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Tenets of Companioning
by Vicki Straughan, LMSW

The following information was presented at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ Bible Teachers Workshop, in the session Ministering with Compassion. The philosophy of companioning is the work of Alan Wolfelt Ph.D. and has been adapted from Dr. Wolfelt’s writings by Greg Yoder, MC, LPC, CT. Slight adaptations of Mr. Yoder’s work was done by Vicki Straughan, LMSW, for the purposes of adapting the tenets to a ministry setting.

HONOR ALL PARTS OF A HUMAN BEING, the nonphysical (the emotion, personality, spirituality, intellect) as evidenced by love of or passion for any aspect of life:

Not about focusing on intellect

  • A Faith, a spiritual walk, religion, philosophy
  • Love of people, relationships and work
  • Devotion to service, dedication to family
  • Sense of humor and playfulness
  • Creative gifts and interests
  • Reverence for nature
  • A hunger for learning
Companioning is more about curiosity; it is less about our expertise.
  • Those we support are the experts on their experience
  • Being too attached to our expertise may estrange us from those we wish to serve
  • “Teach me…”
  • Earn the right to offer advice, guidance or direction
Companioning is about walking alongside; Less about leading or being led
  • Key is to “invite” others to take a step toward what might be important
  • No judgment
  • No expectation
  • No pushing or pulling to some prescribed outcome for the convenience of others
Companioning is about being still; Not always about urgent movement forward
  • Finding a place of stillness inside ourselves
  • Stillness means heightened awareness, not dormancy
  • Holding the moment in anticipation that something important is developing
  • Far more important to be in relationship than to make something happen

Companioning is discovering the gifts of sacred silence; not filling up every moment with talk

  • Show up without urgency or expectation
  • Practice silence in dialogue. Delay your responses on purpose.
  • Chatter may disrupt one from formulating important thoughts
  • Pay attention and be curious about your own personal discomfort with silence.
  • Watch others for signs of wanted response.

Companioning is about being present to another’s emotional and spiritual pain; not taking away or fixing it

  • Challenge old definitions of “helping”
  • Emotional and spiritual pain must be allowed to flourish before it can subside
  • We stop people from grieving at our discomfort level
  • Spiritual and emotional pain is a necessary part of healing…albeit, in its most distressing guise
Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; not imposing order and logic.
  • Is life so orderly?
  • Companions can provide a point of grounding for others to tether themselves to
  • Know where to turn for help
  • Understand that some coping and healing has a chaotic look to it
  • Reality check with your support; restore your own energy

Companioning is about going into the wilderness of the soul with another; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding a way out.

  • Willingness to walk into regions of mystery with no answers or even clear direction
  • Willingness to sift through ashes for meaning while possibly not offering your own opinion
  • Willingness to accept whatever state of reconciliation another is able to find with their loss

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