SEED GROUP TRAINING
“I’m willing to bet the farm that in our postmodern Christian society, the most important evangelistic skill is listening.” Todd Hunter, former CEO of Alpha USA
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5
James 1:19; Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 18:13. What do these verses teach us about listening?
Listening is not passive. It is not the same as being silent, switching off, or even asking a ton of questions. Listening requires entering actively and imaginatively into another person’s situation and trying to understand a frame of reference different from your own.
Active listening means…
One really effective listening skill that can be learned and practised is reflecting. This involves mirroring back the content and meaning of what someone has said to you. It helps you to clarify what you think you have heard someone say, as well as communicating to the person speaking that you are really seeking to understand and empathise with them. It also helps to draw the person out, and enables them to clarify their own thinking.
“I’ve had so many essays to write this term and I handed most of them in late. I really started to feel guilty and helpless about it. I think I should probably drop out of university.”
People’s stories are generally a mixture of:
You don’t want to reflect back everything that has been said. But choose one aspect, perhaps their feelings or thoughts, to draw out more from them.
E.g. “So you’ve been feeling quite guilty about this?”
Or “So it makes you think that you should drop out of university?”
Accurate reflections create safety and build trust, and help people to become more aware of their own thoughts, feelings, behaviours and experiences. It’s not about analysing or editing what people say, but it’s about understanding and helping people know that they are understood.
…look at the example of Job’s friends. Job is in the midst of great suffering and distress, yet his friends fail to truly listen to and understand him. Poor Job is led to exclaim, O that someone would hear me! (Job 31v35)
As we seek to listen to others with understanding and empathy, its vital that we are also listening to the Holy Spirit, who understands perfectly and can help us to empathise with people. Pray constantly, and ask God to help you demonstrate His love, acceptance and truth.
Ask God now to transform your heart and character and help you truly listen to people.
Practice active listening and reflecting back with someone who knows what you are doing and has agreed to help you work on your listening skills. With their feedback, develop expressions and phrases which fit with your natural style of speaking and way of being.
Read chapter 5 of “God Space” by Doug Pollock (ISBN 0764438719) – Listening Your Way into Spiritual Conversations
AGAPЀ STUDENT LIFE