Listen to your leaders

By Jim LaDoux
“The practice of deep listening is the practice of open inquiry, without assumption or judgement.”
― Sharon Weil, ChangeAbility: How Artists, Activists, and Awakeners Navigate Change
Active, engaged listening is crucial for reinvention. As we listen to God, each other, and to people in our local communities, we gather information that informs our context for ministry and inspires to greater awareness of our strengths, our challenges, and the opportunities to serve others.

Pastors, church leaders, and leadership teams benefit by increasing their capacity to listen well, ask better questions, and have a mindset of curiosity.  As you engage leaders in ministry, take time to tap into their perspectives, experiences, and areas of expertise. Side benefits include show that you care about what others think, that you value their ideas and insight, and almost always increase their buy-in on new initiatives.  

If you are part of a team or task force charged with some form of reinvention in your ministry setting, create a process for listening deeply to people who already serve in leadership roles such as pastors, paid staff, elected leaders, and leaders of programs and ministry teams. Ask yourself: 
  • What you hope to learn from your leaders?
  • How you will gather information from leaders (i.e. surveys, email replies, focus groups, individual interviews)?
  • Who will curate the information and interpret the data?
  • What kind of report will be created, and with whom will it be shared?
  • How will the findings of the report lead to new questions to ask and greater awareness?

 Written reports are usually just a few pages long. They highlight a few key topics or may be organized by the questions leaders were asked to respond to. Listed below is sampling of some of the questions coaches often ask church leaders about their ministry setting, along with responses that often bubble up during the survey/interview process.

Sample Survey Summaries

OPTION 1 | Gather leader's feedback about your church's strengths.
  • People: Generous, pitch in when needed, many talented musicians and teachers.
  • Place:  Visible (located on a busy street), commercial kitchen, inviting lobby area.
  • Programs: Multiple food ministries, strong advocacy for homeless and affordable housing.
  • Priorities:  Intergenerational faith formation, charity connected to advocacy, hospitality.
  • Passions: Training ground for musicians, storytelling, empowering young people.
  • Perspectives:  Externally-focused, value beauty and artistry, have fun, keep things simple.
OPTION 2| Gather leader's feedback about their hopes for certain people or programs
  • For members: Have 5 or more church friends who will wonder & walk alongside them.
  • For young people:  They are befriended, feel valued, are mentored, and are listened to.
  • For local community: They are befriended by our members; we honor and encourage them.
  • For first time guests:  They experience God's grace, meet a few new people, are invited back.
  • For befriending the neighborhood: They are listened to and treated as one of us.
  • For serving the local community: We develop long-term partnership that transforms lives.
  • For advocating on behalf of others:  We intentionally seek to address root problems.
OPTION 3 | Gather leaders' feedback about what the church should . . . 
  • KEEP doing: Greeting people AFTER worship, offering podcast of weekly sermons.
  • STOP doing:  Sunday night service, using acolytes, mailing newsletter to everyone.
  • START doing:  Have members post pictures of God moments on Instagram, weekly storytelling.
  • TALK MORE about: People individual callings, prayer practices, spiritual growth at all ages.
  • TALK LESS about: Budget shortages, offering vague prayers, fewer worship announcements.
OPTION 4 | Gather leaders' feedback about the "trying something new" related to . . .
  • During worship: Monthly jazz service, multi-generation band, read only one passage.
  • Giving: Tithe for 1 month, Share 12 weekly "Ask, Thank, Tell" stories, skip passing the plate.
  • Growing spiritually: Demonstrate prayer practices during worship, Zoom Bible study.
  • Hospitality: Have greeters introduce themselves to people. have roaming greeters.
  • Meetings: Create space for "check-in" times, skip verbal reports, track annual goals, laugh.
  • News: Links to spiritual practices, member spotlight, newsletter no longer than 8 pages.

The Report Compiler's Role

The role of the report compiler is to edit and organize data in a manner that accurately captures key themes and concepts with duplicating content that has already been shared. In addition the compiler edits the content to increase clarity, aid people's understanding, help inform decision-making, and then take action on the findings. When writing the report, compilers consider:
  1. Who the readers will be and how the report will enhance the work of these individuals.
  2. What the readers may need to know in order to accurately interpret the data.
  3. How they can organize/format the data to support fruitful conversations among leaders.
  4. Who else might review their report and offer helpful suggestions for improving it.
Listen well. Listen often. Use your learnings from your listening sessions to ask event better questions in the future!

No Comments