It may seem a little awkward to start a conversation with a staff person or member about their spiritual wellbeing/health. This training is designed to equip you and open a conversation amongst us about this topic.

There are four things to consider:

  1. Some general understanding of resilience, spiritual well being, the rationale for doing this, and how we all feel about this sort of conversation (learning from each other).
  2. Looking at some options that provide a better picture than the usual Q&A (How is your spiritual life? Fine thanks. Let’s move on.) This includes the Cerny Smith inventory, a simplified reflection inventory and the role of spiritual directors/coaches.
  3. How you might approach the conversation following whatever review/reflection. 
  4. What resources are around for people if you identify a desired area of growth/ strengthening.

Part One – General understanding of resilience and spiritual well being 

Introduction – Stating the obvious

We all come to our conversations with people with our own perspectives and understandings of what is good or not, what is healthy or not, what is wise or not. When talking to people about their spirituality we are touching on their “soul life” and need to be very careful and respectful of who they are and where on their journey they may be. We all stand on the same ground. We are all on a journey and like us others will be in a particular season of life be it the emptiness of winter, the growth of spring or enjoying the mountaintop of summer. As we check in with people we are primarily trying to make sure they have an awareness of their spiritual health, that they are being intentional in their response to where they are at and that we have resources to enable them to continue on their journey.

We need to recognise our personal boundaries and organisational boundaries. We are NOT being their mentors , nor their spiritual directors, and we need to be able to refer people who need help to somewhere they can get help if they need it, want it. 

Wycliffe wants to assure itself that each member can answer “Who do you have in your life (other than a spouse) who is asking you the hard question including about your spiritual Journey?”

In our conversations we need to create the environment of being supportive and allowing people to be honest in a safe and confidential place, this may not be easy as some Members may resent any perceived checkin of their spiritual lives, we will talk about these situations during the session. 

How are you feeling personally about preparing to talk about healthy spirituality to members on your list? 

There are two parts to these sessions each may take about an hour, please fill in your thoughts in the yellow boxes before the session so we can talk about what you think rather than have to use face to face time doing our own thinking. 

“Resilience is the process of adapting to significant adversity through the use of assets and resources within the individual, their social networks and wider environment; a process which carries across the life course and is expressed in culturally meaningful ways.”

 2016 – Duncan Watts of Interserve

How would you describe resilience in a member?How does Watts’s definition help us in our conversation with members?

The  list of resilience variables could be included in a semi-structured interview:

  • adaptive engagement
  • spirituality
  • emotional regulation
  • behavioural regulation
  • physical fitness
  • sense of purpose
  • life satisfaction
  • past responses to adversity
How does this list inform our conversations? What other words would you add to this list?

The suggestion from the last variable above is, if adversity has been experienced members might have greater resilience. 

Do you have any examples of debriefing people where you would say resilience has been developed from past experience? How might we use people’s experiences differently to help them grow?

The following four sections are a reflection by Keith Stokes, Chaplain.

The relationship of the missionary to their Lord is very important indeed and will colour/affect their attitude to all they do. This would, therefore, make it a high priority.

  1. It is important that pastoral care should be planned/discussed with sending churches early on. 
    1. It may be that Wycliffe and sending churches could agree how each can support those serving as missionaries, and if confidentiality is required, under what circumstances (if any) some matters can be shared between church and Wycliffe.
    2. If sending churches are already doing this, then it would be helpful  to know what they are doing and how they do it.
    3. Local church could have a designated person e.g. from their mission committee to keep in touch regularly with the missionary(ies), ideally by means of  face video conferencing.
As a PCC what do you think about this idea of a shared approach with a local church?
Does it: Lighten our load? Make things more complex? Provide a better service? Make things confusing to the member and entity of assignment? 
  1. Spiritual health and strength are the most important parts of resilience. Some helpful passages. Prov 20-23 N.B v23, 1Tim 4:16, 1John1:8-10, Rom 8:1-4
What is your response to the statement above, “Spiritual health and strength are the most important parts of resilience”?
Looking at the Bible passages, what can we learn?
  1. Visits are greatly appreciated by those on the field. Could frequency of visits be discussed?
    1. If sending churches are planning to visit their missionaries it would be helpful to know when and for what purpose to enable informed prayer.
What coordination do we give or receive from supporting churches?
Do we tell churches when a member of the office staff will be visiting a location of one of their members?
  1. Help for those struggling with work/life balance is essential. Aspects of this may include:
    1. Parents with young children
    2. Work related issues e.g. lack of resources, personality clashes, potential threats in unstable situations 
    3. Help for those struggling with health issues and any accompanying guilt
How do you as a PCC approach such issues?
How in these situations do you assess a person’s spiritual well being?
Are you able to reflect back to a member the implications on their spiritual well being? 

Often a picture is worth a thousand words.

General Description of Staff Well Being

  1. The grace of God (sun) is extended to both individuals and to Wycliffe as an organisation. This could also be the missio dei of what God is doing in the community and individuals. Individuals have a responsibility to relate to their heavenly Father as a source of their well being and this relationship should be continually deepening and maturing. A possible activity to engage in this would be to experiment as a community to give testimonies of God’s grace to the community and individuals.
  2. The work of the Holy Spirit (rain) is to both individuals and within the corporate processes of Wycliffe. As the community and individuals seek the Holy Spirit’s presence in what we are doing the health of individuals and community will develop. Sin in a community is a destructive influence to a community and to individuals. The work of the Holy Spirit brings discernment of sin, acknowledgement of sin, forgiveness of sin and restoration to both God and/or community. A possible activity for the Wycliffe community and the communities where Wycliffe’s staff are seconded would be to experiment and find culturally appropriate ways of intentionally engaging in what might be considered spiritual exercises (such as reflection, discernment, prayer) into Wycliffe’s work process such as decision making or priority setting or reviews carried out by a supervisor.
  3. Trees grow in adverse conditions like wind and develop a shape and root structures that allow them to continue to grow and develop often resulting in a really strong trunk and beautiful timber. Life in missions is inherently stressful and has environmental adversity, multi-cultural teams, cross-cultural living and service which all add adversity. Recognising we too will experience adversity, the maturity of individuals and a community could be evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. An activity that could be considered to enable the acceptance and function of adversity is to encourage each other to recognise situations where there needs to be a greater intentional trust that God is in control (sovereignty of God) including the continual development of a theology of suffering.
  4. As Jesus said, there are times when there needs to be pruning, and in Wycliffe and its partners, as an organisation where staff work (make a contribution) and live (in community), there are times when for the health of a person there needs to be an intervention or assistance. At the most direct end of intervention would be a response to child abuse, suicide threat, terrorism or natural disaster. At the other end of the continuum there is a “quiet word in season.” 
  5. When thinking about the soil a tree is planted in, it is essential that the soil is fertile. This is usually achieved by the addition of fertiliser and water. Fertiliser isn’t continually applied, rather when there is a need for growth. In Wycliffe and its partners such enrichment is equivalent to Wycliffe and its partners implementing some purposeful initiative for a time such as a prayer initiative, a focus on spiritual health, conducting retreats or guest speakers at Unit (branch) conferences. Such enrichments should have a short term boost effect and longer term health benefit.
  6. The health and fruitfulness of any tree is largely dependent on the tree’s root system. The analogy here is the roots of healthy staff and families lie in the ecosystems they are connected to and the general health of such systems. Wycliffe and its partners generally have six such systems people may be connected to:
  1. Wycliffe and their sending church (local or expat)
  2. Wycliffe and its partner’s ability to offer appropriate staff and family care in a way a person can connect with, with the difficulties in the virtual working and remote assignments contexts
  3. Care provided from a person’s personal network of friends and colleagues 
  4. Organisational health. If an assignment situation has difficulties such as broken relationships, trauma based on an event, damaged trust or general dissatisfaction, it will have a limited ability to support its staff.
  5. Organisational culture. If an assignment location has a culture of people first, work and production second, and uses the resources available from the following sources, the Unit is more likely to be supportive of its staff. 
  6. Resources: mental health service, physical health service, TCK services, child safeguarding, spiritual health promotion, staff well being.
How helpful is this picture?
Could you use it as a basis for reflecting on what is happening in someone’s life and situation as a diagnostic tool to help support the person? If this doesn’t work for you what might be helpful to you?
What can others do to assist you in these conversations ? 

Part 2 – Tools to help open the conversation

Accepting it isn’t easy to start a conversation about spiritual well being, after all faith is a private and personal thing in the UK, it’s best as a PCC you declare your intent to talk about spiritual things when arranging or reminding someone of the call. Don’t just jump into it or slide into it depending on your style! Give people a heads up that it’s coming.

What do you anticipate as being the issues and things we have to overcome to be able to hold these conversations? In myself? In the members? 

Wycliffe wants to at the very minimum know  that members have someone in their lives (other than a spouse) who is asking you the hard question including about your spiritual Journey?” and if they don’t to open a conversation with the member about healthy spirituality.

What do you as a PCC feel about asking about Healthy Spirituality, no matter how an individual would describe “healthy Spirituality for themselves?

Four “tools” have been identified to help open these conversations:

  1. Use of the Cerny Smith inventory – this requires a qualified facilitator. link
  2. Use of simplified Self Directed tools (here and here) that are then debriefed by Staff Care Personal.
  3. Use of a spiritual director/coach with the member giving feedback to the Staff Care Personal.
  4. A “Directed conversation” with the Staff Care Personal.
As a PCC what do you think of these ideas? 

Some members may be very resistant to being asked about their spiritual lives, possibly out of defensiveness or a belief it’s none of Wycliffe’s business to be asking, on what grounds (and authority?) Do you believe PCC’s should be including this topic in their conversations? 

PCC should be talking about Healthy Spirituality because:

 How you might approach the conversation following whatever review/reflection 

When the member has carried out their reflection the PCC will ask three questions:

  1. What of everything you have identified and understood is most important to you?
  2. What would you like to do about it?
  3. How are you feeling about this now? 

Using these questions, based on the Acorn listening training, ensure the members are left in control of making the changes. 

Question:What is your reaction to limiting your response to these three questions?

Resources that are available for people if you identify a desired area of growth/strengthening

The intention is there will be a resource library of people and materials you can direct members to. 

Question:What sort of materials do you think would help you as a PCC to assist members?