What We Learned: Listen, Interpret, Communicate

Jan 3, 2021What we learned

Despite how it ended we were still excited. The creativity of our conversations overshadowed hearing “no”. We still had a lot to learn though.

We’d like to share some of the lessons we learned.


In the months leading up to our congregational meeting we listened to one another. Our leadership team allowed space for the Spirit to move and in doing so we heard new things. New ideas arose about how to use our physical space. Ideas for new ministries bounced around the church. We thought with new energy about discipleship and the future of our church.

None of this was possible without paying attention to one another. We listened. Rather than think of all the reasons not to do something, we began to think about the possibilities. We knew something needed to change for the church to survive. We also knew that we wouldn’t get there if we shut down creative ideas or people.

In improv, there is a game called “yes, and.” While playing it, you simply listen to what is being offered by another person and reply “Yes, I like this part of your idea, and…”. All too often we get stuck in the “yes, but” or even “no, and let me tell you why.”

We learned that focusing only on the problem stifles ministry. It takes the wind out of the Spirit rather than freeing it to do its work.


This was one of the hardest lessons to learn. Our excitement, research, and discernment didn’t translate.

It wasn’t that the idea was wrong. We did all the internal work. We just didn’t translate it. Those outside our group did not have any context. We took the light we experienced and hid it under a bushel. When it came time to share it, people struggled to understand what we were saying.

We learned that it is important to have an interpreter. We needed someone who could explain and translate. If you plan on shifting how a community or congregation works, you need advocates. These are people who can translate and build dialogue between groups.

While we’re happy with where this all came out, we could have shortened the process. Moreover, good interpreters and advocates help avoid some of the initial anger and frustration.


To some degree this goes hand in hand with interpretation. However, it is less about translation and more about sharing what we were hearing and discerning.

When our conversations started, we kept things quiet. Only the leaders knew the full extent of the plans and ideas. For weeks only our leadership group discussed this. Looking back, it was a mistake.

Our decision not to share created more suspicion and anger. The journey we’d been on was exciting and hopeful. And, it had only just begun. In truth, we may have deserved some of the resistance we encountered.

We didn’t communicate what was happening and what we were thinking. Articulating what might happen if we did nothing and stayed the course was important. We didn’t set forth the vision and invite people into the process.

We presented a solution to a problem that no one knew we had. Rightfully so, the answer was no.