Apr 17, 2017
Go Deeper with the Refocus Tool
Editors note: Mike first shared about the Refocus Tool as part of a podcast he did for us about the Campus Ministry Playbook. You can hear that podcast here. And you can click here to download your own copy of the playbook.
The more I talk to my peers in ministry around the country, the more convinced I become that despite our differences in accent, catchphrases, and worship practices, we are more alike than we are different. I feel almost instantly united with any collegiate minister by our shared abiding passion to see students transformed from the inside out into people who live and love like Jesus. We don’t just want to give students more head knowledge or mere behavior modification; we want the gospel to touch and heal every part of their souls!
The catch is that most of us have been taught more methods to engage students’ heads and hands with the gospel than their hearts. We have a wealth of tools in our tool belt help students think better and act better, but can often feel out of our depth in helping them to feel better or desire better in life. Though we know it’s our job to help students love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, those first two can feel more nebulous and intimidating than the last two.
That’s why New Life developed the Refocus Tool. It has been extremely useful in helping students navigate the deeper places of their heart to find restoration and love God more deeply in all four of those areas. Hang around our students for just a few days and you’ll likely hear things like, “I’m going to need to Refocus over that tomorrow” or “I’ve got to do at least 3 Refocuses to process this last week!”
A Refocus consists of a Forward (Four F’s) and a Reverse (3 R’s) section, and usually takes up both sides of a sheet of paper. It’s a process that begins by a student identifying a recent situation in which they know they were not demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and seeking God for greater clarity, understanding, and restoration in their spirit. It involves seven distinct steps, bookended by prayer. The following is the prompt we give students to help them begin this process themselves (though it’s more than doubly effective when they invite a friend to help them verbally process). After that, there’s an abbreviated example of a completed Refocus from a collegiate man. Click here to download your copy of the Refocus Tool and follow along.
Section 1: Facts
Answer the following:
- “What happened?” This is an account of “what the video would show.” It’s a telling of the event that would hold up in a court of law. It should include only detailed plot, excluding judgments and assumptions. [For example: “My best friend raised her voice and told me I was selfish,” not “My best friend was in a bad mood and took it out on me.”]
- “What did I do in response?” This includes both external and internal responses.
Section 2: Feelings
Refer to a feelings chart for help. Try to find 5-10 feeling words that describe how you felt. Put a star next to the one(s) that you experienced most intensely.
Section 3: Fueling Beliefs
A fueling belief is a circumstantial belief driving one of your emotional responses in the story. Fueling beliefs include thoughts, judgments, perceptions, self-talk, and desires. They may be about you, about others, or about God. The simpler and more concisely they can be stated, the better. Sometimes these will come out as questions; when that happens, answer your own question with the answer that your emotions were coming from (e.g. “Why can’t she just be happy for me?” becomes “She’s jealous because I have a boyfriend now and she doesn’t). At every level, write new fueling beliefs the prompting questions are revealing.
- Level 1—The Mind Reel: Start by recording the words that were running through your mind at the time.
- Level 2—Understanding Your Emotions: Go through your emotions from Section 2 one-by-one, filling in the blank: “I felt [emotion from Section 2] because ______________” with as many things that apply (these are fueling beliefs). This can illuminate very important dynamics happening just below the surface of conscious thought.
- Level 3—Digging for Gold: This is best with help from a trusted friend or mentor. Get curious about the deeper meaning and significance of what you’ve written, and allow someone else to be curious with you. For the beliefs that feel significant from “Understanding Your Emotions”, try answering “Why does that matter so much to me?” and “What does that mean (about me, God, others)?”
- Level 4—Feeling Your Way Back: Our bodies know and remember things that our mind has forgotten or repressed, and this often influences us even if we are unaware in the moment. When you’ve reached the limit of what your mind can discern about the situation, revisit your feelings words, recall what that felt like in your body at the time, and ask yourself: “Does this feel familiar? Where from?” This often leads to understanding we could not have arrived at cognitively.
Section 4: Faulty Agreements
A faulty agreement is a universal belief you hold that drives a sinful pattern of relating. They are agreements with Evil that hold you in bondage. They often involve self-protective vows and reveal deceitful sources of life, love, and purpose (idols) that you pursue. Look back at your Fueling Beliefs, and see where you can identify dark underlying views or postures about yourself, God, or others that you’ve carried with you into this specific situation.
Section 5: Reflect
Reflect upon what your faulty agreements have cost you in life. Consider their impact on your health, relationships, and sense of well-being. If you sense you are in a soft posture before God, take this opportunity to confess your sin, break your agreements with Evil, and turn to Him in repentance.
Section 6: Renew Mind
Review your Fueling Beliefs one-by-one. Some may be true, half-true, unknowable, or simply lies. Address each belief with truth (be as specific with Scripture as possible) you can meditate upon to get re-grounded in God’s reality. Get help from a friend. Some of your beliefs are lies that you deeply hold to be true because they have been so ingrained via your experiences, and they are blind spots that you can only recognize through help from others.
Section 7: Reorient Worship
What is a concrete action I can take to reorient my worship toward God? Before taking this step, what am I going to ask God and others for?
Here is an example of what a completed Refocus Tool might look like:
Sarah told me she had a “friend date” tonight. I asked her if she knew the guy’s intentions, and told her that it’s important to know. She told me she wasn’t excited for the date any more, felt attacked, and left the room crying. Her friends left the room with her to comfort her. I turned to Sean, asking if he shared my concerns. He said he did, but he did not tell me that what I said was ok.
Frustrated, Insecure*, Hopeless, Discouraged, Guilty, Alone*
Sarah can’t hear or think straight about this
Someone needed to say this; she needs leadership
She should have thought about this more after the problems in her last relationship
She needs to work through why she feels attacked when I use a gentle tone
She’s overly sensitive; I was just trying to protect her
This guy must be really immature to keep his intentions hidden
I don’t know how to be sensitive with girls or with anyone
Girls constantly feel like I’m attacking them
Everyone here thinks I’m a jerk
I’m intimidating and scary to women
This feels just like my shame and loneliness when my parents told me they were getting a divorce.
I’m a really insensitive person
I will never make progress
My heart is irredeemably hard
These agreements keep me from taking risks in relationships, especially with girls. They’ve made me fearful to offer tenderness or understanding, and keep me withdrawn from my friends. God, I want to believe there is more for me, that there is hope for my life, that you’ve made me a new creation. Break the power these agreements have over me. Amen.
Sarah has legitimate sensitivities that require patience, just like I do (Eph. 4:2, Rom 14:1-4)
The sharpness of my questions obscures my tender heart from view
God has given me a new, soft heart (Eze 36:26, Rom 8:15)
The divorce was not my fault
I am not condemned because I’m in Christ, who intercedes for me (Rom 8:1, 34; 1 John 3:20)
God is maturing me, conforming me to Christ’s image (Rom 5:3-5, 8:29; Heb 12:7-11; Phil 1:6)
Apologize to Sarah, asking her how it felt, believing I can help restore her
Ask two close friends to share with me moments they saw my tenderness & compassion