Before you read

how to apply our faith foundations & Design Thinking to this text


So, we learned about discipleship and the design thinking process at our retreat. Let’s start applying them to our Listening Small Group Notes.

In design thinking, also sometimes called “human-centered design,” we’ll definitely need to look at hard data to understand what is feasible for Advent and a viable long-term strategy, but ultimately, the inspiration for our ideas comes from people.

Understanding the people we are strategic planning for is the heart of our process. That’s why this reading of our Listening Small Group Notes is so important. And why, at 83 pages, this is likely the largest piece of data we’ll be looking at in August.

So, how do we read these Listening Small Group Notes like a disciple and a design thinker? The key lies in one word . . .



Watch this (1 min):

What is Empathy in Design Thinking?


As Christians, empathy is a way of practicing Christ’s love, and being grounded in diverse community. In design thinking, empathy is championed as the key to understanding a problem/challenge, and unlocking the inspiration for innovative solutions.

Empathy is where the inspiration for our ideas comes from.

Matthew 22: 36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Change by Design:

“At the end of it, we have little more that stacks of field notes unless we can connect with the people we are observing on a fundamental level. We call this ‘empathy.’”


in Practice

We understand empathy in practice can be challenging, and it comes more naturally to some people than others. That’s okay.

Like discipleship, empathy is something for all of us to practice. When we do connect with others and discover new insights about life, people, and church through empathy, that can be live-giving and inspiring.

A few things that may help: Pray on it, continually. Ask God to help you. Adopt a “growth mindset,” and just try your best. Take breaks. Ask for guidance or support from Pastor Danielle, Kevin, or a member of your team.

What to Look For

in our Listening Small Group Notes

  • Seek to understand what fundamental needs different people are seeking, experiencing, or expressing at Advent

  • Seek to understand the values, culture, and context of people at Advent, paying close attention to where there is overlap or consensus, and where there is diversity and differences of perspective

  • Like Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, pay attention to people on the margins (or, as a design thinker would say, on the “edges of the bell curve”) and what they have to say

  • Consider how we might widen our perspective beyond the scope of this document: our congregation. We are also strategic planning for the people not yet here. Who are they? Who else could you talk to, and gain new insights from at this stage in the process?

  • Look for the signs of the Church, ancient and modern-day, and where people are ready to grow in following Jesus

  • Look for God at work and the movement of the Holy Spirit

  • Identify constraints, patterns, connections, contradictions, and opportunities

Taking Notes

All your observations & notes are like “clues” (i.e. insights) that can inspire new ideas for ministry, outreach, spatial, financial, and wordsmithing innovations later in the process. Take lots of them.

They will help us to DEFINE (Step 2) our projects, and IDEATE (Step 3) ideas, opportunities, and possibilities with your team. Start gathering your clues!


Okay, ready to read?