made significant decisions?