Kim Montenegro


Having hard conversations can be difficult.  Actually, having not hard conversations can be difficult in our current divided climate.  When it’s time to get serious and talk about something that is either hard, or the nature of the people (diversity in ethnicity, ideology, etc.) makes communication difficult, mutual invitation can help open a space where real communication can occur.

Mutual invitation is an exercise we borrowed from Eric Law’s book The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb. This is especially effective in multicultural communities because it helps reveal how often the white majority members perceive greater personal power within the community than do many minority members. It allows all community members to see their own tendencies within the group discussion.  While it can be awkward at first, stick with it and try it for a few gatherings.  

Similarly, if someone “passes” and chooses not to speak, do not pressure them into doing so. If a person speaks very briefly or passes and then does not remember to invite the next person to speak, do not invite for him or her. Simply point out that this person has the privilege to invite the next person to speak. By ensuring that this person still has the privilege to invite, you affirm and value that person independent of that person’s verbal ability. 


  1. The discussion leader should let the group know approximately how much time will be allocated for this particular portion of discussion. (The time will depend on the questions or topics that you hope to have everyone in the group answer or speak towards.)
  2. The leader will then introduce the topic or question to be discussed. This will typically come from the small group material. It is often helpful if the small group has access to the material to refer back to the question during the discussion. 
  3. Next, the leader introduces or reminds everyone of the discussion process which is as follows:

“The leader or a designated person will share first. After that person has spoken, he or she then invites another to share. Whom you invite does not need to be the person next to you, and it is better if you do not. After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another to share. If you don’t want to say anything, simply say ‘pass’ and proceed to invite another to share. We will do this until everyone has been invited.” – The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb by Eric Law


Finally, Law offers guidelines in a memorable anagram that can be helpful to go over before you. begin:

R – take Responsibility for what you say and feel without blaming others
E – use Empathetic listening
S – be Sensitive to differences in communication/cultural styles
P – Ponder what you hear and feel before you speak
E – Examine your own assumptions and perceptions
C – keep Confidentiality
T – Tolerate ambiguity because we are not here to debate. There are no “winners” or “losers.”

Bringing the Bible to life in the imaginations of our students requires flexing every creative muscle we have.  This script does just that. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, shows us the story of the prodigal son through the eyes of his little sister. 

These two! All everyone talks about is my family— actually not my family— just my brothers.  Your brother this, your brother that!  I’m tired of it.  Do you have older brothers? Then you know how it goes.  No one cares about a girl child.  As the youngest in the family, I still sleep in my mother’s bed every night.  I wake up, and have breakfast of bread or a piece for fruit. I love the smell of my mother making the bread in in the morning.  After breakfast, I clear the plates and it’s time for Hebrew School to start.  Well, not for me, I don’t go, but I make sure my brothers are ready so they aren’t late.  When I was younger, I would cry to go with them.  Momma would scoop me up and remind me we girls do different things our their day.  I don’t care, I still wanna go!  I would even run after them down the road, but my little legs can’t keep up.  But I know now, the crying doesn’t matter, I’ll never be able to go with them.  Girls don’t go to Hebrew School. The boys think they are so smart because they can read and write the Torah.  Well, being smart doesn’t make Yahweh give you more blessings— so there! 

    When times were better, we used to cultivate the hills and this would feed me and my family everyday. Now, there is very little to eat.  So we spend less time working the soil.  In the morning when I walk an hour to get water for the family, sometimes I dream what it would be like to have someone else’s life. If we were a rich Greek girl, I could go to school.  I even dream what it would be like to be a boy!   

    I have to follow ALL the rules, “Good Jewish girls do this, if you want to marry a good man you must do this”.  When my mother tires of me, she says under her breath, “Will you relish being a poor man’s wife? Unable to provide for your life?” Meanwhile, it seems my brothers can just do whatever they want!  Good Jewish boys are suppose to take care of their family, but I don’t see my younger brother following that rule!  My life would be so much better if I could just switch places with one of my brothers. Then, I would go to Hebrew School and they would have to stay home and help mom.  It’s hot this afternoon, and I can hear Momma yelling for me to get off the stump and stop day dreaming, we have work to do in town.  

      Today I meet the other women and girls when I go to the well with Momma.  As they see us walking up, they stop whispering.  I can’t hear them, but I can tell for sure they are talking about us.  You know what I talking about, you walk in and everyone goes silent.  My face gets redder and my palms begin to sweat.  It’s like this everyday since my brother left.  My feet get really heavy and I start dragging my sandals in the dirt. Momma says, “Come on, they’ll just talk more if we don’t go”.  She simply says out of their ear shot, “We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable”.  As Momma takes a deep breath, at the same time, she quickens our pace, and greets everyone with “Shalom”, and kisses their cheeks.  I do still want to go to the well.  If I get all my work done early, Momma lets me run and play with the other village girls.  After we are done with our work, we talk about our life and what we would do if girls ran the world.  But of course, once again all the talk turns to my brothers.  Ever since my brother left, that’s what the whole village talks about. I can hear the women getting louder.  They are grilling Momma now. 

My Auntie just opened the door of questioning, by asking “have you heard from him”?  I can hear in her voice she is really concerned for my brother.  She knows he doesn’t always think things through.  Her son, my cousin, is the same age as my younger brother.  I know she doesn’t want him getting any ideas from my family.  He has an older brother too, so he won’t get any family inheritance, it will all go to his older brother— that’s how it’s always been until my brother decide to change the all the rules! Now Joseph, my cousin, started complaining to his parents, why can’t he have a part of the family inheritance, he has work side by side every day with his dad, just as much as his brother.  Guess what?  He has an older sister, who knows better than to ask for any of the family money.  Her father will pay her dowery for a man to marry her, and that is the only money she’ll get.  After my Auntie’s question, the women don’t stop.  

Where is he living?

Has he ran through all the money?

Has he settled down with a Gentile girl?

What was your husband thinking?

I tune them out and jump harder and harder until the pounding of my feet to the ground is so loud it becomes a ringing in my ears.  I don’t want to hear the questions.  Honestly, I don’t want to hear the questions because I have some of the same questions myself.  There is so much that is unknown.  I don’t know if he has died somewhere.  It makes me feel a little scared.  

    I felt so much safer when both my brothers where living at home.  Now that my father is getting older, and people know there is only one younger man in our home, I am worried we are vulnerable.  I’m worried my brother won’t be able to protect our whole family by himself.  I look over at Momma.  She catches my eye, gives me a knowing smile, and with a nod of her head, I know it is time to go.  I kiss my friends goodbye until we gather again.  

Bringing the Bible to life for students requires us to pull out all the stops and offer as many creative entry points as we can.  This script does just that. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, shows us the story of the prodigal son through the eyes of his mother.

As boys, my sweet oldest boy would spend all morning staring at the tree! As I was cleaning up breakfast, he’d be out there walking around the tree.  Later, as I was sweeping the floor, I’d see him standing so close to that tree, you would think he was hugging it!  In the afternoon, while I was working in the garden, he slowly backed away from the tree, never taking his eyes off of it. I’d ask him, “What are you doing ?” 

“Nothing momma, just looking”.   I’d just nod my head and know when he was ready, he’d let me know.  That’s how he has always been, careful, measured, thoughtful.  Meanwhile, as soon as little brother could crawl, he’s has been trying to get up that tree.  And would you know it, as much time as his brother spent looking at it finding the best way up there, he spent his time, falling out of it.  I swear I thought he was going to break his neck.  The day his baby brother got to the top, do you know what he did?  He sulked all day! I told him, if he wants to reach the top, then he needs to start climbing.  He looked at that tree for one more day.  I thought for sure he’d give it a climb just to put his brother in his place as the second born.  But no, not him, he never looked at the tree again, and between you and me, I actually think he avoids it to this day.  Whenever I ask him about climbing trees, he just says he has better things to do with his time.  I don’t know what “better things” he has going on, there is nothing to do here anymore.  That old tree is dead, like so much here.  All that is left is that big ol’ stump.

Since the land has dried up, the tree died and we had to cut it down.  Not too long after that, my baby boy and his dad had a talk sitting right on that stump.  They sat there for a while.  I seemed to not be going too well, but I knew it wasn’t my place to say anything, that just upsets everyone.  I tried to find something to busy myself close by so I could hear the men folk talk.  

Men folk— that gets me every time thinking of my youngest son as a man.   He will always be my little boy.  And look at his life, he makes decisions just as he did as a child, without much thought, and just as quick as Yahweh would allow him.  At first, my husband seemed angry and disappointed as they were talking. But by the end I could see once again he wore his father down.  This is what my husband doesn’t understand, my Baby Boy has learned, listened and seen how his father makes decisions with his brother.  He doesn’t have time for all that waiting, explaining, and pondering.  He wants it now and he has figure out how to best handle his dad.

Then I waited.  I waited and waited and waited.  I wanted him to tell me.  I needed to know what was going on, this was my son too! What does my son want, what did my husband decide?  I was in the dark.  

Darkness!  That’s what I’ll do, I’ll wait until darkness to ask him.  I scrounged around to find some things to cook his favorite dinner.  We don’t have what we used to have, but I traded with the nosey neighbor to get lentils, seasoned with my garlic and onions sauce.  Luckily, it was harvest time so I was able to get some grapes and figs, and I pinched a bit of the wine from the business to put him in a good mood.  This is the place where I’m in charge.  We eat as family every night, this is my favorite part of the day.  They talk amongst themselves, and as I am serving everyone, I can hear what is really going on with them and our family.  We sit and talk for two to three hours every night catching up with one another.

I wait until it is just husband and myself.  In the darkness, I gently begin to ask, “So what does he want? What did you talk about with him at the stump”?  It is there my husband tells me what our son wants.  My mind starts racing with questions.  Can you believe him! Do you see anyone else around here getting a family inheritance who isn’t a first born boy? Does he just assume it is here for the taking?  Does he want my husband to die so he can have his money?  What about me? Who will take care of me when my husband dies?  I hope, I pray that my oldest son won’t forget about me.  I don’t want to have to beg like the women on the street.  And right now, what would I be begging for?  There is not much to eat even to eat let alone give away?  He almost is wishing for all us to be dead!  It seems to me he doesn’t want to be part of our family story any longer.  What have I done?  How have I failed them?  I just can’t watch my son destroy himself.  He hasn’t even considered how this will affect the rest of our family.  What will the aunties and uncles say?  Can you imagine what the villagers will whisper?  Our family has been so respected in this community.  They will say we didn’t raise him right, to respect his elders and give his family honor.  He has shamed us.  I know for sure the nosey neighbor will find someway to find out everything that is going on and gossip our family business everywhere.  I can see her now, mouth hanging open so wide flies could land on her tongue.  Rolling her eyes at what he’s done.  Every village, every Hebrew School, and yes, even every family, has had a problem like this at some point.  Not all of them are as well known as our family, but it happens.  Maybe they didn’t ask for their inheritance but they too have squandered.  Squandered money, or their youth, but of course we will be the ones everyone wants to talk about.  

So this is how I spend my days now.  I don’t have little children to watch and tend over, no crumps to sweep up because we have very little to eat so nothing falls on the floor.  I sit here and just stare at that stump.  I long for the days that my boys bickered and my daughter begged to play with them, I know that seems odd for a mother to wish, but I need my family back together. Not worry about everyone gossiping about us.   All I seem to do now, is worry.  Worry about my son who is too young to be an adult in the world, but too old to be a child at home.  I worry about my oldest son, his bitterness, his silence, his anger.  It is just below the surface.  I am so worried he is a powder keg about to explode.  He is too young to be this angry about life.  And my husband, oh how I worry about him.  How is he going to feel if something does goes wrong? How’s he going feel then.  Can he live with this decision he’s made for our whole family?  I’m conflicted about how I feel about it all.  

Being creative with the biblical story can open up the world of the Bible for students to experience the stories from the inside, especially when you are able to offer entryways for people who may not immediately identify with the characters in the story. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, offers the perspective of a nearby “helpful” neighbor who lived close to the prodigal son’s family.

I heard yelling and screaming so I came and to see what was going on. I thought someone died, there was such a commotion! But as soon as I seems as soon heard the screams, just as quick quick I heard music and dancing. So what was it, death, a long lost visitor, news of a new baby? It’s not a High Holy Day.

So of course, I wanted to be helpful. That’s how people know me around here, people call me when they need help. Well, sometimes they don’t call, I just think they might need me and I come over to help. So I looked around the kitchen and I found an old dish that I borrowed from their family last harvest season. I dusted it off so that I would be able to return it properly. As I walked over to them, I could see the whole family outside. They were getting a fatted calf ready for slaughter. What in the world was going on? It was then that I saw him.
The sight of him took my breath away. It’s been so long since I’ve seen him in person, I almost didn’t recognize him. I think my mouth fell open with surprised and I could feel the edges of my eyes becoming wet. I realize I wasn’t angry with him this whole time, but I was sad and disappointed he chose to leave us. I was happy to see him, as I thought he was dead by now. He has always played outside of the rules, done his own thing. He never cared what people said about him. I’ve always secretly admired that. When he was younger, I know at times, I would even encourage it. He was such a free spirit. As a boy he would trample my garden looking for a rabbit or whatever he wanted to catch that day. I would come out yelling and hollering at him. He would look over his shoulder impishly, and with a his cute and simple grin.‘I know I’m in trouble, but you know I’m cute so you can’t be too mad at me’. You know the type. Each time, I’d try to be mad at him but I just couldn’t.

I feel like I am partly to blame because if had I really let him have it once in a while, maybe he wouldn’t be as bold as he is now. He has always thought he knew better than the elders. I was willing to overlook the rules and customs in favor of the fondness I had for him. But, when his mother told me he essentially wished his father dead by asking for his inheritance before his death, that was something I could not look past. No, this was not okay. It wasn’t as simple as a trampled vegetable garden. This was trampled hearts, lives, family and most importantly, tradition.

I was shocked years ago when his father let him have that inheritance. It wasn’t just a decision between a father and a son. The whole community was affected. After word got out that he was gone, other parents began to worry that their boys might expect their inheritance. There is a way to do things— the way we’ve always done it. Their family has always been generous. I mean he is a second born, so by law, nothing is his anyway. The fact his father promised him anything was already above and beyond. Then the gall to ask for it upfront, as if his father is already dead? Who does that? To tell his father, “I’m past patiently waitin’ I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation you’ve set out for me”. I just couldn’t believe it. This is unforgivable. What more could he want? He was always provided for, not only was he provided for, he was well provided for. His father is a kind, fair, gentle man, who has loved him no matter what shenanigans he has been apart of. I don’t understand why this man loves his children so much.

Fine, welcome him home. Let him learn his lesson and work for his wages like everyone else. But as I stood there, his father threw his arms around him and sobbed. Telling people to get him a robe, a ring, and to kill the calf? No, no, no, it’s just too much. He sees me, wipes the tears out of his eyes, walks over to me and wipes the tears out of mine. I can see in his walk, his eyes, there is something different about him. He apologizes to me. To me? Why to me? I’m not his mother, I just happened to be returning this dish. He gives me a look, in a way where more is exchanged than words. No words are needed.

I see it. I know what it is. I am finally able to put my finger on it. He has become a man. He isn’t keeping a log of his family’s mistakes and missteps. There is no list of how his father has wronged him, or what his mother did wrong. On this day, he is has claimed his place in life. He has taken responsibly for the ways he has fallen short. I know this experience has changed him.

His father takes my other hand and says, “Come eat with us, the table has been set, and there is always more room”. I begin to walk in, but something stops me. Since he’s been gone, I’ve said so many bad things about him to the other women at the market, and I haven’t stopped them from going on and on about his shortcomings. How can I eat at the same table with him when so much has been said? If I enjoy this feast with the family does it mean I am welcoming him back into my life as well? What people will say? Am I willing to truly forgive him and break bread with him? I can tell he is different, but am I willing to be changed because of my relationship to who he is now. Should I set aside my bitter pride and go to the party after all? If I am willing to accept this invitation, then I am changed to.