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PLI is devoted to empowering leaders for wider influence for the sake of the gospel in their communities and effective leadership in their ministries. Learn more about our vision and process here.


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Listen Well

As leaders we are supposed to have the answers. Right? But the world is ever changing and this leaves us feeling off balance. Uncertain.

It takes courage and skill to step out and move into the unknown. We would like to offer five adaptive skills you need to practice in 2018 to lead in this ever changing world. We’ll dissect one each week. See previous posts Lead with a Humble Spirit and Adaptive Leaders Dig Deep.

Listen Well…to the Voices not Being Heard

Leaders well practiced in adaptive change learned a long time ago to listen to the voices that aren’t being heard, the voices that are missing…

  • To the voices of diversity (especially in a white dominated congregation).
  • To the voices of leaders and ministries experimenting on the edge (especially in a well established congregation).
  • To the voices of women (especially in a male dominated leadership).
  • To the voices of those that have left your congregation. Visited and not returned to your congregation. Drifted to the margins of your congregation.
  • To the voices of the community. The neighborhood (especially in a cloistered congregation).

Following Jesus and being faithful to the mission entrusted to us has always been a journey of discovery. A journey of discovering new things and developing new capacities to discern where the Spirit of God might be doing new things in new ways.

So, who’s not being heard in your leadership circle?

Listening sometimes gives way to collaboration and unexpected partnerships!

But it’s difficult, and not natural for most.

Most leaders, especially new leaders, bring enormous needs to…

  • Do Right Things,
  • Fix Problems,
  • Create Visions,
  • Execute Plans,
  • And to appear to be in control.
  • …oftentimes alongside the unrelenting (and unhealthy) need to please people.

It’s just not natural. We need to ask questions and listen, to not already know the answer.

Let me illustrate.

Some years ago I started riding a road bike with bike shoes that clip into the pedals. The only way to disconnect my foot from the pedal is to intentionally pivot my heel away from the bike.  Forget to do that? Plan to fall.

It was no small adaptation for this creature of bike riding habit!

So, of course, I…

Forgot…and fell. A few times.

Before I adapted to a pivot…lift…don’t fall pattern. (Much more rewarding BTW!)

The harder I tried to simply lift my foot from the pedal the more it didn’t work.

It seems it’s almost impossible for most churches that have thrived in a “come to church” world to adapt to a world that waits for us to pivot to a “so I send you as the Father sent me” stance.

We persist with the familiar. We fall. We try harder doing the same things. We see less fruit.

Stopping to listen is counter intuitive. Painful, even.

So ask yourself, and ask your leaders:

  •      Who do we need to listen to that we don’t normally listen to?

So let me encourage you to:

  • Check out PLI Missional Leader—Florida launching this Spring. 
  • Take a walk through your neighborhood and pray and ask God to help you listen to what he’d like you to hear.
  • Schedule an appointment for next week with someone you’ve been planning to listen to but just haven’t found the time.

Finally, here’s a tip: Persisting in the familiar because it’s familiar, trying harder and producing no fruit is not a great plan going forward. It’s similar to my Forget. Don’t pivot. Plan to fall.

There’s a better way that God wants to help you discover.

Jock Ficken
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

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