Guiding a CLC group through exploration of meaningful topics and shared prayer is not a small task and requires continued reflection, cultivation of skills, and openness to how God may be working in them and through the group. The Caminos project presupposes that CLC Facilitators have experienced some formation through their larger programs and have a support network of other Facilitators, Campus Ministers, pastors, or mentors to support them in their role.
This page gives some background into the different parts of a meeting as they’ve been written for Caminos. This blueprint is meant to be interpreted by the Facilitator, and the Facilitator should always feel great freedom to adapt the meetings to however they best support the group as a whole. A Facilitator who knows his or her group well may be able to readily identify what he or she expects will and will not work well for their group.
The most important part in guiding a group through these meetings however, is to remember the Spirit truly is the one leading the meeting and to try to be open to how that might unfold. That may mean that the topic shifts to something different at points or part of the meeting doesn’t even get covered. It is common that facilitators begin with a “plan” for a meeting yet it often goes in a completely different life-giving direction or there is no formal plan to begin with and something wonderful still emerges from the group. All of these patterns are normal in the life of a CLC. It is important that you continuously discern these movements in order to identify that they are in line with God’s invitations for growth in the community. It is a delicate balance to recognize when diversions are of the Spirit or symptoms of a group who is struggling to engage certain topics. With prayer and reflection on the experience, though, God can help as we work to ensure that the CLC experience is meaningful and enriching for all the members.
The following notes will help illuminate the format that was chosen for the Caminos meetings.
The Facilitator Notes are designed to help the group leader get oriented to the focus of this meeting. This background it offers is intended to assist the Facilitator in becoming more comfortable with the topic, offering any suggestions for preparation or things to be mindful of when leading the meeting. In addition, information is included to help situate the particular meeting in the larger Caminos arc and context. These notes are very helpful for the Facilitator to read carefully when preparing to lead the meeting, but are not designed to be read aloud to the group.
Recognizing that God is at the center of our CLC experience together, we root ourselves in God’s presence by beginning in prayer. Many meetings will simply suggest a grace that the group may choose to ask for, much like St. Ignatius suggested. Other meetings may have an already-written prayer available for use. The Facilitator is encouraged to prayer in whatever way feels most authentic for the group. It may be helpful to introduce the theme of the meeting as part of the prayer if it is offered spontaneously. As additional options, music or poetry may be useful.
The check-in time is the opportunity for the group to connect in an intentional way after being apart. When a group feels a strong sense of community, or when a group prefers to talk socially more than pray and reflect together, there can be a tendency for the “brief” check-in time to stretch for the majority of the meeting. Sometimes there may be a significant need among the group that emerges during the check-in time that the Spirit seems to be inviting the group to attend to, and the Facilitator should always feel free to adjust accordingly. However, if this happens frequently, the Facilitator may want to seek counsel from a CLC mentor, as groups who do not engage the deeper spiritual content regularly have a greater challenge growing together and being sustained over time.
The Facilitator should try to keep the check-in time brief. One way to accomplish this is to avoid framing the check-in as an opportunity to “catch people up” on everything that has happened in the last week. Instead, trying to focus on how people are feeling as they come to this space “right now.” This can be very effective. (For example, each person can choose one of four emotions: mad, sad, glad, afraid.) Or, to be very specific in asking people to offer one “rose” and one “thorn” about their week. Perhaps inviting each person to share one way they encountered God this week or one way they felt like God was hard to find.
The check-in suggestions included in the Caminos outlines try to connect the experience of the group with the topic for the meeting, which can be a helpful way to get the group beginning to reflect on the theme.
The Focus Exercise is the “meat” of the meeting experiences. Content varies, from Ignatian Meditation or Contemplation, Free Writing Awareness Examen, and Lectio Divina, to hands-on creative activities or other participatory means to engage the theme. If special instructions or supplies are needed for the Focus Exercise, these can be found in the Facilitator Notes.
The listening section provides questions that allow community members to listen to and share about what is moving within them after the focus exercise. While people share, the real art is listening to what the other members are saying and letting it take root within us. Facilitators may use these questions as they see fit, or they may simply choose an open-ended question and allow the conversation to emerge from that. Some groups choose to allow each person to share once (as a “first-round” of sharing) before people respond to what they have heard in the other members. As a group matures and gets to know one another better, it may be beneficial to allow space after each person shares for group members to give space for questions, clarifications, affirmation, or identification of patterns that may help each member deepen their own reflection. This time of feedback from group members should be grounded in openness, curiosity, and the mystery of the person sharing. Feedback should not be guided by pre-determined answers, advice, or a time for each member to share their own similar story. Ex: “I know exactly what you mean….it is kind of like this one time…I went through the same thing when….” As the Facilitator, make sure to model and encourage mature active listening, empathy, and feedback that helps each member grow in the group.
Listening Deeper is an important part of the meeting and should be practiced often. This part invites the group to reflect at a new level beyond the initial sharing about their own inner thoughts, realizations, “ah hahs,” or stirrings of their hearts. The purpose of listening deeper is to allow the group to pay attention to how their own reflection personally or communally is deepening after hearing others initially share. These questions are meant to help group members track spiritual movements as they develop more discerning orientations. It is also a time when the group can notice movements as a community beyond simply as individuals. “I notice that we are all struggling with trusting at this time…some in their relationships, some with God, some with themselves.” Identifying a common theme (if present) can move the group to affirm: “maybe we should do our next meeting on continuing this theme of “trust” and what is challenging us in doing so at this time.” A group may also affirm: “Maybe we can continue to offer this challenge in trusting this week to God in prayer. Lets share next meeting what our reflections are from prayer this week.” Another emerging reflection in the “Listening Deeper” time might be: “Thank you Sam for sharing about your experience in deciding what you are doing next year. I realized some anxiety within me about the same question and I think this is something I need to pay attention to.” This portion can take on various forms but the important thing is that group members are able to reflect on the content of the meeting, recognize what they are “taking away” and identify how this influences their attitudes, commitments, or awareness in the coming days and weeks.
“Moving Forward” offers a simple exercise, theme, or some concrete way that the group can take this meeting into the rest of the week. CLC is not transformative if it doesn’t overflow into our lives beyond the group time we spend together. The suggestions in Moving Forward may help the group to continue their growth and reflection during the other six days of the week.
Just as we root our experience in God with the opening prayer, the closing prayer is a time to offer gratitude for the way the Spirit has been part of our time together. A spontaneous prayer offered by the Facilitator or a group member can often be a heartfelt way to encompass the meaning of the shared experience and offer it to God. Suggested prayers that are tied with the theme may be found in some meeting outlines.
Since CLC is a lay movement shaped by Ignatian spirituality, the “Ignatian Roots” section connects the theme of each meeting to the Ignatian context, usually through a reference to St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and a reference to the CLC-USA General Principles.
While many meetings will utilize a passage from Scripture as part of the Focus Exercise or Opening Prayer, this section provides additional passages that relate to the theme. These passages could be helpful for group members who wish to continue to pray with the theme in the coming week, for the Facilitator to pray with in anticipation of leading the meeting, or alternative passages for use as part of the meeting.