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Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton: What Happens When Church Leaders Are Not ‘Attentive’

Kevin Ford
Image courtesy of Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton

Kevin Ford is the chief catalyst of Leighton Ford Ministries. Kevin’s areas of expertise include leadership, organizational culture, and strategy. He has facilitated the development of over 500 strategic plans throughout North America with clients including Fortune 500s, small businesses, and government agencies, but his passion has always been for the church.

Dr. Jim Singleton is a coach and discipler at Leighton Ford Ministries. He has been both a longtime Presbyterian pastor and professor of pastoral leadership and evangelism at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Jim is one of the founders of ECO: A Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which sponsors the Flourish Institute of Theology, where he also teaches. 

Kevin and Jim’s new book is, “Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known.”

“The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast” is part of the ChurchLeaders Podcast Network.

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Transcript of Interview With Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton

EPISODE 465-FINAL-Kevin and Jim.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

EPISODE 465-FINAL-Kevin and Jim.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Voice Over:
Welcome to the Stetzer Church Leaders Podcast, conversations with today’s top ministry leaders to help you lead better every day. And now, here are your hosts, Ed Stetzer and Daniel Yang.

Daniel Yang:
Welcome to the Settler Church Leaders podcast, where we’re helping Christian leaders navigate and lead through the cultural issues of our day. My name is Daniel Yang, national director of Churches of Welcome at World Relief. And today we’re talking to Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton. Kevin’s the chief catalyst of Leighton Ford Ministries. Kevin’s area of expertise include leadership, organizational culture, and strategy. He’s facilitated the development of over 500 strategic plans throughout North America, with clients including fortune 500 small businesses and government agencies. But his passion has always been for the church. Jim Singleton is a coach and discipler at Leighton Ford Ministries. He’s been both a long time Presbyterian pastor and professor of pastoral leadership and evangelism at Gordon-conwell Theological Seminary. Jim is one of the founders of Eco, a covenant Order of Presbyterians which sponsors the Flourish Institute of Theology, where he also teaches Kevin and Jim’s new book is Attentive Church Leadership Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known. Now let’s go to Ed Stetzer, editor in chief of Outreach magazine and the dean of the Talbot School of Theology.

Ed Stetzer:
All right, so I full disclosure, I wrote the foreword to this book, Attentive Church Leadership. We’re going to talk about today, listening and leading in a world we’ve never known. And also to if you’re listening to the podcast, you can actually type in Attentive Church Leadership 20 truths. And we’ve listed 20 truths over at Church Leaders Comm, 20 truths that come out of the book as well, and maybe even you might have come over from the other side to to listen to that also. So okay, so that being said. So I’ll just jump into the conversation here. And we’re really pleased to have Kevin. Kevin, I’m gonna start with you because, I mean, part of the theme of the book that I really want to kind of dig in on is I do think the idea of attentive church leadership really matters. But you do start by talking about the world we’ve never known. So talk to us about the new landscape, potential and challenges that church leaders are currently facing.

Kevin Ford:
Yeah. Thanks, Ed. Great to be here. You know, part of how I define strategy is a strategy is driven by context. And the church throughout the millennia, the last two millennial millennia has really changed context for primary times. We it is primarily driven by the primary communications medium of the culture. So if you think of the church in the oral culture, the oral era was all about the person. It’s where we get the phrase don’t shoot the messenger. The message in the messenger were one and the same. So the church reflected that. That was the institution of the church. Then fast forward to the the print era, the advent of the printing press, the message and the messenger became two distinct things. So that’s where we get the age of reason. We start putting the Scripture in the hands of, uh, everyday people. Uh, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg as a protest of really of a protest of the oral culture which was driven by the Pope. Then fast forward to the the broadcast culture where my Uncle Billy Graham was really the the poster child for the the broadcast, uh, medium and the church was all about, uh, the experience as driven by the broadcast medium and then starting in 1992, really with the advent of Netscape, the church was driven primarily by the digital medium. So that’s the world that we live in right now, and that’s drastically changed life for everybody.

Kevin Ford:
So a lot of mainline churches are products of the print era. A lot of the megachurches are products of the broadcast era. But now we’re living in this digital world where everything is driven by the, you know, our, our phones and social media, and it’s changing the way our brains are wired. So I’m seeing pastors around the country and really around the world wrestling with how do we actually minister in a world where, uh, I can publish something in my iPhone and put it on online in a matter of seconds, and we no longer have the filters and the seminaries and the marketing agents and all the the gurus who would determine what actually was put out there. So now everybody has a voice. So it’s it’s a really a strange world. And it was exacerbated by the pandemic in 2020 when, uh, March 2020, everybody had to figure out how to put, uh, their services online, how to do communion through zoom, uh, how to how to create fellowship. And my, my mother in law, uh, died two days after the country was shut down. So how do you do a funeral in that kind of world? So that’s a big part of what we’re talking about with, uh, a world we’ve never known before is the landscape is completely changed, and we’re still trying to figure out how do we minister in this world.

Ed Stetzer:
Yeah. And I think I think part of the challenge is, is that for some, they they see certain aspects of ministry to be maybe sacrosanct in the broad sense, but some things are biblically driven. We don’t want to do with these. And some things are like it’s been the way we’ve done it for maybe years or centuries. And so, Jim, come, come to you. Um, you know, again, I’m going to get to the attentive part because I really liked that theme throughout. Because, because just to be transparent to Jim and Kevin, like everybody wrote a book on what to do with the online world and about, you know, two, two years ago. And so and lots of them. And they wrote books about that and about burnout. And so what I which which I think are great. But, you know, we’ve done a lot of interviews on those things. So I like the fact that you’ve kind of taken a bit of a different direction, but they do relate. So Jim, unpack a little more for us how this new world, in some ways you would think it distances us from paying attention because but but you’re actually calling us to being attentive. So talk to us about that.

Jim Singleton:
Yes. And in some respects, Ed, it’s attentive to what or to whom. We have an even greater need to be attentive to what God is doing in our lives. And I think in some respects that has been dulled and especially the evangelical world. And it’s got several folks from 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and even currently trying to call us back to that, probably John Mark comer is one who’s urging us to be attentive to what God. God is doing. I think we have to learn to be attentive to the change in our own congregations and the ways they are relating to information, which Kevin was just talking about, and I feel like we’re still using many of the same, um, methodology or medium to get the message out. Um, 30, 45 minute sermons may not work in the same way in an inattentive culture that a 15 minute sermon might work with Bible study, with group discussion, etc. so attentive to culture, attentive to God, and really then attentive to ourselves. Who are we? How are we growing in this era? What is the health of our lives? And I think it was Leighton’s book called The Attentive Life that first caught my attention to this whole mode of attentiveness and being alert to the movements of God. So I think it’s partly that that we’re trying to get at. And I think that’s key.

Ed Stetzer:
And, you know, we talked about latent forges, you know, and again, the idea of being attentive here is a theme throughout the book. Again, the book is called Attentive Church Leadership Listening and leading in a world we’ve never known. And one of the things you should know about it is it’s not just about being attentive to others. And we’ll come back to you on this, Jim, you guys write in the book we’ve witnessed time and time again that a thriving ministry won’t happen if the leader is not healthy and attentive. So start with unpacking a little more. What’s the significant of the word attentive in your title?

Jim Singleton:
I think the word is simply trying to help us grow in a range, a range of awarenesses. Are we aware of other people? So it’s an empathetic side of being attentive. Are we aware of the context that is around us and aware of it in the sense of we recognize this is the way people are relating? Are we aware that people don’t sit on front porches anymore and rock while we take a walk, that they’re on the back deck or inside, and so we don’t have access to people in the same way. Are we attentive to the movement of God? There is this strange little verse in Ezekiel chapter 40, verse four that says, son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and set your mind on all that I shall show you. Now that word set your mind is actually the word attentive. How do we focus on what God is showing us? And then he goes on to say, declare what you see to the house of Israel. So there’s something we’re supposed to be attentive to in our relationship with God in this current culture. And that’s what we hope this book may spark. Yeah.

Ed Stetzer:
And so come, come back to the and I’m going to go to Kevin in just a second. But I want Kevin to talk about the what attentive leaders you know what are the key practices. But come back Jim to the attentive to ourselves our hearts and more because again um, it’s kind of multifaceted the way you approach this as well. So so what are some ways that you think leaders because our audience is pastors and church leaders are going to be personally attentive to what what they’re going through and how they get healthy and more.

Jim Singleton:
Yeah, and and that’s a complicated issue because most of us face a lot of conflict. We face a lot of opposition, we face a lot of challenge. And we face a lot of strange hours and strange dual relationships. And if we’re not attentive to the, you know, emotional intelligence, if we’re not attentive to family systems in front of us, then we often get swallowed up by what goes on with the church and get very discouraged. Uh, Lloyd Ogilvy used to say an impression without an expression will lead to a depression. And that sounds psychologically, because if things are hitting us and we’re not able to process, then often that turns inward. So we would hope an attentive leader is aware of what just was impressed upon me. And I’ve got someone and the great someone in Jesus Christ to turn to and process that so it doesn’t have to turn inward. That’s part of attentiveness.

Ed Stetzer:
Yeah. And I think part of the challenge is, is that, um, right now we’re just seeing a lot of the ramifications of people, of leaders who are inattentive to their own, maybe struggles or insecurities or where they were spiritually and more. So it’s interesting. I had a conversation, you know, we have this huge spiritual formation emphasis at the Talbot School of Theology, and it’s fascinating how many people come to us because of that, because they started to see the carnage of those who haven’t paid attention to their own soul development journey, spiritual life and more. Okay. All right. So but then it kind of turns and it focuses on attentive leaders and how they lead. So let me go to ask that question. We’ll go to you Kevin, is what are what are some of the key practices of attentive leaders?

Kevin Ford:
I think part of what Jim was alluding to in the way I would frame it, is that an attentive leader is able to differentiate itself from role. And what I mean by that is I was I was talking with a pastor recently and they were getting ready to launch a capital campaign. They’re going to vote on a capital campaign. And he told me, he said, Kevin, if if they vote no, I’m leaving. I said, seriously, why? He said, because it’s a vote on me. I said, no, Allen, it’s it’s a vote on a capital campaign. It’s not a vote on you and your leadership. There’s a tendency for pastors to fuse their role and their in itself. So when they receive criticism, they take it as something that’s personal. It’s a personal attack to them. So in terms of practices, I really encourage leaders to think about how they come across to other people. They’re often not aware of their own unresolved issues. We talk about. We talk about this concept of red zone, blue zone as a way of understanding conflict. And our friend Jim Osterhaus talked a lot about that. But red zone is unresolved conflict. It’s it’s unresolved issues and self that get projected on other people. Blue zone conflict is is about the values of the church and the mission and what we’re trying to accomplish. And if we can separate those things, that’s a good way of separating role from self. In fact, Jim Osterhaus, he and I got in a fight a number of years ago.

Kevin Ford:
We were we were arguing in Jim’s unresolved issue. He’s a psychologist, brilliant guy. He’s taught a number of seminaries. But his unresolved issue in self is this sense of acceptance. It’s one of the things that drove him into counseling. My unresolved issue coming from the Billy Graham family and Leighton Ford family is competence, so I’m not aware of how competence plays out for me and IT projects on other people. Well, a few years ago we got in this fight because Jim sent out an email that was full of typos and my unresolved issues around competence. Just went out of control. And so I said, Jim, you cannot send out an email like that to to one of our clients. And, well, immediately I tapped into his sense of acceptance. Well, Kevin’s not accepting me right now. It had nothing to do with the email, had nothing to do with the typos. It was all about my unresolved issues and Jim’s unresolved issues. And so as leaders begin to pay attention to what’s happening in their in their own lives, maybe it goes back to family of origin issues or something that happened with a coach or a teacher early on in life. We all have these unresolved issues that are blind spots, and I think what happens so often with especially with the narcissistic pastors, they bury these issues and then they come out in very unhealthy ways. And that’s why we see a lot of the crash and burn that we’re seeing around the country.

Ed Stetzer:
I wrote a I wrote I was in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, and I explained that there’s a body count of young leaders whose ability elevated them beyond the point that their character was able to handle so, so, so I guess then the question is, we’ll get back to you, Kevin, is how can leaders and Jim, you weigh on this too, right after Kevin does. But how can leaders become more self-aware, better able to handle challenges like anxiety, conflict, healthy boundaries? I mean, I mean, it’s we I think we all kind of feel that that’s a big issue. So and again, again, the book, by the way, just so everyone knows, is called Attentive Church Leadership. And again, the subtitle is Listening and Leading in a World we’ve Never Known. So how does that work, Kevin? And then Jim, it’s not easy.

Kevin Ford:
Uh, I sold my consulting practice back in 2019 and joined my dad at Leading Forward Ministries. And dad, over the last 35, 36 years, has done nothing but mentor younger leaders around the world. What he found is the real work happened. Not in the seminars, not in the classrooms. Uh, not at the arrow leadership program that he founded. But it happened in the walks. Uh, it happened at the breaks. It happened when the young leader said, you know, Layton, I’m. I’m struggling in my marriage, or I’m struggling with pornography, or I’m struggling with some kind of an addiction to alcohol or whatever it may be. And so that shifted my dad to focus on really sole care for younger leaders. So we talk at Leyton Ford Ministries about the need for safe times, safe places and safe people. In fact, I heard, uh, Walt Gerber speak years ago, uh, at Mount Hermon, uh, about Jesus having safe times, safe places and safe people. And it’s not an easy answer. It’s not a quick answer, but I think every pastor, every ministry leader needs to be in a relationship with, whether it’s one person or a group, where they can truly be authentic. Talk about what’s frustrating them. Talk about the conflict they’re having at their church, the issues they’re having with their spouse or their kids. And that begins to create self-awareness. Because we are truly authentic, we’re letting other people into our lives. And, uh, and through that, we learn and grow.

Ed Stetzer:
Jim. Yeah.

Jim Singleton:
I would simply add, I think. We need people that will hold up a mirror to our souls so that we can begin to see in their mirrors. I’ve got a bald spot on the top of my head, but normally in my mirror I don’t see that. But if you hold a mirror up at a certain angle, it’s like, oh dear, there’s a yarmulke up there. Where did that come from? Uh, because I’m not daily aware of that. In our age of individualism, we don’t have enough soul friends. So I would say one of the main things I do at Leighton Ford Ministries is coach pastors. And it often is around some skill area, but normally it goes really quickly to the heart, to the soul, to the spiritual formation side. And we put a lot of people in pastor groups where they can grow and that way Layton has been doing this for, uh, almost 40 years. And so those are the places where people can grow. And if one is not in it, not in such a group or not in such a relationship, it’s just hard to do it by yourself. I called Don Guthrie, who wrote a book called Resilient Ministry. 16,000 pastors were tested, and I said, what have you learned from now having the book out? And he said, the pastors that are thriving are the pastors who are connected to somebody. The pastors who are failing are the ones doing it alone. That’s the simple takeaway from that book. And it’s research.

Ed Stetzer:
Yeah, I think there’s a lot there’s a lot to that. And I think the challenge a lot of pastors try to figure out is how to find that safe space. And it is interesting to see Leyton Ford Ministries and Leyton Ford. I mean, um, I mean, I don’t know, shifts the right word, but but this, this desire for global evangelization also points to we need healthy leaders. And and so bringing that back around kind of speaks to. But I would say to that was decades ago, and I still think evangelicals aren’t listening as much as they should on some of these, on some of these issues, even after you would think you get to the 80s, you got your TV evangelist scandals, you got plenty of other things. You get into the 90s, you got a whole nother crop. I mean, it just kind of continual why would why, why, I guess maybe why are pastors not drawn to dealing with their stuff? Maybe it’s just unpleasant for all of us, but. But what do you think, Jim? Back to you. Why is there not like, a rush to. I want to address these issues in my life so I can lead well. The Setzer Church Leaders Podcast is part of the Church Leaders Podcast Network, which is dedicated to resourcing church leaders in order to help them face the complexities of ministry. Today, the Church Leaders Podcast Network supports pastors and ministry leaders by challenging assumptions, by providing insights and offering practical advice and solutions and steps that will help church leaders navigate the variety of cultures and contexts that we’re serving and learn more at Church leaders.com/podcast network.

Jim Singleton:
A lot of it’s fear. Uh, a lot of it is a sense that if people knew really what went on in my heart, I would be out of a job. Uh, and therefore, who is safe? I can’t really go tell a denominational executive because I have a dual relationship with them. They’ve got some supervisory with me. I can’t necessarily tell my elders or my board because that could be unsafe. So who do I cultivate that kind of relationship with? And most of us just get buried in our local church and we don’t reach beyond. But if that can become part of the DNA, I think the evidence, as you’re saying over the last 40 years, has been terrible. But we keep thinking, well, I’ll be the exception. I’ll skate through. They won’t catch me. I’ll be fine. We just haven’t really embraced that. The treasure is in an ordinary clay pot that’s very fragile and breakable. We somehow believe we have to become a golden urn for the Lord. Then maybe we just need. More people around us to hold up that mirror to the soul and say, let’s walk together. I want to be a companion on the journey.

Ed Stetzer:
I like it, okay, I’m Kevin, I want to come back to you, and I want to ask and for you to kind of help us to think now about, all right, pastors are going to deal with their stuff, maybe address their, their, their, their challenges. Um, which again, I think is probably an assumption we can’t make. But but what are some then practical ways that church leaders can build trust? Let’s start going into the direction of where you’re engaging people and the attentiveness that comes with that as well. Talk to us about where they can build trust.

Kevin Ford:
Yeah. I think, uh, once a pastor begins to move outside of self, they start moving into other people, uh, engaging others in leadership, engaging others in the conversation that begins to build trust when a pastor. This piggybacks on what Jim was just saying, but what a pastor feels like I have to be the visionary leader. I have to be the one that sets the direction for the church, that sets them up on a pedestal. And the congregation then looks to them for that kind of leadership, which often creates the unhealthy dynamic of I can’t fail. So creating trust starts by engaging the congregation in the conversation. So we recommend churches think through a process of creating a shared vision. Uh, do a survey, do focus groups, listen to the congregation? Do focus groups with people in the local community? I’m working with a church in Georgia right now, and they brought in all the the local community activists, uh, as part of a focus group. It was fascinating to hear. This is a a downtown church that is has a great reputation. But what I heard from the people is, you know, these people in this primarily affluent white church are not showing up at our African American events. We don’t have relationships with them. So that’s all it would take, is just, could you show up on Martin Luther King Day? Don’t just send us a check. Don’t just help us build a school, but be our friends. So it’s a process of listening to the community, listening to the congregation. Uh, and then there’s a time at which leadership, especially a board or a staff team, needs to start making decisions.

Kevin Ford:
But if the congregation feels like they’ve been heard and listened to and valued, that creates trust. And I think the other thing is to be steadfast over time. Uh, I remember a years ago when I was in business, we did a survey. It was an employee survey that looked at the difference between trust and distrust. And they’re not two sides of the same coin. Distrust can happen immediately. So a pastor falls, there’s a scandal. Distrust is cast over the congregation immediately. But trust takes a long time to build. It’s kind of like the difference between a light switch and a dimmer switch. A light switch cast the room in dark immediately. A dimmer switch turns it on gradually over time. So the more steadfast, uh, pastor can be. Same message, uh, same focus. Uh, I remember reading about Shirley Franklin when she was the mayor of Atlanta and rebuilding the worst neighborhood in the state of Georgia, and it took three years of going to the tenants association meeting every night with the same poster boards, the same brochures, uh, and saying, you know what? We’re going to rebuild this neighborhood. And it was an incredibly successful, but it took almost three years of the people hearing the same message over and over and over again and calling her names and arguing with her. And she just remained steadfast. And her approval ratings went from about 60, 60% to 95% over that period of time. So same message be predictable. Be reliable, be steadfast.

Ed Stetzer:
Yeah, those are those would be things that would be good to see. But but I do think that attentive church leadership does bring an additional dimension to that, which is, you know, the steadiness really does matter. But the steadiness kind of in listening and, you know, well, let’s even talk about that. We’ll come back to Kevin and then to Jim, you know, how do churches discover and evaluate their ethos? What does that what does that look at? First we should probably explain and define that. But but that’s a part of what you talk about. So how does that work.

Kevin Ford:
Yeah. Ethos is the culture of the church, the DNA, what we’re all about. One of the words that we use is a great Greek word for, uh, for really identity. Who are we truly, as a church? Uh, I remember years ago working with a church in the Seattle area as a sixth generation Norwegian church, and the new pastor came in, and the very first thing the new pastor did was, uh, move the baptismal font from the front of the sanctuary to the back of the sanctuary to make room for the praise band. A year later, the pastor says, why is nobody trusting me? And so I did focus groups. And what I realized is this was six generations of Norwegians and their great grandparents and great grandparents had built the church, and the church had burnt down. They rebuilt it. And this pastor unintentionally violated the DNA of the church six generations by moving a simple baptismal font to the back of the sanctuary. Kind of like when Carly Fiorina went into Hewlett Packard and they were all about the HP way, which is valuing the employees. And, you know, she’s a great leader. But she went in and the first thing she did was to merge with Compaq, and that resulted in 15,000 layoffs that violated the spirit of the HP way, which was about valuing employees. So discovering the ethos of the church, we use a very simple exercise where we ask people to tell stories. What’s your most meaningful memory here? Who are the unsung heroes of this church? What decisions has this church made that have been really important historical decisions of how is this church different than other churches that starts. And when you get into stories, you move from the left brain to the right brain, from logic to intuition. And that’s where people really resonate. And that’s what brings people together in a shared ethos.

Ed Stetzer:
Yeah, those four questions like, I think you gave four right there, those four questions like if those were, as you’re listening, your pastor and church leader and you’re like, well, you know, I really should ask those questions. Yes. Like maybe like a while ago, but it’s not too late because you I mean, I, you know, this is an interview with you, but I remember walking through a church I was leading through revitalization. And when I just sat down and asked, and this this kind of structure was a traditional structure where the deacons kind of run the church. And I just asked them some of the history, and I said, well, where do you guys what are the key moments? And like, no one’s ever asked us that before. None of these new young pastors that come in have ever asked us that before. And being attentive to those questions just built trust, even that I was asking. But anyway, I’m getting I’m getting to animated in this, Jim, to you. Um, so we want to see transformation in our congregations. So and again, that’s a theme that we see in the book Attentive Church Leadership. So, so how can we see that take place real transformation in their congregations. What are some ways that we’re going to get there?

Jim Singleton:
I think I think a lot of ways, you know, don’t minimize just being a wonderful pastor and attending the reception after the funeral. That builds trust. And so I want us to always remember that there are every good pastoral moment is one of those things that builds trust. Now, getting a church, uh, moving forward, you know, it usually needs a sense of urgency of why do we want to move forward. And and you have to find where that point of urgency is, is that our grandchildren are not here. What is it that’s moving this church to want to make a step in a direction? So that would be one aspect.

Kevin Ford:
Part of transformation. If I can jump in part of transformation. Editor, I think is, uh, shifting the competing values back to the congregation. So they wrestle with the competing values. What they often are looking for in a senior pastor or leader is someone who’s going to solve my problems for me. But when the pastor shifts the the competing values back to the congregation, that begins to build trust, but it also begins to initiate, initiate transformation.

Ed Stetzer:
So how how would you. Because I’m 100% with you. I remember just even walking through with Moody Church and I was the interim there. I’m like, you know, here’s what some we value, but there’s something else we value. And if we did this, this would. So what does that look like? How does that happen? Kevin. And then Jim as well.

Kevin Ford:
So we were working with a church in Cincinnati a number of years ago in a consultation. The church had been around for 180 years. A lot of history, uh, the church had burnt down back in 1920 and rebuilt and so forth. But the church no longer mirrored the demographics in their local neighborhood. Uh, the local neighborhood was, um, now very multicultural. Uh, the poverty level had increased. This was still primarily an affluent white church where people were driving in through the the area to get to the church. So the pastor and the leadership team sat down and said, you know, we should, uh, think about moving, relocating the church up north where all the growth is happening. So pastor announces on a Sunday morning, hey, folks, we are thinking about possibly, maybe just an idea relocating, and we want to get your input. Well, the next week, 150 people left the church never returned. Uh, pastor calls me and says, what happened? And I said, you told them that you’re relocating. He said, no, I didn’t. I told him that I wanted their input. I said, no, you’re not. You told them you were relocating because you started with a solution, not with a question. You have to start with a question. If you want to get people to engage in the competing values.

Kevin Ford:
And he said, well, how do I do that? I said, well, let’s start over. Let’s let’s put the issue out there. The churches needs about $1 million in renovations. The we don’t match the demographics anymore. The local community, uh, the church is declining in membership, folks. What do we do? Well, that led them on a two year process of actually evaluating all those issues. At the end of the day, they said, you know, what we need to do is we need to reimagine our campus here to really meet the needs of our local community. But we also need to set up two satellites, one now down near the University of Cincinnati and one up north. So they created this multi-site model where each campus had a very different DNA, a very different focus, a very different, uh, service offering. And when the pastor announced the new plan on a Sunday morning, after engaging everybody over the course of two, 2 or 3 years, he got a standing ovation. But it started with the question, not the. Answer because as pastor, if I even hint at the answer when we’re dealing with competing values, then people make me either the hero or the goat and they blame me for whatever goes wrong.

Ed Stetzer:
No, I think I think that’s I think that’s right on. And I think that, uh, you know, I’m a Congregationalist theologically, but I think all churches are ultimately Congregationalist because people vote with their feet. So you can you can tell them what you’re going to do or you can. What was it? That was it Harry S Truman who said that leadership is getting people to do, uh, what you want, when you want it? And but thinking it was their idea, you know, and but I think ultimately it’s not just thinking it was their idea. When people come to a conclusion collaboratively, they own the the questions and the answers and then they walk forward together. I remember one church I led through revitalization. I actually put together some committees. We took 6 to 9 months to make the decisions. We voted on it. And then, you know, a year later when they said, well, you know, what about this? Well, we all kind of agreed on this before and then we went forward together. Okay. So that’s key. So attentive church leadership is is the title of the book. Again the subtitle is Listening and Leading in a World we’ve never known. So Jim, I’m going to give you both kind of last words to pastors and church leaders. What would you exhort them towards? You got one piece of advice with church leaders listening. What would that be, Jim? And then just go right into it. Kevin, after Jim’s done.

Jim Singleton:
I think patience is a big part of it. And, um, you know, this whole thing you were just talking about with the Truman quote, it takes time to really build consensus. And in doing, my dad used to say, don’t negotiate with somebody holding a stopwatch. And that’s helped me a lot in churches because I usually like to have quick solutions yesterday, let’s get it done. And over time, I’ve learned that to be attentive to God and attentive to my congregation and attentive to the culture, it’s going to take a process. And that process is usually longer than I want it to be. But to allow this whole body to move, let’s take the time it takes.

Kevin Ford:
And I would say my friend Ron Heifetz from Harvard wrote a book called Leadership Without Easy Answers. And I think far too often, uh, pastors, ministry leaders are looking for the easy answers. So the idea behind being attentive is it’s not an answer, it’s a posture. It’s not an action. It’s a way of being. So we go to conferences and we want to find out what’s what’s the newest, greatest, coolest way of doing ministry. What’s the new answer? What’s the new solution? How do we do ministry in a digital age? And I think it has much more to do with the posture. A posture says, I’m ready, I’m attentive. I’m waiting, I’m listening. And I can move on a dime because I’m attentive.

Ed Stetzer:
Good conversation. Helpful from both you, Kevin and Jim. We appreciate you. And again the the book is attentive. Church leadership want to encourage you folks to pick it up. I think you find it helpful listening and leading in a world we’ve ever known, we’ve never known. Let me remind you too. If you just search for that title in 20 truths, you’ll get some quotes from the book over at Church leaders.com. Thanks for listening.

Daniel Yang:
We’ve been talking to Kevin Ford and Doctor Jim Singleton. Be sure to check out their book, Attentive Church Leadership Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known. Thanks again for listening to the Settler Church Leaders podcast. You can find more interviews, as well as other great content from ministry leaders at Church Leaders Compass and through our new podcast network, Church Leaders Compass Network. And again, if you found our conversation today helpful, I’d love for you to take a few moments to leave us a review that will help ministry leaders find us and benefit from our content. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you in the next episode.

Voice Over:
You’ve been listening to the Stetzer Church Leaders podcast for more great interviews as well as articles, videos, and free resources, visit our website at Church Leaders Comm. Thanks for listening.

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Key Questions for Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton

-Talk to us about the new landscape, with its potential and challenges, that church leaders are currently facing.

-What’s the significance of the word “attentive” in your title?

-What are some of the key practices of attentive leaders?

-How can leaders become more self-aware and better able to handle challenges like anxiety and conflict?

Key Quotes From Kevin Ford

“The landscape is completely changed, and we’re still trying to figure out: How do we minister in this world?”

“Are we aware of the context that is around us and aware of it in the sense of, we recognize this is the way people are relating?…Are we attentive to the movement of God?”