Episode 172: Leading by Listening: How Talking Less Can Fuel Your Ministry

This episode dives deep into the lost art of active listening. We’ll explore why good listeners make powerful ministry leaders, uncover the hidden dangers of “waiting to talk,” and discover how to silence the voice in your head so you can truly hear the hearts of your people.

Show Notes:

  • One of the misnomers about consultants is that they are primarily there to talk, to tell someone what to do. But, one of the most important responsibilities we have is to listen first and learn about someone’s context, challenges, and potential first.
  • TIP: Always ask a follow-up question and/or a clarifying question. “It sounds like you’re saying this… Is that right?”
    • “Someone’s first answer is rarely their best answer.”
  • Why is it that people tend to struggle with listening?
    • “I have two states of being: talking, and waiting to talk.” Many of us take that approach to life.
    • We also tend to want to be the one who offers a smart observation or piece of input into the conversation. We need to be able to rest in our own identity and worth in Christ in that: “God loves me enough WITHOUT me saying the next wise/pithy comment. Let these people talk and just listen.”
    • Sometimes people actually don’t need us to talk at all. They just need a safe place to share and get a little bit of validation.
  • Why should we as ministry leaders work hard to be good at listening?
    • How we listen makes us powerful ministers. We learn about the needs people are facing and the questions they have. If we’re preparing a sermon or lesson or even choosing a curriculum, how well we listen will have a massive impact on how effective that is. Are we listening well to what they are saying about their lives and their world?
  • How we manage listening and sharing is very context-dependent. Be sensitive to the group and what space or environment you’re in. For example, a one-on-one compared to a group discussion.
  • It’s also important to be careful even when asking clarifying questions: these can sometimes distract them and take them down a rabbit trail rather than allowing them to end up arriving at where they needed to go in the conversation.
  • As you’re listening, remember to differentiate between the “presenting issue” (the issue that the person is feeling, sensing, and talking about) and the “underlying issue” (the issue that is causing what the person is feeling and talking about). If the reaction seems disproportional to what happened, realize there is probably something else going on that needs to be explored and drawn out.
  • TIP: When asking questions, always wait at least 10 seconds before you say anything else. It should feel a little bit awkward for you for you haven’t waited long enough.
  • TIP: One great, general question you can always ask is, “Tell me the one thing I need to know.” Trying to draw out from someone the biggest issue on their heart right now. This helps to make sure they don’t walk out of the conversation without saying their most important thing.
  • Ultimately: active listening, done well, takes time. It requires that we prioritize it and make space for it. It will take energy. It usually isn’t written into anyone’s job description.
  • Contact Laura Adis: laura.addis@ministryarchitects.com
  • Contact Mike Crane: mike.crain@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Brandon Collins: brandoncollins.orgbrandon.collins@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Renee Wilson: renee.wilson@ministryarchitects.com