Ministry has its challenges. As a leader in a Women’s Ministry, I could not get out of my own way. In my zeal to serve and get the job done, I misunderstood my task. The job was not done correctly, feelings got hurt, the blame game ensued, and I felt broken and useless. Why?
I did not listen.
Add insult to injury, a good friend told me that I was a terrible listener. “What! Me? I have a degree in communications!” After the initial hurt wore off, I searched my heart and the Scriptures.
I realized I interrupted people, was only thinking of myself, and rehearsed my reply before the person even finished speaking.
People feel cared for when we make a conscious effort to hear not only the words, but understanding what they need.
The Spirit reminded me of my pain during conversations when the other person looked around as I poured my heart out to them. I felt invisible. I was guilty of doing the same.
My desire to please God set me on a journey to become an active listener. I am compelled to share my findings with you.
The number one commandment “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)
The original word for hear is shâmaʻ, shaw-mah’; a primitive root; to hear intelligently, with implication of attention and obedience.
God calls us to listen to Him and others. The word Shama is used over three hundred times in the New International Version. (NIV). Here are just a few examples:
Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Proverbs 7:24
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Ecclesiastes 5:1
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Our family verse:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
If listening is that important to our God, then it should be important to us.
When ministering to others we desire to know what they need.
In my research, I have found some proven tools to aid in Active Listening.
The Art of Listening:
1. Make the person feel like they are the only one in the room
2. Lean in toward the speaker
3. Use vocal agreement
4. Keep from judgement
5. Repeat what you heard
• Make the person feel like they are the only one in the room – Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they are looking around the room just in case someone more important comes along? (at least that’s how they made you feel.) When I do this, I focus and try to maintain eye contact. I don’t want to make the person feel invisible. We all know that in ministry there are many people that need our ear. God has put this person in our path for a reason. God will give us time for the others.
• Lean in toward the speaker, allowing for personal space. This helps with distractions and shows the speaker we are listening. Keep arms unfolded; we look more open to receiving information.
• Use vocal agreement – A few, “Yes”, “Uh Hum’s” can go a long way. This proves to the speaker that we listen and care.
• Keep from judgement – A person may have a lisp, be in known sin, or just rubs us the wrong way. Put all that aside and listen. We may learn something about that person that will help us minister to them.
• Repeat what you heard – Have your words been totally misunderstood? Repeating back what we hear will eliminate any confusion. Here are a few questions we can ask after the person is done with their statement.
“I understood you to say (repeat what you understood them to say), is that correct?”
“Did you mean (state in your own words what you heard) when you said “(repeat back what the person said)?”
The person might say, “No, that is not what I meant.”
This is the opportunity for us to listen again until the message is communicated.
People feel cared for when we make a conscious effort to hear not only the words, but understanding what they need. It takes time to learn Active Listening. Practice with a friend, spouse or coworker. Don’t give up. We will reap great rewards. The ministry God has called us to will grow. The body of Christ will begin to heal.
We know that good communication is vital to any organization or ministry.
I think of Moses and Aaron. Moses did not feel equipped to give the message of God. God gave the task to Aaron.
Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the signs he had commanded him to perform. Exodus 4:28 (NIV)
and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people. Exodus 4:30 (NIV)
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Exodus 7:6 (NIV)
Aaron listened with intent to Moses. It played a vital role in getting the message to Pharaoh and freeing the Israelite slaves.
We know that good communication is vital to any organization or ministry. The church is filled with many personality types with different levels of brokenness. We all process information differently, filtered by past experience, hurts, pains and joys. As leaders and ministry heads, we point people to Christ. He is the ultimate healer. Listening with intent is a big part of our ministry.
Theologian Paul Tillich summed it up in 8 words, “The first duty of love is to listen.”
Will you join me in choosing to listen and love?