Understanding Anxiety & Navigating Conflict in Ministry : Kevin Ford

Understanding Anxiety & Navigating Conflict in Ministry - Kevin Ford - 110 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

How can we better understand anxiety and better navigate conflict in our lives and ministries? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Kevin Ford, Chief Catalyst at Leighton Ford Ministries. Kevin’s expertise is in leadership, organizational culture, and strategy. He’s worked with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and government agencies. But his passion is working with the church. His most recent book is entitled Attentive Church Leadership. Together, Kevin and Jason explore some of the sources of anxiety that we find in our lives and in our ministries. Kevin also shares how we can address and navigate conflict in healthy ways.

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Additional Resource Links

www.lfmconnect.org – Check out Kevin’s website for an in-depth look at his book, coaching services, insightful blog posts, and discover extra resources to enrich your spiritual journey.

Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known – 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. 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.

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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide

Key Insights and Concepts

  • The transition from a ministry focused on preaching to a ministry that prioritizes listening marks a profound shift in leadership approach, emphasizing the importance of personal connection, empathy, and a willingness to understand the changing world.
  • Mentoring and real-world application is increasingly valuable in developing future leaders.
  • Leadership must evolve with communication eras, from oral to digital, to remain effective as societal contexts change.
  • Digital-era leadership emphasizes co-creation and collaboration, reflecting societal shifts toward inclusivity.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for leadership flexibility and innovation as traditional models were challenged.
  • Managing personal and systemic anxiety is crucial for maintaining effective leadership and fostering a dynamic organizational culture.
  • Leaders must differentiate between their personal identity and their roles as ministry leaders to maintain effectiveness and objectivity.
  • All leaders experience anxiety to some level and must understand how to manage that anxiety, avoiding either extremes of low or high anxiety.
  • Most leaders understand how a high level of anxiety is unhealthy, but a low level of anxiety can also be unhealthy as it can lead to apathy and carelessness.
  • Shifting anxiety back to individuals within a community can serve as a catalyst for personal growth and communal engagement, enabling more sustainable transformations.
  • The process of strategic questioning by leaders can empower congregations, leading to greater ownership and involvement in organizational decisions and future directions.
  • Addressing the link between leadership and conflict allows for the clarification of values and mission through constructive challenges.
  • The framing of conflict as either ‘red zone’ (unhealthy) or ‘blue zone’ (healthy) can help leaders navigate disputes more effectively, promoting appropriate conflict that aligns with organizational goals while minimizing personal and irrelevant disputes.
  • Regularly revisiting and revising an organization’s mission, values, and vision can help keep the institution aligned with both internal and external changes, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness.
  • The role of professional counseling in leadership underscores the importance of self-care and mental health in maintaining effective leadership and resolving deep-seated personal conflicts.
  • Placing individuals in roles that align with their strengths reduces conflict and enhances organizational effectiveness.
  • Utilizing third-party consultants can provide fresh perspectives and resolve entrenched conflicts, proving the value of external insights.

Questions for Reflection

  • How can I transition my ministry to focus more on listening rather than just preaching? What would that look like in my context?
  • In what ways am I actively mentoring and developing the next generation of leaders within my community?
  • Considering the evolution from oral to digital communication, how am I adapting my leadership style to remain relevant and effective? How is our church adapting? Are there changes that need to be considered? If so, what?
  • How is the leadership of our church fostering a culture of co-creation and collaboration in ministry, especially in this digital era? How can we develop this to a greater level?
  • What lessons did I learn about leadership flexibility and innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic? Have those lessons been helpful in the years since 2020?
  • What level of anxiety do I typically ‘live’ in: low, moderate, or high? Why might this be my typical experience?
  • How do I manage my personal anxiety? Do I see the need to grow in this area of my life? If so, what steps can I take?
  • How do we manage the systemic anxiety within our ministry to avoid paralysis and promote healthy functioning? How can we improve in this area of our ministry?
  • In what ways might I be conflating my personal identity with my role as a leader? How can I better differentiate between the two?
  • How can I better engage my congregation or team in solving problems together rather than carrying all the responsibility myself? What would that look like, practically, in our context?
  • What questions can I ask that would empower my congregation or team to take more ownership of our collective mission and future?
  • How do I handle conflict within my ministry? Do I lean more towards avoiding it or engaging in it constructively?
  • How clear are our mission, values, and vision? To what degree do the individuals who make up our church know and understand these? Do we need to take steps to provide greater clarity and understanding for our people?
  • What strategies can I implement to ensure that conflicts within my ministry align with and promote our mission and values?
  • How often do we revisit our mission, values, and vision? How can we ensure they remain relevant and aligned with both internal and external changes?
  • How might seeking professional counseling or coaching enhance my effectiveness as a leader and help me resolve personal conflicts that affect my leadership? What resources do I have available for this?
  • How well do I understand the strengths and weaknesses of my team members? Are we placing them in roles that truly fit their skills and passions? Are there changes we should explore?
  • When dealing with conflicts, how can I benefit from an external perspective? What might a third-party view reveal about underlying issues in my ministry?

Full-Text Transcript

How can we better understand anxiety and better navigate conflict in our lives and ministries?

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by Kevin Ford, Chief Catalyst at Leighton Ford Ministries. Kevin’s expertise is in leadership, organizational culture, and strategy. He’s worked with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and government agencies. But his passion is working with the church. His most recent book is entitled Attentive Church Leadership. Together, Kevin and I explore some of the sources of anxiety that we find in our lives and in our ministries. Kevin also shares how we can address and navigate conflict in healthy ways. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hey friends welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. Each and every week, I have the privilege of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader, and we have a conversation in the hopes of helping you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy rhythm in both your life and ministry. We’re proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Not only do we dive into a conversation each week, but our team also creates an entire toolkit available to you and your team at your local church so that you can dig more deeply into the conversation that we have. In there, you’ll find a ton of different resources, including a Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, so be sure to check that out. You can find that at PastorServe.org/network. Now, at Pastor Serve, we love walking alongside pastors and ministry leaders. Day in and day out, our team across the country does just that. We have an opportunity for you to learn more about how you can register for a complimentary coaching session. You can find those details at PastorServe.org/freesession. So please check that out as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better and we will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to subscribe or follow so you do not miss out on any of these great episodes. I’m excited about this week’s conversation. At this time, I’d like to welcome Kevin Ford to the show. Kevin, welcome!

Kevin Ford 
Thank you. Great to be here, Jason.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, super excited about our conversation. We’re going to be diving into some really key issues, key things to address or pay attention to for those who are serving in ministry. Before we dive into that right away, you and your colleague Jim Singleton have written a book entitled Attentive Church Leadership. Before we dive into a little more of our conversation, I’d love to hear a bit about how you and Jim came to that title and how you are looking at this idea of church leadership and that descriptor “attentive.”

Kevin Ford 
That’s a great question, Jason. Good way to tee it up. I have to go back through my own journey to answer that question, starting with my father. My father, Leighton Ford, worked with my Uncle Billy Graham for 30 years. He was one of the associate evangelists for the Billy Graham Association. He left the Billy Graham Association in 1986 after the death of my brother because he wanted to focus on the next generation. He wanted to move away from the large crusade-style evangelism and focus on raising up the next generation of younger leaders. As part of Leighton Ford Ministries early on, he started the Arrow Leadership Program. The Arrow Leadership Program ended up training tens of thousands of men and women around the world to share the gospel. But what Dad found, Jason, was that in the programs they would bring in people like Colin Powell and John Ashcroft and seminary professors to speak and train. But Dad found that the real transformation happened on the breaks in between the sessions. So people would come up to my dad, and they say, Leighton, can I get 15 minutes of your time? Let me tell you what’s happening with my marriage. Let me tell you what’s happening in my own family and the struggles I’m having, maybe with pornography or with a conflict at my church. So, Dad’s ministry really moved away from what I would call a ministry of preaching to a ministry of listening. So, the idea of listening is really a posture. The idea of being attentive is a posture of leadership. So, my background before I joined Leighton Ford Ministries, I ran a consulting firm, and we did a lot of work on strategic planning and visioning. We brought those pieces together starting with the posture of being attentive and adding that into being an effective church leader. So that’s really where we came up with the title.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, and I absolutely love that. I think it’s so key and critical because oftentimes, in ministry leadership, we focus a lot on what we think we have to do, right? The activities. And we don’t always focus as much on the listening side, the being attentive to what’s going on around us. Now, as we dive into this book, you also address this idea that we are serving, we are ministering, we are leading in a world that we have never known, right? You use that phrase and you dedicate an entire chapter actually to this thought. And as I was reading, I really resonated with that because our world is changing so rapidly, right? In our lifetimes, it’s only increasing in the rapidity of change and just how different things become so quickly. So talk to us a little bit, Kevin, about this idea of leading in a world and ministering in a world that we’ve never known.

Kevin Ford 
Yeah, so the church really has existed in four different communication eras. If you think of my background in communication, speech, communications, and thought communication, the primary communications medium of any culture drives the institutions of that culture. So if we go back to the oral era, the institution was all built around the priests. The Messenger of God was the message of God, one in the same, that was part of the oral culture. So, the whole church reflected that medium. Fast forward to the print era with the advent of the printing press, and all of a sudden, the message and the messenger became two distinct things. So we had the priesthood of all believers, we had the Bible in the hands of average laypeople. The print medium changed everything. So churches began forming around print. Presbyterians have the Book of Order. Americans have the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. When I was in business I would have contracts with clients, so a print-based institution. Then, my Uncle Billy was really the poster child of the broadcast era, so to speak, the medium shifted from the print era to the broadcast era. The value shifted from reason to experience. So Uncle Billy learned how to really appropriate the communication trends of the broadcast era, and he would have Amy Grant come to his crusades and sing, and Tom Landry, the coach of the Cowboys, would give his testimony, and there was this experience that was created where 1000s of people would give their lives to Christ. Well, about 20 years ago, we shifted from the broadcast era to the digital era. This has changed the way churches have to think because the brain wiring of anyone born after 1992 has changed. So we moved from the value of the experience, the broadcast era, to the digital era, which is all about co-creation. It’s about collaboration. Schools don’t meet to hear a teacher anymore, they do all their learning offline and come together to collaborate around something. So what does that mean for doing church when we’re used to having people come to the big show on Sunday morning and watch what’s happening up front? That’s part of the world we’ve never known. But then, the pandemic changed everything for every church in the world in March of 2020. So that’s a big part of a world we’ve never known. So, we’re all trying to figure out what it means to lead in a new era. What does it mean to do ministry really in ways that don’t connect? Tod Bolsinger is a friend of mine, he wrote a book called Canoeing the Mountains, and I was his coach for a while. It’s just a great metaphor for how the Lewis and Clark expedition was planning to cross over rivers as they navigated to the Northwest Territory. And they all of a sudden came to the Rocky Mountains, a world had never known before. So, how do we take our canoes and climb across the Rocky Mountains? A great book and I’m thrilled that I was part of Tod’s life. But it’s just a good metaphor for a world we’ve never known.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s excellent. And I would say that all of us resonate. All of us in ministry resonate with this idea that we feel we are serving, ministering, and leading in a world that is ever-changing, and there are new ways to look at it and a lot of the things that we look back upon and that we have learned don’t always apply, necessarily, to today. Now, there are some things that do but then there are other things that we have to be much more adaptive about. So I appreciate that and that lends to the attentiveness of church leadership as well. Now, Kevin, thank you for for walking us through that a little bit. What I really want to dive into in our time together is the idea of anxiety in our leadership lives because this is something that we encounter a lot in our ministry at Pastor Serve and it’s something that is spoken of a lot more openly, I think, is some of the anxiety that we’re facing. I think, Kevin, some things we’ve discussed already lend to that feeling of anxiety in that we are, in many ways, chartering new territory when it comes to ministry. But talk to us a little bit, Kevin, about this idea of managing our anxiety as leaders in the church, and what are some different elements, some different things that we have to process through that can help us manage that anxiety?

Kevin Ford 
That’s a great question. Anxiety is important to our survival. Without anxiety, we won’t survive. We don’t pay attention to the car that’s about to run through the red light, and we don’t pay attention to what’s happening when our kids come home at three in the morning if we don’t have any anxiety. So a healthy level of anxiety is good. But my friend Ron Heifetz from Harvard talks about the difference between a moderate level of anxiety versus a high and a very low level of anxiety. So both at a personal level, as well as a systemic level with the church, we don’t want high anxiety because we get paralyzed. We get frozen. We’re scared. So we shut down. If the anxiety in the system or ourselves is too low, then we don’t see any real change. So anxiety is a thing that we really do need to manage. It starts by managing it in self. Things we see with a lot of pastors is a real difficulty distinguishing between self and role. So my role as pastor is not necessarily who I am. Who I am is I’m a child of the King. My role as Pastor, it’s sort of like, for me, my role is dad. Sometimes my kids, especially when they were younger, didn’t like my role as dad. I had to tell them, you can’t have candy at every meal, right? They don’t like that. So they get mad at me. Now, if I personalize it, then what happens is I make it about me, and I give in. And so my anxiety allows them to control the situation. But if I can differentiate myself from my role and say, you know, they don’t like me right now, but it’s actually best for them to play this role, then that helps me to manage my own anxiety.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s helpful. So let’s talk a little bit about managing that anxiety in the local church, for example. Because one thing I think, Kevin, that we obviously need to be careful of is that we aren’t excusing some of our behavior because hey, we’re trying to do what’s right for everyone else. So we’re not using that anxiety as a tool for us to maybe manipulate rather than serve, right? So how do we look at that aspect of leadership in the local church?

Kevin Ford 
Part of it, I see this with a lot of pastors. I’m working with a pastor in the southeast of the United States right now. I told him two weeks ago, I said, you want a lot more from your people than they want for themselves. So the problem with that is you’re carrying all the anxiety for the system, and when you carry that anxiety that really absolves them from having any anxiety. So I said, you need to take a step back and shift some of the anxiety back to the people because that’s really where the transformation will happen. So if I carry all the anxiety, I’m not letting anybody else grow. But if I realize that I’m going to take a step back and let them figure it out on their own. I remember reading years ago that Bill Ruckelshaus, who was the head of the EPA under Reagan, the very first head of the EPA, went out to Tacoma, Washington, and he was evaluating a company called Asarco. Asarco was a copper company and he concluded two things. One, the Tacoma economy was incredibly dependent on Asarco. Number two, Asarco was killing the environment. Arsenic everywhere. So he was looking at this, do I kill the economy of Tacoma or do I spread a carcinogen throughout the entire city? He said I can’t solve this on my own. So he shifted the question back to the residents of Tacoma. And he went to the Greenpeace group, he went to the Chamber of Commerce, and all the different groups in town and said how do we solve this? That’s shifting the anxiety back to the people. Well, they ended up saying, we are too dependent on Asarco. Let’s let’s change some of our business regulations. Let’s become more business-friendly, lower some taxes, and put a new University of Washington down here in Tacoma. That radically changed the downtown area of Tacoma. Today, if you go there, it’s a beautiful place with no more arsenic.

Jason Daye
Yeah, so this idea of shifting that anxiety. What are some examples of how that might show up in a local church?

Kevin Ford 
We were working, in my previous life at TAG consulting, with a church in Cincinnati. The pastor called me before we started work with him. He said, Kevin, we don’t match our demographics anymore, our church is in disrepair, we’ve got about $2 million of deferred maintenance, and we’re getting older. So he said, I got the leadership together last week and said, Why don’t we think about relocating, closing down the building, and moving up north? So he announced it to the congregation that here’s a consideration, something that we’re thinking about. Well, he said, Kevin, the next week 200 people were gone. They never came back. He said, what happened? I said you told them that you’re relocating. He said, No, I didn’t. He said I told them we wanted their input. I said, No, you’re the pastor, you did not start with a question. You started with an answer. Even if you said you wanted their input, they heard an answer because of the role that you play as pastor. I said, if he had started with the question it’d be a lot different. He said, is it too late? And I said, No, I don’t think so. Let’s try a different way. So he spent two years asking the question, we don’t match the demographics of our neighborhood, what do we do? We are neck-deep in deferred maintenance, what do we do? We’re not growing as a church, we’re aging. What do we do? Shifted those questions back to the congregation and after the course of two years, they ended up with a new strategy of re-positioning their current campus to meet the needs of the local neighborhood, establishing two satellites, one up north of Cincinnati, and one near the University, and a new purpose for the current facility to deal with transitional housing. When he announced to the congregation, he got a standing ovation. The reason was because they owned it. So the very simple tool there is if I’m a leader, and I’m facing competing values, the second I lead with an answer I’ve killed the process. I have to start with the question.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. That’s so good. Great example. Now, Kevin, one of the things that we understand that contributes to anxiety within a system and organization is conflict. Conflict is one of the things that, in ministry, I mean, no pastor loves conflict. No one’s like, hey, let’s do this, right? Or if they do, maybe we need to pray for them extra hard because it’s just not a fun thing. Yet, conflict is inevitable. I mean, when you are in a community of any type, conflict is inevitable. So, Kevin, talk to us a little bit about the relationship between conflict and anxiety first. Then let’s dig in a little bit about how to how to navigate conflict in some healthy ways.

Kevin Ford 
Yeah, Christianity Today put out a poll a few years ago that looked at how many pastors believe they have the spiritual gift of leadership. They found that 11% feel like they have the gift of leadership. Only 1% though believe they manage conflict well. Leadership and conflict go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other. So conflict, most conflict, if we think about it, very simply can be divided into two types of conflict. There’s healthy conflict and there’s unhealthy conflict. What happens is we experience enough unhealthy conflict that leads us to avoid healthy conflict. But healthy conflict is actually what allows us to make progress on our mission. It’s what allows us to clarify our values. The unhealthy conflict is where it taps into anxiety. Unhealthy conflict is rooted in issues in me that I’m unaware of. Blind spots. Things that maybe are buried deep in my psyche somewhere from childhood. My friend Jim Osterhaus, who we talked about some of the book, is a psychologist, and he and some other friends wrote a book called Thriving Through Ministry Conflict. It’s a great book, but they talk about red zone and blue zone conflict. The red zone is unhealthy, blue zone is healthy conflict. So the red zone conflict, the unhealthy conflict, comes from issues related to my sense of competence or incompetence, my sense of being accepted, my sense of control or survival, and things that are often unmet needs from my own childhood. So I end up projecting those onto other people and that taps into my anxiety. So when a pastor is criticized, or when someone questions a decision that they made, the first response, the natural response is to go to that place of woundedness. That place of, gosh, I’ve never dealt with that issue, someone just tapped into it, and I’m displaying it on every person that I’m with right now. Had a pastor recently that we were working with that decided that if the church voted down his capital campaign, he was going to resign. And we said why? He said because that’s a referendum on my leadership. Oh, he personalized it. I said, that’s not about you, that’s about whether or not the church needs a new building. He said, Oh, I never thought about that way.

Jason Daye 
You know, Kevin, it’s interesting when we think of it that way and I’d like to lean in a little more on this conflict because it’s kind of this idea of understanding that healthy conflict, that tension that might exist, is often kind of external in some way, right? It’s about a particular situation that your local church might be facing. It might have something to do with your facilities, it might have something to do with the new ministry you’re looking at launching, or it could be any kind of practical thing that could be unhealthy conflict. It could be within. It could be between you and staff members, you and an elders board or a church board or whatever that might be, or families in the church. That is more of the internal side of conflict, right? So walk us through a little bit, Kevin, the external side first. When we look at those tensions, that healthy conflict, what are some good ways for us to address that in a way that ensures that we aren’t slipping into kind of personalizing it, either for ourselves or for the others who are involved or engaged?

Kevin Ford 
So if we think, again, of healthy conflict, what we call blue zone conflict, is built around values, mission, and vision. The things we’re trying to accomplish as a church. If a church is not clear on those things, then the default is to go to unhealthy conflict. I don’t like that style of music. Why should we do that style of music? So we get the worship wars. I don’t think we should have videos in our service. Well, that becomes all personal opinion. When a church does a really good job of clarifying values, mission, vision, and strategy, what I call the true North of the church, that begins to alleviate the unhealthy conflict. But we’ll still have healthy conflict around the values. We’ll still have healthy conflict around the mission. But in the absence of those things, the default is always to go back to what I want. My way, rather than what’s best for the church and what’s best for God’s mission. So we encourage pastors and church leaders to think about going through a process every year or every couple of years of engaging the congregation in a survey. Let’s hear from them. What do they think? Let’s do focus groups. Let’s listen to them. Let’s pay attention, again, to that word attentiveness. Let’s pay attention to the congregation. Let’s look at the community around us. What are the needs in our neighborhood? What are the needs in our world? Do a discovery process and then bring leadership together to talk about these things. Let’s clarify how do we need to maybe change or update our mission, our core values, or our vision so that we can say this is really what we’re about. We’ll have conflict around that. But that will reduce a lot of the unhealthy conflict.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah, that’s helpful because it’s that clarity, right, Kevin? It’s that clarity. If we have clarity of purpose and mission then that helps defray a lot of the personal opinion or preferences, right? Because we align it with the clarity of who God’s called us to be in this community at this time. Now, the idea of revisiting those, I love that you brought that up kind of revisiting. Okay, this lends itself to this idea of being attentive, right? Because we know that the community around us is changing, we know that the world around us is changing. So there needs to be, it seems, this consistent attentiveness, even to our mission, our vision, our purpose, and our values, how we’re living it out in this space. Which, Kevin, I think is different from what a lot of ministry leaders have maybe learned or thought. Like, man, you get those things dialed in, you’ve got those, and then you put them on a plaque somewhere, or whatever, and you put them on your website, and then you go about doing ministry. So talk to us a little bit about how that attentiveness to those core elements of ministry helps us as we’re looking through these ideas of anxiety, conflict, or all those other things, and the not necessarily fluidness, but the just the ability to kind of look into it and check into it, right?

Kevin Ford 
Henry Mintzberg was the father of modern-day strategic planning. So what most people learned about strategic planning was develop a long range plan, have a 20 or 30-year view in mind, let’s figure out how to get there. In 1994, he wrote a book called The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning because he said that the world around us is changing so rapidly that we don’t have the luxury of having a 20-year plan. You can have a 6-month plan or a 12-month plan. So I’ll answer your question in a couple of ways. One, the world is changing around us rapidly. So we have to be attentive to those changes and how can we pivot? It was really hard for me to explain the idea of strategy to churches prior to March 2020 because we talked about how strategy is all driven by context. They said what do you mean? Then all of a sudden the context changed, right? We all got strategy instantly and learned that we have to adapt and pivot immediately. But the other thing, Jason, is that the attentive process looks at the values, mission, vision, and strategy as iterative, or ongoing. They have to be owned by the people who are in leadership. So you don’t put them on a plaque. I was working with a Church in Pittsburgh and they had their service times literally carved in stone. You’ll walk by the church, it’s a beautiful downtown cathedral, and there were 2,000 people in 1972 down to about 80 people a couple of years ago because the wrong things were carved in stone. So if we think of developing our core values, which are really our identity, our mission, which is what we do and what we don’t do, our vision and where we’re heading, strategy, how do we get there, as iterative things, then it also says the process might be more important than the words. The process of talking together among leaders, arguing, debating, and coming out on the other side, saying we did it, might be more important than the words we come up with. The next generation of leaders needs to go through the same kind of process. A friend of mine wrote a book a number of years ago based on what he did in England, he had an Anglican Church and a Baptist church that he merged, which He basically took through a 15-year process of revitalization, wonderful story. At the end of the day, he wrote a book about it, and sold a bunch of copies that were on Walmart shelves, and actually didn’t sell hardly any. They put them out there but they didn’t sell. He said, Why did it not work? I said because what worked for you is 15 years of process, not a book that can be read in three hours. It was the process of working together arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder arguing, debating, laughing, crying, and being together in the war room that resulted in that revitalization. So the process is, again, a way of being attentive.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I love that. Kevin, I’d like to lean a little more into the navigating conflict piece of this. Specifically when it comes to conflict between maybe staff members or conflict between key ministry leaders within a local church. What are the things that we really need to focus in on as we seek to navigate that type of conflict in a healthy way?

Kevin Ford 
I think first is to understand where the conflict is coming from. We’ve already talked about that unhealthy conflict comes from issues and self that or maybe unresolved. Those kinds of situations warrant professional counseling. I’m a firm believer in counseling, I’ve been through it. My wife’s been through it. My dad’s been through it. The whole family has been through a lot of counseling. It’s a good thing to have someone to hold up a mirror and say, This is what I’m hearing from you. Let me help you with that. So sometimes there’s a need for professional counseling. Other times we see especially in leadership conflict, we have people in the wrong seats on the bus. I’m working with the church right now outside of Rochester, and there’s a person on staff there who is really gifted in pastoral ministry. But their job description is to do a program ministry for youth. It’s just been a misfit. So let’s make sure we understand how people are wired. We use the Clifton Strengths Finder in a lot of the work we do to understand how each person is wired. But at most churches, we want to find a person, a warm body, to fill a need and it’s just not very effective, whether it’s getting someone to be an elder or a deacon, an usher, a Sunday school teacher, or an evangelist. We’re all wired differently. So let’s understand the wiring. So a big part of managing conflict on staff is to make sure people are in the right seats on the bus.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s helpful. When conflict does arise, what are some good ways to approach it in a healthy manner so it does not continue to blow up, continue to blow up, and create that much more angst and pain in the local congregation?

Kevin Ford 
Yeah, I think bringing someone like you guys in to walk through that, a third-party outside perspective is often extremely helpful. In my previous work at TAG Consulting we did that for federal government agencies and large corporations. But the outside perspective can see things in the system that people within a system typically can’t see. The other thing, one of the first books that I wrote was called The Thing in the Bushes. We tend to make conflict about two people rather than understand that there’s a thing in the bushes which is the hidden thing in the system that is actually creating the conflict. So when you see a pattern of conflict between two people, or between two departments, or between two different worship services year after year after year, we have to take a step back and say that’s probably not the issue. What really is the issue? So that requires some reframing of what the actual issue is. Again, a third party can help really look at what those real issues are and help to reframe the situation.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s really helpful. Kevin, as we are winding down the conversation here, a couple opportunities I want to give you. First is I’d love for you to share a little bit about Attentive Church Leadership, about how people can connect with you, with the ministry, with the book, and those types of things as a resource to dive in a little more deeply. So first, how can they do that?

Kevin Ford 
Attentive Church Leadership can be bought anywhere, Amazon, or any place that you buy books. Our website is LFMconnect.org. That’s for Leighton Ford Ministries, LFMconnect.org. There are lots of resources on there. We’ve got videos, articles, and books that my colleagues and I have written. A couple of big things that we do at Leighton Ford Ministries is we create mentoring groups for pastors. So we look for mentoring leaders, someone who’s willing to lead a group. It started with my dad almost 35 years ago, he started what’s called The Point Group, a group of ministry leaders around the world, and people like Jay John, Peter Chao, Roland Werner, and Lon Allison were a part of that. They’ve been meeting together for 35 years to care for each other and to listen to each other. So that’s really our heart is to create those kinds of soul care groups. So that’s one way people can connect. Then the other way is through what we call our Thriving in Ministry Services, which is typically visioning, strategic planning, and coaching. There are a lot of resources on the website.

Jason Daye 
Excellent, excellent. For those of you who are watching or listening along, we’ll be sure to have links to the website, the book, and those different resources in the toolkit for this episode, and you can find that PastorServe.org/network so you’ll have all the links there available to you. Kevin, as we’re winding down, I want to give you an opportunity to share just words of encouragement. You have the eyes and ears of brothers and sisters who are serving on the frontlines of ministry. What words would you like to share with them?

Kevin Ford 
I was probably in 1995, teaching at Golden Gate Seminary in San Francisco in the mornings. I was Gen X. My first book was on Generation X. Then in the evenings, I was teaching at First Baptist, and the pastor wanted me to meet with people every hour in between. And I said I can’t remember his name now. But I said I can’t do that. I need time to take care of myself. He said, Let me tell you something, young man. I was young at the time. He said when your dad came here, he was available to anyone who needed him whenever they needed him. That’s what your dad would do when he came to San Francisco. That’s what he did. I looked at him, and I said, Pastor, when my dad came home, he wasn’t available to us. He was so wiped out. He was so burned out. So, I’ve learned from watching him that I need to take care of my own soul. So I can take care of my family. To use your words, to take care of the backstage, so that I can really be effective with my family and be effective on the front stage. Dad and I’ve talked about that process, and I’m working with him now. He’s 92 and still working 50 hours a week, so he hasn’t shut down. But, yeah, that’s how I would leave anyone listening to this, take care of your own soul so you can take care of others.

Jason Daye 
Love it, Kevin. Great words. Great word, brother. Thank you so much for making time to hang out with us on FrontStage BackStage. Certainly appreciate it. It’s been a blessing, brother.

Kevin Ford 
Thanks, Jason. God bless.

Jason Daye 
Thank you. God bless you.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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