I've written previously about church staff meetings (see 10 Questions to Ask about Your Church Staff Meetings and 10 Ways to Keep Meetings Short). In this post, though, I want to focus on one problem I've seen both as a participant and as an observer in church staff meetings: sometimes the one who leads the meeting talks too much.
One way to counter this tendency is the focus of this post. Here's why meeting facilitators often need to listen more:
- It takes the spotlight off us. When you genuinely listen to another person, you can't help but put your focus on that person. It wouldn't hurt most of us to turn our attention away from self toward God and others.
- It models the work of listening more than speaking. As your staff members lead their own meetings, they'll often follow the same patterns they've seen in your meetings. If you want them to focus on "hearing" people well, model it before them.
- It invites input from others. Most meetings are ongoing conversations; that is, somebody's. In too many cases, that voice is the voice of the leader, and it's the only voice heard. The church will likely be stronger, though, if staff together have opportunities to give input, to discuss/debate possibilities and to make their united commitment to Great Commission tasks.
- It affirms our staff. When they know you want their input, they'll also know their opinion/thoughts matter to you. When you genuinely listen to their ideas before making decisions, they'll know even more that you value their presence and perspective.
- It helps us avoid saying things we'll later regret or need to correct. The tongue really is powerful (James 3:2-12), and most of us can speak of times when our misplaced, unfortunate words created only pain. The confidential nature of staff meetings sometimes only makes this worse—we say things behind closed doors we would not say among a crowd of church members. Listening more than speaking helps keep us from saying these wrong things.
- It helps us avoid jumping to wrong conclusions. We hear just enough data (we think ...) to reach a conclusion, and we press on based on that conclusion. If we had even more data, however, we might have concluded differently—and we often learn that needed data by inviting input, speaking less and listening more.
- It increases the power of our voice when we do speak. It's easy, frankly, to tune out voices that always speak. If you listen well and speak only as needed to lead a meeting, though, you may find when you speak that others listen well themselves and hear your voice as a voice of authority and thoughtfulness.
- It's just wise. That's why James tells us to "be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger" (James 1:19, NIV).
What other reasons would you add to this list?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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