Communication Leadership

Be a Leader Who Listens (or how I got talked into a message series on sex)

February 7, 2015

Last week we began a new message series, which is new for us in several ways because it is a message about sex. And if anything was clear to me about this series, from the time it was first proposed, probably a year ago, until the moment I stepped into the pulpit last weekend, I didn’t want to do it.

I didn’t.

There are a host of reasons why…

  • I was concerned there would be some pushback, there always is when we are discussing real life issues, which a lot of Catholic preaching tends to conveniently ignore.
  • I know whatever I do say lends itself to misinterpretation and misrepresentation. I can easily imagine the phone calls of complaint to the Chancery on Monday morning, not to mention to subsequent calls from the Chancery on Monday afternoon.
  • I’m not sure how to address this topic in the liturgical setting of Mass or with a congregation representing a wide span of ages and experiences or at all in the Catholic Church where congregants are confused and divided but also deeply opinionated.
  • I am not sure of the proper boundaries in any setting.
  • And finally in obvious and not so obvious ways, I am not the right person to even address this issue at all anyway.

So how did it happen that last weekend I found myself launching a series I didn’t want to be a part of?

I sort of allowed myself to be talked into it.

First off, I do not decide on the topics for message series in a bubble, I do it with a team of people on staff, we call them the “Message Team.” The team, among other things, is discussing, researching, and developing message series all year round. Oftentimes they come to discussions about potential series with lots of ideas and sometimes passionate ones. As the case for this series got worked out, everyone on the team came to support it strongly, except for me.

While I take full responsibility for series selection, and ultimately it is my decision, I definitely do try and honor the process and allow a dialogue, even conflict to play itself out. That is what happened here. As I laid out my arguments against the series again and again the team rightly used those very arguments to advance their own. My reasons simply weren’t good enough, given the importance of the topic, the almost total silence on it from the parish, and the confusion and potential problems this silence fosters. Eventually I agreed with them.

Anyway, my point has nothing to do with this series. It is all about being a leader who listens and, when appropriate, is willing to change his or her mind. For a long time that is exactly what I was not and I think it held our parish back. Nor would I try and suggest that I am particularly good at it now, but at least I do appreciate listening as part of the process of decision making.

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