Listening and Leading

All churches have a history. While there are glory days to be recounted, there are also the sad days, the disruptive days, and the just as soon forgotten days. The names may change but the stories are the same.

  • Large church not nearly as large as before

  • Questionable financial decisions

  • That split 25 years ago over. . .now what was it?

  • Distrust of leaders

These negative stories can come back to haunt when a church enters a capital campaign. One tries to build momentum and then come the whispers and whining, usually from those who have been around for a while. New members don’t care about the blow up nine years ago over the fired youth minister, but old-timers—they have not forgotten.

There are at least two steps that congregational leaders should take to combat the negativity.

Listen. Do not ignore the baggage that people carry. Go see the disgruntled ones (especially opinion leaders) and listen to them, at least one more time. Do not try to win an argument. Make sure that these people feel like they have been heard. As you listen you might learn that something really does need to be addressed. Granted, you may only learn people can have long memories and be incredibly petty. But you won’t know until you listen to them.

Lead. A key leader in a campaign faced at least two of the problems mentioned above. The church was attempting to lurch forward and the naysayers were whispering on the sidelines. He politely listened to them and then forthrightly declared at every opportunity, “This is a new day at this church.” He communicated that he believed in the vision proposed by the leaders and was doubling down in his efforts. He led, and many of his longtime church friends followed.

All the negative energy in a church does not dissipate just because you follow these two steps. But if you truly listen and then lead, you will be surprised at the people who come around.