How does a partnership facilitator listen? Here are twelve things to look for in a cross-cultural partnership facilitator relative to listening.
1. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators pray much before engaging in conversation with their indigenous ministry partners; they have a habit of asking God to give them “ears to hear.” Because of this habit, they have a lifestyle of listening. This may also be called “walking with God.”
2. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are comfortable listening to others; they’re skilled at asking questions—to learn, understand, and build trust. They are able to hear with their heart.
3. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are generally quiet; they’re not talkative people who need to get recognition for their every point of view. Beware of talkative people; they make bad partnership facilitators for one reason: they are not good at listening. Loud Americans and westerners are unsightly and ineffective in cross-cultural partnership settings.
4. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are skilled at “drawing out” and listening to the dreams of others, then reflecting back to them what they heard to make sure everyone understands.
5. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators enjoy helping their indigenous ministry partner’s dreams come true. They are happy when others get credit for ministry accomplishments. This joy fuels their interest in others and their ability to truly listen.
6. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are able to suspend judgment when faced with thorny situations; they do not rush to judgment; they are not rash. They are willing to give the benefit of the doubt, especially because significant cultural distance can so easily create misunderstanding. At the same time, they are able to wisely and lovingly ask difficult questions when a situation requires it.
7. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are generous about their time—they’re willing to take the time to sort through all the issues and gain a hearing from all sides. Good listening requires patience.
8. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators have invested in cultivating their own cultural intelligence (CQ). They are comfortable with various cultural dynamics such as direct versus indirect communications styles and can adjust accordingly. This makes them at ease; they are able to listen and converse skillfully in diverse settings.
9. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are effective at networking and mobilizing resources to pursue an agreed-upon vision. They also know that financial resources are not nearly as valuable as human resources.
10. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are able to recognize the value of modern business principles, while never making them idols that drive Christian mission. They see modern management methods as helpful, but not nearly as vital and catalytic as listening to God and to others, “hearing with your heart.”
11. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators are Christ-centered. They live out an “abiding-in-Christ lifestyle” that allows them to value all people as sacred, and are committed to relational integrity above task-driven, numbers-oriented objectives. Christ himself is at the heart of their listening skills.
12. Good cross-cultural partnership facilitators know that partnership is not so much a rational enterprise as a heart-to-heart community in the body of Christ; nevertheless, their “listening lifestyle” is in balance with a strong work ethic by which they pursue a partnership ministry vision of great deeds for the glory of God.