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Sacred Listening: Pathways to Trust and Revitalization in Ministry

An original research project

We’ve been researching religious disaffiliation in the United States for a while now.  Over that time, the data have been unanimous about one thing: Relationships based in listening are the best opportunity church leaders have to rebuild trust and make a difference in people’s lives.


Unfortunately, we don’t know much beyond that.  Megan and I understand that listening is critical and have devoted our entire organization at Future of Faith to this issue, but we don’t have sound, scientific evidence about exactly how and why listening works or what aspects of listening are critical for faith formation and development.  


We’re going to fix this issue.  

Our first research project at Future of Faith, “Sacred Listening: Pathways to Trust and Revitalization in Ministry" will unveil how strategic, empathetic listening can help church and faith leaders build trust, deepen communal bonds, and steer faith communities towards a vibrant and relevant future.

See below for more details and ways you can be involved.

Listening is the ONE THING, that changes EVERYTHING.

Deep Dive

At Future of Faith, we are committed to resourcing and supporting the relational church, championing the sacred act of listening as the foundation of our mission. Our society faces a pivotal moment where trust in institutions, including churches, is waning. We believe, based on the best available research, listening to practitioners, prayerful discernment and our own experience, that the pathway back to a vibrant, influential, and vital church runs directly through relationships, particularly those fostered by leaders who prioritize listening.  In this context, we hypothesize that the key to revitalizing faith communities lies not in speaking more, but in listening better.  

To this end, we are excited to launch a pivotal research project that seeks to empirically validate and elevate the role of listening in spiritual leadership. While existing research demonstrates the potential for relationships that lead with listening for building trust, especially with young people, there is very little current research that shows how that process works, the most effective components or approach to listening or that documents the true impact of listening on both parties.  

This project will rigorously explore how listening can transform relationships in faith communities, examining the specific aspects of listening that make individuals feel truly heard, valued, and spiritually nourished.


Through comprehensive surveys and in-depth interviews, we aim to uncover the mechanisms by which listening fosters deeper bonds and trust between church leaders and congregants.  Combined with our scientifically based saced listening process, these findings will inform targeted training programs that equip leaders with essential listening skills, positioning them to profoundly impact their communities.



Background research, fundraising, coalition building and instrument creation

Data collection and analysis.  We endeavor to use a variety of data collection methods in this first round of research

Results released to the public.  Plans include a white paper, blog posts, webinar and downloadable dataset.  


We anticipate a second phase of this research in 2025.  Plans will be updated here.

How You Can Help

We’re looking to assemble a coalition of parties that will support this research in one or more of the following ways that can be publicly shared as we look to build a national conversation and movement around listening in ministry.  If you're interested in being a part of this project, simply fill out the form below, and we'll be in touch.

How are you interested in helping? (check all that apply)
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