Have you recently become a leader in a church, non-profit, small group, or other organization? If so, you may be a bit stressed over where to start and how to move forward.
Maybe you have taken over the leadership of something going well. When I was first hired on staff at Northwest Bible Church, I knew that I should be careful about change. They already had a vibrant Women’s Ministry of many years, formed by Vickie Kraft and continued by Dianne Miller. I needed to find out what was working well and what was broken rather than act in haste.
Perhaps you are the new leader in a situation that has not gone well. Everyone agrees that it is broken. Or you are starting a ministry or team from scratch. Such situations make it easier to do what you want to do, but they often involve high expectations from those who put you in leadership. You may feel very responsible to perform and create something that works.
Whatever your situation is, wisdom says to listen well—to God and to people.
I’ve learned to listen to God.
God is with you. He has placed you in the situation and he wants to do his work in the midst of that place or group. Listen to him. Believe that he is responsible for the results as you use the gifts that he has given you. Trust him to move as you follow him. And trust him to speak through others to you.
I’ve learned to listen to others.
First comes listening to the people being led. If you are in charge of a church-wide ministry, ask good questions and listen well. But at the same time realize that you cannot be all things to all people. All ministry must have a focus and purpose, or you will end up trying to make everyone happy. So listen, but listen well for themes and the major biblical imperatives that aren’t being done.
When I got to Northwest, I discovered that the wonderful mentoring program that Vickie had begun was no longer flourishing after many years. I heard from women as to why they were no longer involved and what was not working. But we had. Because God values the discipleship that occurs when older women speak into life and younger women hear (Titus 2), we needed to find new ways to help women connect with other generations. It wasn’t something to simply quit.
There were other women who were not happy that the Bible study had changed formats a few years earlier. They liked it better when it was paired with activities rather than small groups that discussed what they were learning from the Bible and how it affected their beliefs and lives. Yet, the biblical imperative is to make disciples. To do that women must be in the Word for themselves. Growing disciples well does not happen through a lecture alone. So rather than bow to those who wanted to go back to the past, we stuck with the format and yet strengthened their time in small groups to provide more time together which they missed.
Second is listening to others with experience. At Northwest I had a leadership team who helped me navigate the history of the church and the women’s ministry. They were key in the decision-making process.
I also listened to the women who preceded me there and others who had led women’s ministries in other churches. What was their experience with Bible studies? How were they mentoring in new ways? How did they navigate change?
Listen. Listen. Listen. Take your time and listen well to God through prayer and the Word’s guidance. Take time and listen well to others involved and others with more objective perspectives.
Waiting and listening are never wrong, but moving too quickly can often be disastrous.
What have you learned from listening?