How Jon Stewart Helps Build Sticky Faith

Kara Powell | Jan 15, 2015

“Leadership begins with listening.”

This mantra, provided by Dr. Scott Cormode link here at Fuller Seminary, quickly becomes one of the backbones of our Sticky Faith Cohorts. In order to train congregations in building Sticky Faith changes, we help them understand not only what to change, but how to bring about that change. Leaders quickly learn that listening to others (students, parents, volunteers, congregation members) is a key first step in changing a church culture.

That’s why I was especially intrigued with Jon Stewart’s interview with Cass Sunstein, a faculty member at Harvard. In research described in Sustein’s book, Wiser, Sustein studied the effect of spending time with like-minded people. For instance, he examined somewhat “liberal” folks in Boulder, Colorado who spent time only with others who were similarly “liberal,” and replicated the same analysis with more “conservative” folks in Colorado Springs.

His finding: A short discussion with like-minded people made liberals more liberal, and conservatives more conservative. This “echo chamber” effect has been demonstrated in multiple settings when similarly-minded men and women spend time with each other.

How does this relate to leadership and changing church culture?

If we’re only spending time with people who are like us—or share our viewpoints—we become closed to fresh perspectives. We become more firmly stuck in our ideological ruts, making it harder to leave those ruts even when and if we eventually want to.

Seeing this interview has made me ask myself a handful of questions:

1.How much time am I spending interacting with people, and media, who have different political viewpoints than me? One of my close friends listens on the radio to NPR and watches Fox News as her attempt for bipartisan information. I probably am not capable of that sort of stretching, but how much am I listening to contradictory political views?

2.How much am I listening to people in different socio-economic statuses?

3.How much am I learning from and interacting with folks from different ethnicities or cultures than me?

4.As I seek to make change at Fuller or in my own church, how am I doing at seeking out different viewpoints?

Of these 4 questions, I feel good about 2 of my answers, and not-so-good about the other 2.

How do you try to love, listen, and learn from folks who are different than you?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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