Listening seems so easy. But if it’s so easy, why don’t more people feel like they’ve been heard?
Church members say, in conversations with us at Pastor Church Resources, “The council isn’t listening to us.” Church councils say, “Our people aren’t listening to us!” Staff members don’t feel listened to by the worship volunteers they lead, the parents of the kids in their youth programs, or the people who sign their paychecks, and vice versa. And many pastors wonder if anybody is listening to them at all!
It seems that there is an epidemic of people who are not listening, and, as a result, an epidemic of people who are not feeling heard.
Of course, it’s not just in the church. It’s everywhere! Political conservatives and liberals aren’t listening to one another. It’s why they often shout. Ditto for people on different sides of conversations about human sexuality, racial injustice, and other thorny topics. Many elderly people no longer have people listening to them or even asking them for their opinions. Young people often feel dismissed by older people. Husbands and wives lose track of one another because, at some point, they stopped listening to one another too.
Listening is harder work than it seems, and fewer people seem to be up for it these days.
At Pastor Church Resources we have worked, for almost forty years, to help people do this seemingly-simple-but-quite-difficult-work of listening. And this winter, as we prepare to celebrate our 40th anniversary, we’ll begin sharing with all of our churches some of the best practices and tools for listening that we’ve discovered and deployed over the years. We hope that they bless you—and those around you who need to be heard!
As we reflect on the importance of listening, at least two things come to mind: “Within-the-church” reasons to listen, as well as “beyond-the-church” reasons to listen:
Within-the-church reasons: Churches in which members learn to listen deeply and well to one another tend to feature deeper community, relational safety and refuge, and the gift of being understood.
Beyond-the-church reasons: Churches that are full of people who listen deeply and well to their neighbors reveal to our culture the good and beautiful Kingdom of God, a Kingdom whose ethic of bearing with one another in love contrasts sharply with our culture’s ethic of shouting, asserting, controlling, and dismissing.
We look forward to celebrating with all of you, in 2022, our 40th anniversary. We also look forward to more opportunities to equip our churches, pastors, and lay leaders for the beautiful work of listening.