This relatively recent book by author Michael B. Stanier is officially about 225 pages, but really, it reads like something which is half that long. I found it compelling for myself, and believe it may have real value for the ways in which Regional Pastors interact with other pastors.
There is always the temptation to provide answers to those who have questions. There is always the temptation to imagine oneself the senior, more expert, ministry partner, and to be more focused on the kind of advice/counsel one could offer, rather than on engaging, encouraging, and empowering the other. Regional pastors are significant others. The question is in what way we are significant.
The book professes to be about coaching, and is. However the value of what Stanier suggests goes far beyond the strict limits of “coaching.” It’s about asking questions. Asking simple and good questions. And asking them one at a time. Being comfortable enough with silence to not jump in with another question or explanation.
I found this book compelling because asking good questions is invitational. Maintaining a stance of curiosity (not-knowing) and empowering another person to articulate more clearly, is to avoid the temptation of posing as the superior. Asking good questions raises the bar for the other, and it also lowers the bar for a coach—or a regional pastor, in a way which is actually more challenging, just like a lower limbo bar can be more, not less, challenging.
Asking more questions goes hand in hand with providing/presenting fewer solutions. That’s a huge challenge for anyone whose propensity is to fix, solve, answer etc.—which are all about my posture rather than about the other’s development.
Asking questions creates space for another to flourish more fully. In fact, Jesus was awfully good at asking questions, and even answering questions by asking still another question. Providing answers often crimps and cramps.
Ultimately, I think what is so compelling about asking more questions and presenting fewer answers is that it fosters humility in both parties.
Here are some basic questions which Stanier suggests as invitations to better conversation.
What’s on your mind?
And what else?
What’s the real challenge here for you?
What do you want?
How can I help?
If you’re saying Yes to this…to what are you saying No?