Getting Better at Determination: Are We Ready?

    There are four soft spots in the journey of church refreshment. Once a church has surrendered its whole self to the living God, it can still get bogged down at certain predictable places in the journey. By God's grace and gifts, listening can better up a church's capacities at those predictable places.

    So let us get started.

    After surrender as described in my last post, and amidst continuing surrender, churches can get mired in certain places along the way. The four soft spots are at 1) Determination: Are We Ready? 2) Discernment: Who Are We Ready to Be? 3) Getting Better at Deployment: Is Each Person in Best Position? 4) Getting Better at Durability: How Can This Last? No matter what kind of refreshment the church gains, these are the predictable bogs, and listening can help.

    Whether your church's renewal will be from one to two services, from music loved by ages 60-80 to music loved by ages 20-40 or both, from aging to funerals to closure, from single to multiple sites or languages, or from one site to another, special care will be needed at these four places in the process. Whether your church's rekindling will be from serving only the faithful to serving the future faithful, or to serving also in some way the unchurched who have no intention of becoming churched, the vision is likely to experience drag at these four soft spots, Determination, Discernment, Deployment, and Durability.


    How does a church gain determination for the journey of refreshment? Different coaches use different plans. Some preach every week the urgency of change in the congregation. Some use assessment interviews, and some use a survey or assessment instrument of some sort. Gallup offers such an instrument (See Albert L. Winseman, Growing an Engaged Church).

    The soft spot in Determination that I can strengthen lies in its listening. Effective preaching relies on great listening, and invites future interactions where the preacher's listening is priority.  Effective survey instruments require followup, asking and listening with curiosity about how the people answered and why.

    Mere preaching and polls fall short of producing effective determination for church refreshment. In the same way, the assessment interview can fail if used only to collect data and not to heal and inspire through the interviewer's listening.

    The soft spot in Determination can be firmed up through listening.

    Whether the listening is connected to a survey instrument or a preaching series, it requires face to face, phone to phone, or message to message work, where the motives and attitudes of the listener can be clear to all. Motives matter. Listen to your own motives and refuse these: enrolling the other in your plan, controlling the conversation or choices of the other, and patrolling as the hierarchical boss.

    Listen before making any vision for the future. Seek out and listen to those who have been hurt by the current policies and structures. Listen to the deeper stories of those invested in keeping the church the way it is. Connect with individuals in the church's wider context and listen to those who might be future beneficiaries of its services. Many of the books in my selected bibliography will give you good questions to ask to get you started listening. Ask with curiosity rather than to categorize or tabulate.

    Listen with the only agenda being to show care and respect for the other. Listen without enrolling, controlling, or patrolling. Take time at this step. Healing and trust require time. If someone asks why this is taking so long, teach that person how to listen in this way so he or she can help with the listening.

    This kind of listening, without dependence on talking or doing, will increase readiness for church refreshment and traverse well the soft spot in Determination.

    Think, enjoy the process, communicate.


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