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Lisa Giller with Ashley Powell (left) and Kristen Pittman (right)

I had no idea what I didn’t know

by Lisa Giller, New City Church, Charlotte, N.C.

In 2017, after years of growth as a Christian and involvement in ministry, I discovered something almost completely new to me. Here’s how I got there.

From my earliest years, I was surrounded by women: my mom, grandmother, aunts, sisters, the women in my church and school communities. It was through them that I came to love Jesus at an early age. My mother led me to faith in Christ through prayer. Then, teachers at my Christian school lovingly shared Jesus with me each day and helped me hide God’s word in my heart through Scripture memory. Over and over again, the Lord Jesus used women to point me to himself.

Both my mother and father had a profound impact on my understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to live a life that glorifies God. My parents generously opened their home to people. My grandmother lived with us when I was in elementary school. A family friend lived with us for many years after contracting a virus that caused paralysis. As I entered high school, my parents opened our home to foster children—one of whom my parents eventually adopted. Through radical hospitality (that stretched us and often shook us out of our comfort zones) and devotion to the body of Christ, my parents gave my sisters and me a firm foundation on which to stand.

Despite all this, I often felt on the outside looking in when it came to the deep connections that I perceived others were experiencing. As a child, I longed to be seen and drawn into relationship in the ways I thought others were. Even while feeling on the outside with peers, my Aunt Patty modeled deep care and love to me and gave me a desire to offer that to others.

Woven through my life I have seen an ever-present desire to learn. Although I had swim team and horses to take up my time during the summers, I was one of those students who was sad when the school year came to an end.

As I reached college and was exposed to the broad idea of Christian formation from an academic standpoint (ironically, I had been experiencing this all my life without knowing it), I was thrilled to see two deep motivations in my life—personal connection and learning—braided together. My love of small group Bible study and discipleship was birthed. While in college, I sought out friendship and connection through Bible studies offered on campus.

I continued to pursue connection and growth in early adulthood through small group Bible studies offered in my church. Diving deeply into the Bible with more seasoned women of God resulted in a profound shift in my relationship with the Lord Jesus. I began to move from a “this is what Christians do” mentality to “I can’t help but do this because I long to know Jesus more.” Jesus met me through other women who loved him, in a setting that incorporated learning, and he showed me that he spoke my heart language. I was forever changed.

After marriage, I spent much of my time caring for and managing my family. God continued to provide me with women who poured into me and others I poured into. As my children have grown, I have had more time to devote to ministry: coordinating, teaching, writing and shepherding.

In 2017, Entrust’s Melissa Myers invited me to participate in Entrust Equipping Women’s first module, Facilitating Relational Learning.

I had no idea what I didn’t know. As we discussed the value of open questions, I realized I hadn’t even known the questions I could be asking. Although I had been mentored and discipled most of my life, I was sorely lacking in the ability to ask thoughtful questions and even more lacking in the understanding of how to actively listen. The premise that we are all co-learners resonated with me as someone who loved shared learning situations. Becoming a co-learner of Scripture with women drew me into connection with the Lord Jesus and with his people.

Immediately after that first Entrust module, I began to see its impact on the ministries I was involved in. I also began to see its effect on my personal relationships. Learning how to ask good questions and actually listen for the response has changed the way I interact with people in all spheres of my life.

Through Entrust training, I have learned how to navigate difficult small group situations, how to gently redirect a Bible study discussion that has gone off track, how to lead a meeting by asking questions rather than dictating my agenda, how to ask and write questions that deepen discovery and discussion, how to listen for responses and then ask follow-up questions based on the responses, how to create a team where everyone is using their gifts, and how to write and follow a lesson plan.

Learning to ask good questions and listen well to the answers has also equipped me to walk alongside younger women and give them support and encouragement as they write and teach Bible studies. One of them is Ashley Powell, whom I’ve discipled for eight years. Another is Kristen Pittman, whom I’ve discipled and helped to equip for teaching and writing.

I currently serve as a Bible study writer, curriculum developer and teacher at my church and at the Christian school where my husband is an administrator. In both settings, I am using skills I learned in the Entrust modules—creating a lesson plan and asking good questions.

My husband and I facilitate a young adult small group for our church. I have created lesson plans for our gatherings that have resulted in robust conversations. At the school, I serve with a leadership team that works through our Bible study lesson together before we facilitate individual small groups. I have incorporated much of what I learned through Entrust to enrich and enliven our leader team discussions. We’ve experienced group learning on a level most of us in the group had never experienced before.

Entrust Equipping Women’s fourth module, Equipping Women to Serve, has been particularly helpful in my administrative roles.

Recently, I led a meeting with my Bible study leader team where we discussed what we would study in the next year. Historically, I’ve been the one to choose the book of the Bible we would study. However, last fall as I was praying about what to study, the Holy Spirit made it plain that it was not for me to decide this year; instead, I needed to invite the input of the rest of the team.

I asked everyone to pray about this and come to the meeting ready to share their thoughts. In preparation for the meeting, I created open questions to guide us in a facilitated discussion. What makes a study meaningful or forgettable? Who are the women we serve? What do we know about their Bible knowledge? As you have prayed about what to study, what has come to mind, what has begun to intrigue you?

Instead of having an agenda, I asked questions and allowed the women to share what they had heard from the Holy Spirit. The result was breathtaking. Without having directed anyone to a particular topic, without stating my chosen plan, by only asking questions and inviting interaction and ideas, one after another the women said they felt it was time to study women in Scripture.

It was delightful to watch the faces of the women as the significance of the conversation dawned on all of us. It was plain to each one that it was the Holy Spirit who had been working in everyone’s life equally to reveal the right path forward. What joy it was to participate in this meeting and together experience the leading of the Holy Spirit!

As I consider what it is the Holy Spirit would have me do in the future, I continue to sense his leading toward discipleship and Bible study. Someday I would love to introduce high school students at our Christian school to the methods I have learned from Entrust. In the meantime, I continue to be stretched as I learn to incorporate into my various ministries, more and more of what I learn from the Holy Spirit through his people.

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