Note: This is the first in a series of 8 workshops called Foundations For Connecting With God. (Click here to see the full series overview)
Nov 2, 10-11:30am US Central Standard Time
This workshop focuses on two major themes: Joy and Saints. (All Saints Day is the day before so how can we not celebrate a little bit.) I will introduce the topic and series briefly then give time to connect and share little stories of an ordinary or extraordinary saint who has blessed us, and include some time for listening to God. This workshop doubles as the kickoff for an 8 workshop online series I’ve put together called Foundations for Connecting With God that brings together a lot of what I’ve learned about what needs to be in place to help people more easily settle into a deeper awareness of God’s presence/guidance.
John 15:11. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
JOY and Saints
What is Joy? One nice simple definition of joy is the experience of being glad to be together. “Joy and rest is the rhythm of heaven,” someone once shared with me. Joy refers to that feeling of gladness/excitement to see the face of another person and rest refers to the quieting that our brain needs after a boost of joy. Joy is shared primarily through eye contact, and facial expressions. You have probably observed a baby look toward a loving caregiver who then meets the baby’s gaze. Within seconds, both begin smiling and often laughing or being silly with one another. After about 10-15 seconds or so depending on how intense the excitement is, the baby will usually look away and take a rest because the intensity has become all that she can handle for now and her brain needs to cool back down. Ideally the parent will just wait quietly for a moment or so allowing the baby’s brain to rest/calm and then on her own the baby will soon reengage, eager for more joy building. This rhythm of joy and rest is repeated over and over and is the ideal way our brains learn to flow upward into joyful connection and back down into restful quiet*.
The importance of joy cannot be overestimated in every single relationship or gathering in our lives including church functions and prayer ministry settings. When joy is present safety, connection, creativity, and lots of other good things come much more easily. When joy is missing, people tend to be more guarded, closed, rigid, and possibilities start to feel much more limited.
Imagine walking into the first session of a new small group Bible study with people you don’t know very well. In every new setting our brain scans the environment for cues of safety and cues of danger. If you walk into the room and see people who are showing through their expression, eye contact, smiles, tone of voice, gestures, words, etc. that they are glad you have come and they are glad to be together with one another, your brain will likely take these as cues that this is a safe place to relax and connect. On the other hand, if you walk into the room and no one acknowledges your presence, everyone has a serious half frown on their face, and no one seems to really care that you have come, your brain will likely take these as cues that this is not a very emotionally safe environment which puts will tend to put you into a more guarded and closed mode.
Many of us instinctively know this which is why we do things like ask joyful people to greet folks coming in the door with a smile and a hello as they arrive for a church service. It is simple, but joy really helps our brains relax and open up to the important connections with people and with God that we need. In my assessment, it is one of the first elements that needs to be present for deeper connections with God and people to occur, which is why I have made it the theme for this first workshop. As mentioned earlier, joy needs to be coupled with rest so as not to overwhelm people but we will save that topic for next workshop.
Who are Saints? Now let’s move to talking briefly about saints. For the purposes of our workshop I will be using the term saint loosely to refer to any follower of God whose life or actions have inspired you or blessed you in some way. It may be someone seemingly ordinary that you know or someone you have never met but whose life and story has inspired you in your own walk of faith. I encourage people to share about someone whose connection to you is simple and straightforward and with whom you have basically all positive associations. During the workshop I will include a simple prayer asking God to bring a particular ordinary or extraordinary saint to mind. You can also feel free to choose your own. Then those of us who want to can share in our smaller break out groups one main story or thing about that saint that has blessed us in our lives.
Primary skill focus for this workshop:
1)HELPING PEOPLE FEEL MORE SAFE AND CONNECTED.
Additional relevant skills we will include:
2) Welcoming God’s presence and guidance
3) Pausing to notice what is coming into awareness, even if subtle.
4) Sharing with others what is coming to us.**
- Welcome and opening prayer
- Simple introductions either in main group or break out groups of 3-4 so as to help us all feel a little more connected and glad to be together.
- Back to the main group for a brief check in and prayer asking God to remind us of a saint who has blessed us.
- Same Break out groups for sharing about the saint who came to mind.
- Back to the main group for a brief check in and prayer asking if there is anything else God would like us to notice about this particular saint.
- Same break out groups to share what has come to mind.
- Conclusion and closing prayer
- Everything is optional: to promote a sense of safety all exercises are optional and voluntary.
- Respect confidentiality: unless someone is in danger of harm we ask group members to hold personal sharing by others confidential.
- Lean in lean out: If you tend to talk a lot, try to hold space for those who are more quiet, and if you tend to be more quiet you may try to share a little more.
- Please be caring: People tend to do really well with this one.
Facilitator: Andy Ross
Format: 90 minute one time workshops combining both full group teaching and debrief and smaller break out groups of 3 or 4 people for practice times.
Participants can register for one, multiple, or all sessions.
Cost: Free/Suggested $15 voluntary donation per workshop. Please feel no obligation to give but if you would like to make a contribution your gifts are helpful for freeing up our time to do these free workshops, create training material, and subsidize training groups for those who can’t afford the normal rates. You will see an option to make a gift when you register or you can always access the donate page.
Prerequisites: No previous experience needed. Please invite your friends.
Footnotes and Further Resources:
*Much of what I have included here about joy and rest comes from the work of Dr. Jim Wilder and others connected with Lifemodelworks. Their work is in turn heavily influenced by the immensely thorough and comprehensive work of Dr Allan Schore as well as others in the field of what has come to be known in the scientific field as interpersonal neurobiology. Learn more at www.lifemodelworks.org
** Additionally, much of what I include in this workshop series in terms of interactive prayer is influenced from what I’ve learned from Dr Karl Lehman and others who have developed the Immanuel Approach also known as Immanuel prayer. I am breaking down the concepts in a different way and presenting the material differently than Dr Lehman does, but much of the core elements are still the same. Dr Lehman’s website is www.immanuelapproach.com