Sometimes our friends and colleagues have a way of helping us see something in a new way. They take the question we’ve been stuck asking personally or organizationally, reframe it and help us see possibilities that were always there but that we never noticed.

That’s what my colleague Victoria White reminds us of in a recent reflection in our sister publication, Faith & Leadership. She leads off this week’s Weekly. Diane Millis then helps us sharpen our capacity to be the ones who can ask those kinds of heart-awakening questions. Jared Bleak offers us some instruction when the questions we ask or the questions we are asked lead to difficult, tense or even dangerous conversations. Then, a word of caution from retired United Methodist Bishop William Willimon — as a leader, you discover that the people who want your ear are often the ones who want to protect the status quo. So, how do you find the people who have not been heard who can change your thinking, the kind of people who can reframe your questions?

We end the Weekly with a bit about a book that reframes a question for the church — Allen Stanton’s Reclaiming Rural.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Reframing your question might help focus your answer

Reframing your question might focus your answer and make it achievable

Trusted individuals and institutions can challenge us to make abstract questions more concrete, while also holding us accountable to move toward an answer.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Asking heart-awakening questions

People in authority are sometimes reluctant to ask questions of ourselves and others. Leadership consultant Diane Millis offers tips on how to ask questions that generate better ideas, make fewer errors in judgment and increase our institutional agility.

Dangerous conversations

“Dangerous” conversations

Sometimes leaders find themselves in conversations that are difficult, tense or even dangerous. Former executive director of Duke Corporate Education Jared Bleak offers a four-step strategy for preparing for such conversations.

Listening like a bishop

You don’t have to be a bishop to benefit from this article by retired Bishop William “Will” Willimon. His challenge to leaders is to find people who change our questions by telling us the truth our institutions would rather not hear.

From the Alban Library

Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations

by Allen T. Stanton

Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations

As rural America continues to undergo massive economic and demographic shifts, rural churches are uniquely positioned to provide community leadership. Leading a rural congregation requires a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing these communities, as well as a strong theological and community-focused identity. Allen T. Stanton describes how in establishing this identity, rural leaders build a meaningful and vital ministry.

Reclaiming Rural explores the myths and realities of rural places, and how those common narratives impact the leadership of rural churches. Ultimately, rural congregations must practice a contextual understanding of vitality, which understands both the strengths and challenges of leading in a rural setting.

Before you go…

A colleague of mine has a real gift for asking the “unscripted question” in interviews. She has the ability to listen deeply to a candidate and then ask a question that opens space for us to get to know the candidate in a different way as a person and professional. I am consistently amazed.

In this season, when there’s seemingly no limit to the questions before congregations and congregational leaders, we need more people who don’t ask common questions but who ask unscripted questions — questions that awaken us to new possibilities or at least help us reframe the places where we’re stuck. If that’s your gift, now is your time! We need you. May this Weekly be your inspiration.

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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