A few months ago, I was invited to consult with an executive pastor and one of his team members. It was a large church that had a lot going on, but we were just going to talk and get to know each other.
There was no agenda. At least that’s what I thought.
When I arrived, the XP said, “hold on a minute and I’ll get the others.” Others? Hmmm. I had understood that this meeting was just supposed to be the three of us. Oh well, I thought, I’ve been here before so I’ll just jump in and roll with it.
Within a few minutes, nearly 15 people showed up. My angst level starting rising and things were not shaping up the way I anticipated. Everyone settled into their seats and it was time for the meeting to start.
So, I was the invited guest to a meeting for which there was no plan. My brain was racing and questions were flying through my head. Was I supposed to bring something to the table? Had I missed a critical preparation email? Who is “on?” What will be expected of me?
But things got even more uncomfortable when the XP threw me the marker and said, “go ahead and talk about whatever you want to talk about.”
What?! Not my idea of fun, but what do you do with it? You either cave or freestyle.
I decided to put the marker to good use.
My goal was to bring them value and challenge them. My top-of-mind topic was something like, “why you need to be intentional about listening in your church.”
I attacked the whiteboard and tried my best to colorfully and technically illustrate the main points. Things quickly got interesting. Two team members started debating about “listening” and that morphed into an argument. As any halfway decent consultant would do, I just stood back and allowed the dynamics in the room to unfold. It was clear that I had struck a chord that hadn’t been verbalized before and I didn’t want to interrupt an important conversation—even if it was tense.
They were so aggressive that other team members were embarrassed that this was happening in the presence of a guest. The XP had to get very firm and verbally pulled them off of each other because they were going at it!
Once the XP intervened, the meeting ended abruptly. Everyone took a deep breath and the two team members agreed to take their conversation offline.
What just happened? Did I step into it or what? It was clear to me that I was not privy to the strained backstory: people were not being heard.
The experience even further solidified my belief that we must learn to listen in our churches and ministries.
Choosing to listen provides perspective, perspective yields clarity and clarity reveals direction. Are you listening?