Ministerial development conversations are a free gift from the church. There are no catches! I was astounded when we were told during training that absolutely no feedback was required from any of our conversations with those in ministry, (with of course, the usual provisos should we think the person we’re listening to is at risk of harming themselves or others).

When in my first parish, and on a time of retreat, I had a disturbing dream. I desperately needed the bathroom, but every toilet was either occupied or in full view of everyone. The interpretation of the dream was that I had an urgent need to ‘let stuff out’ but couldn’t find a safe space!

That’s exactly what MDC provides, a safe space where those in ministry can talk openly, and be listened to deeply in strict confidence, with no judgement, no feedback, and no cost, apart from time.

Being a facilitator is an enormous privilege. I enjoy listening, giving my undivided attention to the person I am with; occasionally asking questions, but never giving answers. Facilitators don’t need to provide answers, because the amazing thing is that in most cases, by simply talking through their situation, the person sees more clearly and finds the answer, or at least a way forward.

The gift of being really listened to is a rare and precious commodity in our world. As ministers we often listen to others, but how often are we really listened to? This is a safe place to be free to voice anything, a space where God is present in the conversation.

Many years ago, I attended a conference in Aviemore about conflict resolution, the early days of Place for Hope. One of the speakers spoke of the power of giving one’s full attention to another. There are many examples of Jesus doing this. My personal favourite is how he stopped for the woman who had been bleeding for 14 years. His attention was so complete that he was aware of her touching his cloak, and power going from him to heal her (Mark 5). Towards the end of the conference, I met the speaker in the busy foyer. I can still recall the power of his undivided attention. He stopped to listen to me as if no one else was there. That is love. That is what we facilitators try to give to those ministers who ask for an MDC.

There’s no limit to how many MDCs someone can have. They are all free and totally without catches – such an incredible gift from our church.

When you’re on a journey, walking, cycling or driving and your destination is unclear, the landmarks you thought you knew are changing or moving, what do you do? Stop, and take time to consult a map, a compass, the internet, or even ask someone. If, too often like me, you have failed to do this, you will know how much time and energy can be wasted going in the wrong direction.

The time you give to an MDC will not be wasted. Those trained as facilitators are happy to give our time and attention for no financial reward, because the reward is seeing the benefits, and helping one of our fellow ministers see their way forward in challenging times.

What are you waiting for? Book your MDC today.

Eleanor McMahon