Some of my other entries have touched on the “Power of a Question.” It can often completely change our thinking or the outcome of a situation because it invites new perspectives.
I have a friend who does this well. Even when I imagine he has advice to offer, or experience to share – he will hold back, “play dumb” and probe with a series of questions. The beauty in this is it invites dialogue.
Another friend used to say, “I can choose to be right, or I can choose to be happy. I choose to be happy.” I’ve taken that a bit further with “I can choose to be right, or I can choose to connect. I choose to connect.” Again, by asking a question instead of giving advice, we’re more likely to build rapport and create dialogue, which is far more important to me now than being right.
One of the other places I’ve come across the Power of a Question is from my daily devotional, by Mark Nepo. The readings introduced me to a series of questions Native America medicine men ask of the sick: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? These questions would be put to the sick and dying by the tribe’s medicine man. In my recovery journey, I’m learning it’s just as important to ask these questions of the living. I also used these three questions to celebrate my mom’s life journey last year, reflecting on her song, her dance, her story…
“The right question at the right time changes the way we look at things around us.”
This past Sunday, I heard a sermon by my pastor and friend Mike Mather that embodied this “Power of a question.” It was truly inspired and moved me. Mike talked about a visit some folks took to meet with Dr. John Rich, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. As a primary care doctor at Boston Medical Center, Rich created the Young Men’s Health Clinic and initiated the Boston HealthCREW, a program to train inner city young men to become peer health educators who focus on the health of men and boys in their communities. His recently published book about urban violence Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men has drawn critical acclaim.
Mike shared in the sermon how two simple questions from Dr. John Rich profoundly affected the group, and fundamentally changed how Mike now sees the world. It’s also permeates the structure, mindset and “ministry” of our church. Dr. Rich asked the group:
“Who are the healers in your community?
He then asked them,
“How are you supporting those healers?”
At Broadway, we ask not about what someone’s needs are, but about someone’s gifts. Asking people what they are gifted at rather than what they lack changes the way we see the world. And while we are far from perfect at it, it really is a mindset that transcends a single “leader” and has become a way of life for many or most of us.
Others from outside of Broadway have confirmed this, which helps remind me why we do things the way we do. It really does make a difference in the long run. It can be a little messier, or shall I say less tidy and well defined. It’s harder perhaps to measure or articulate through “program objectives” because the work or ministry doesn’t take place from the center, but is instead supported from the center. The church’s role becomes one of making visible that which is already taking place – through the gifts, passions and efforts of our members, out in their neighborhoods, workplaces and communities.
The following clips capture some of what I’m talking about, so I will close with them. You can also find the rest of Mike’s sermon podcast here: