Dave, you have been dialoging with leaders and pastors all across the country since you co-authored Quick-to-Listen Leaders: where life-changing ministry begins (QLL). What have you been hearing?
Almost every pastor and church ministry struggles with having a clear vision. Leaders today face the challenge of listening to God and listening to their people. I wrote this book to help leaders discern God's vision and get their people's buy-in for the vision.
This is especially critical during uncertain times now faced by our nation and world. The silver lining about what's going on right now is that churches are forced to sharpen their focus. QLL will help churches figure out what is most important and put their energy into those things instead of wasting energy on what is not going to produce results.
What is the central message of QLL, and why is it important for leaders to understand this message?
The central point I make in QLL is that the number one job for every effective leader is to be a good listener. This hasn't changed since the first century.
James, the brother of Jesus, inherited and led the Jerusalem church for a good portion of the first century. One of the first things he told all the leaders was: Pay attention! Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19) Listening has always been a key ingredient for effective church leadership.
The number one comment I get from leaders I talked to, when they get down to it, is "I'm a talker and not a listener. If people want someone to listen to them, they should probably go see a counselor."
Now interestingly enough, as we dialog further, I find that most of these leaders are desperately wanting the things that only listening will give them. Many people have been taught to equate listening with counseling. I want to help leaders realize that listening is a critical part of leadership. If you learn how to listen, then you are set up to lead far more effectively.
How is the QLL book different from the consultation workshop you do in churches?
The book is a stand-alone and meant to be read by leaders at every level. Anyone who leads anything, whether a small group, a division of the ministry, a Sunday school class, up to the senior pastor will find something valuable in the book. The book includes key points from two of EMI's foundational trainings, Listening for Heaven's Sake and Speaking the Truth in Love.
The workshop is an opportunity for the leaders and the leadership team of the church to go through first a process of listening to God and discerning his vision for the church. We then assess where the church is right now. I have created the Spiritual Vital Signs Inventory specifically to help the church do this. It is a quick way to get a sense of the overall health of a congregation. Once we go through that, we examine the different listening styles and leadership styles of the team. And finally, given those listening and leadership styles, how the organization can operate more effectively.
The workshop is customized specifically for each organization and leadership team. I've done it in lots of churches all over the U.S. as well as in other nations, and no two have been exactly the same. My experience has been that once a team has had an opportunity to step back and agree on what the strengths and weaknesses of their church or organization are, they are able to very quickly say, "Here's where we need to go next."
What kind of results have you seen coming out of these consultation workshops?
One of the biggest things that happens is BUY-IN. The pastor-leader presents the vision and plan, and most people are very happy to sit back and let the pastor work himself or herself to death to make it happen. A quick-to-listen leader gets commitment and buy-in.
Another big thing that comes out of this process is a new attitude toward conflict. Most leaders are scared to death of conflict. One thing I try to show the leaders is how listening will help him/her make conflict a friend instead of an adversary.
As a result of going through the consulting workshop, many churches realize that they've been working on the wrong things and have made very positive mid-course corrections.
I remember one pastor coming to me after taking the QLL class at an EMI LIFE seminar and said, "I'm in trouble." After listening to his situation, we agreed that he was indeed in big trouble. In fact, he found out after returning home that there was a move in the church to fire him. As he went through this difficult time, he was able to get his whole leadership team aligned and going in one direction. Even though he eventually left that post, the church became dramatically healthier as a result of what he did on his way out.
My heart is to see churches vibrantly live out God's vision and calling for them.