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  • Writer's pictureMo Lederman

Three Questions

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Seven years ago I heard three questions that changed my whole approach to ministry. The Rev. Leng Lim was invited to be the keynote speaker at our Diocesan Convention. (His talk can be seen by clicking here.)

He had been working with homeless youth. He talked about how his program had an intake form that asked all kinds of questions from the mundane (name, age, gender, etc.) to the more personal (drug usage, reasons for homelessness, etc.) He found that while they learned pertinent information from the intake form, it couldn’t tell him whether or not someone would succeed in this program to get teens off the streets and reintegrated into life.

As he and his team worked on the problem they came up with three simple questions. If a teenager was ready to answer these questions honestly they had the emotional maturity to start the program. They would start every group meeting pairing off and answering these questions. The Rev. Lim then asked us, as clergy and lay leaders, to break into pairs with someone we did not know. We were instructed to put our chairs together in a way where we sat next to the other person and could whisper in their ear. Each of us was to take a turn speaking to answer the question and then listen without making a sound. The convention room had hundreds of people in it now scrambling to find a partner and rearrange our chairs. I paired off with a woman I had never met before and haven’t seen since.

The Rev. Lim asked the first question, “What is breaking your heart?”

My partner repeated in my ear, “What is breaking your heart?”

About one minute into the question I found myself in tears. I honestly can’t remember what my answer was, but having someone listen so intently to me was powerful. It was intimate. I felt like I was suddenly supported by the whole body of Christ. I wished I had thought to bring tissues with me. The whole exercise was so powerful that I took a quick blurry picture of the screen and have since come back to these three questions time after time:

What is breaking your heart?

Who inspires you?

What brings you fully alive?

When a parish embarks on creating a new communications plan and finding a new vision for parish life (or perhaps refining an old one) it’s the perfect occasion to have parish meeting. This meeting is a time to listen to the hurts, hopes, dreams, fears and inspirations of the gathered body. It is from these conversations that we can continue to discern the needs and desires of the community. Often these parish meetings begin by talking about the history of a place and reliving favorite (or painful) stories from the collective past or asking, “Where do we see ourselves in ten years?” And those things can yield some great information, but they don’t always help a community find its most vulnerable and honest place. I invite you to not just ask your congregation who they were or who they want to be, but start in a place of who you are right now.

What is breaking your heart?

Who inspires you?

What brings you fully alive?

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