Six Thinking Hats

When Chris Barras, the pastor at Area 10 Church, and I talked the other day, he said, “I heard you talk about Six Thinking Hats by DeBono. I read it, but I can’t figure out how to use it in disciple-making?”

It was a great question. DeBono’s book is incredible for running teams and meetings. He talks about six ways that humans think, process, and talk. And he encourages team leaders to use those six ways to get teams to be creative and manage interactions. For example, one of the hats is the Red Hat of Emotion. Every team member has emotions, so DeBono teaches us to leverage that by asking, “Okay. Everyone put on your red hat, and let’s talk about how we feel about this issue?” Giving folks permission to speak their feelings can be critical to finding solutions. In fact, some of those feelings can become solutions.

Chris continued, “Am I supposed to ask my discipleship group to put on their Green Hat (creative solutions) and talk about a specific scripture?” That is another excellent question.

Let me explain. DeBono uses the six ways people think proactively. For example, he pushes people to engage with the Red, then maybe the White hat. But I use Six Thinking Hats reactively. It helps me listen well, get in the disciples’ mind frame, and provide feedback that matches “where they are.”

I am only the guide. As the guide, it is my job to help disciples think through scripture and engage their spirits with God’s spirit to get what God is saying to them. To do that, I need to be listening and guiding well. I must understand where the disciple “is” as they share what they are learning.

If they speak out of emotion, Red Hat, I just need to listen and not try to fix anything. I might ask, “Hey, Bob. That scripture seems to have hit you in the heart (Red Hat). What do you think God might be saying to you (Green Hat – New Ideas)?” Let’s try another example. Let’s say the disciple attempts to be too creative with a verse. For example, Mary says, “When I read that God loves us the way we are, it made me think he loves me that way. I struggle with my weight and insecurity, but this scripture made me realize that God loves me just like I am, fat.” There might be a bit of Red Hat in Mary’s comment, but it is a Green Hat (new ideas, creative) misfire. Seeing this, I say, “Mary. You are right. God loves you (White Hat – data – I affirm a truth) but is that what this verse is about (I push her towards the Black Hat – critical thinking)? If you simply look at the verse, what does it say (White Hat – data)?” In both interactions, my goal is to get the disciple to see what God is saying and to listen to God in that moment. I pushed Bob from emotion to application. I pushed Mary from being too creative to think critically about what the verse actually said and then apply that truth.

To be clear, I don’t say, “I need you to put on the Green Hat.” That would be way too clinical. I am simply aware of how the disciple is thinking. When necessary, I affirm and guide them to a different way of thinking that makes the verse come alive while staying true to what the verse actually says. My goal is to get the actual truth into the disciple by allowing them to learn it on their own. Along the way, disciples also learn to course correct without me. It takes time, but it is precisely my job. I am the guide. I listen, watch, and keep them on track so they can learn to hear precisely what God wants them to hear. His truth.

The six thinking hats make me aware of how the disciple is thinking. They allow me to determine whether I need to ask a guiding question or simply say, “Bob. That is an incredible highlight.”

If you’re interested, you can learn more about our role as guides or how I use DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats to get my group off to a great start. If you’re more interested, you can see how I stopped teaching and let the Holy Spirit do his work using the Socratic Method.

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Challenging words to help make prepared, confident, and skilled followers of God.

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How to Make Disciples

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