Regularly schedule lunch or coffee with various people for the purpose of learning and gaining insight.
For over 27 years (I've been a minister about that long), I've had a practice of asking different people to lunch who I found interesting. I do this for the purpose of asking questions and learning.
I am not talking about eating with people from our church to get acquainted or to solve problems. I am not talking about lunches where we trade sport's scores. No, I am talking about a deliberate attempt to grow by listening to people from whom I can learn.
I served a church in Florence, Alabama for almost eight years. At different times, I asked various people for an hour of their time. I recall conversations with the late Eddie Frost (mayor of Florence at that time) as well as Steve Pierce (president of the city council of Florence at that time). I asked them practical questions about leadership.
On other occasions, seminars or workshops would bring guests to our city or to nearby cities. I recall a long breakfast with Gary Beauchamp (a long time Dallas minister) in Huntsville, Alabama. I asked many questions about ministry. I was a young minister and what he said was helpful. It was a good conversation.
This is a practice, I continued in Kansas City, Mo. I recall lunches and coffee with two men who later became good friends. At the time, both were teaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Hulitt Gloer (now teaching at Truett Seminary at Baylor) and Dr. Bill Stancil (now teaching at Rockhurst College in Kansas City) offered stimulating conversation that helped me grow.
I have continued this practice in Waco. I have met with various pastors in our city for lunches and coffee. Periodically, I have had lunch with a fine businessman (not in our church). I mentioned in a previous blog that I had lunch with three different people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area during the month of July. (All three of these happened to be with older, experienced men in the faith). Those conversations were so helpful and caused me to think. I have also spent time with people younger than myself such as the late Kyle Lake (former pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco who died in a tragic baptistry accident).
Learning from people is not limited to ministers like me. Perhaps you are a Christian business person and would like to learn from other Christians in the business world. Maybe you are a mom or dad and would like to learn from some moms or dads who have been down that road. Find some people who you would like to learn from and consider asking them to join you for lunch or coffee.
Now some suggestions:
1. Come prepared with a few questions that could begin a discussion.
2. A person may have much or little time to give you. Either way, it is an act of grace. Be gracious regardless.
3. Consider that person's strengths and ask questions regarding those strengths.
4. After your lunch or coffee, make notes of what you remember.
5. See if you can locate something in the conversation which you might put into practice.