Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known – Kevin G. Ford and Jim Singleton

Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We've Never Known by Kevin G. Ford, Jim Singleton
Published by IVP on April 2, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Leadership
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The world has changed. The changes around us present daunting challenges to the church, and we minister in places we have never been in before. But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions because every church needs to attend to its specific situation and calling. We need to listen for not only what to do but also what not to do. In a world screaming in a thousand directions for our focus, it's essential for us to become attentive to God, our congregation, and our community.

Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton call for attentive churches with attentive leaders who can discern cultural and organizational change and pivot accordingly. Healthy transformation starts with a posture of attention. We need to see what God is already doing in our midst: in our own soul, in our people, and in the communities and culture around us. Chapters explore key questions that attentive leaders ask and offer case studies of attentive churches that have navigated the issues and transitions facing them. As we practice habits of attention, God leads us through the highs and lows of change into the exciting adventure of being on mission with him.

This book flows from the authors’ experience counseling church leaders whose congregations are going through periods of organizational change. Kevin G. Ford and Jim Singleton have consulted with a great variety of churches in many different situations, and this book distills their core advice for how leaders can navigate change. The authors share case studies and examples throughout this book, along with biblical wisdom and core concepts from business management. Some of the case studies are very specific, while others are anonymous and less detailed, but they all help convey the authors’ points, showing what different big picture ideas look like on the ground.

The case studies involve a variety of different circumstances, such as facing major shifts in numbers, pivoting due to the pandemic, needing to find new property, trying to revitalize spiritually unhealthy churches, recovering from abusive leaders, and so on. There’s a great range of examples, and the authors use these stories to illustrate important principles and suggest possibilities without prescribing anything based on another church’s success. Part of this book’s focus is on how leaders can become attentive to their own contexts and communities, figuring out what will work there instead of looking to outside programs and conferences to try to replicate someone else’s success.

In the first part of Attentive Church Leadership, Ford and Singleton explore what it means to be an attentive leader, and they share advice for how people can recognize and face change, become attentive to others’ needs and important situational factors, manage their own anxiety, and build trust. There is a lot of great advice about how leaders can handle external conflict without turning this into a judgment of themselves and their capabilities. The authors share both positive and negative illustrative examples from their own experiences and churches they have consulted with, and they share practical advice that will generalize to any church context.

Throughout the second part of the book, the authors delve into what it looks like to lead an attentive church that understands and responds to the changes around it. They encourage churches to develop clear priorities, create genuine community in a self-focused world, and shape a healthy internal culture with a clear ethos. They also write about helping congregations engage with the church’s mission and serve others, instead of having a culture of entitlement, and they write about ways that the church can encourage genuine transformation through the Christian life. The final chapter focuses on mentorship. Overall, the book covers a lot of very common topics in the church leadership world, but the authors really delve into what this looks like in practice, holding all of the church’s roles in tension instead of converting everything to corporate terms or only engaging with spiritual elements.

Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known is a thoughtful, unique book about how churches can deal with organizational change. The authors draw on Scripture, history, contemporary research studies, management principles, and vivid examples, helping their readers understand how to navigate struggles and growth opportunities in a way that is emotionally healthy, respectful of others’ needs, and genuinely collaborative within leadership structures and the church body at large. I am impressed with how thoughtful and practical this book is, and I would recommend it to people who are leading churches and Christian nonprofit organizations.