This resource is part of a series of interactive, intergenerational ideas for engaging people in faith practices through worship and/or midweek gatherings, brought to you by Worship Ministries and Faith Formation Ministries as part of the Faith Practices Project.
The faith practice of listening involves training ourselves to recognize God’s voice (John 10:1-6) in the midst of all the other voices calling for our attention. It involves learning to be fully present in the moment, setting aside distractions that keep us from attending to and responding to God’s presence around us, and learning to be fully present with God and with our neighbor.
Below you’ll find a variety of intergenerational ideas on this faith practice. Choose from and then use the ideas to shape a summer series, plan a midweek gathering, weave into an all-ages small group study or house church gathering, and more.
There are so many ideas here that you probably won’t need them all. To help make choosing easier, we’ve organized them into three categories:
- Gather activities provide an introduction to the practice through reflection and connection.
- Grow experiences offer an opportunity to explore the practice in community in a way that can be repeated at home.
- Go resources encourage and equip participants to live out the practice.
For a list of other Scripture passages and songs you might also include during your gathering, see the Build-Your-Own Worship Service (or Series) on Listening.
Making connections. Pair a reading of the picture book The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeld with a reading of Psalm 116:1-2. What did you notice about the way in which the rabbit listened? What did you notice about how the psalm writer described the way God listened? Tell about a time you’ve experienced that kind of listening.
Notice and reflect. Do a reader’s theater reading of 1 Samuel 3. Use these conversation starters to reflect.
- What words would you use to describe the way in which Samuel was listening when he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”? At what times do you do that kind of listening during your day? (For example, while receiving or reading instructions, watching the news, reading a recipe, seeking a familiar voice.) List together some of the many ways in which God speaks today—in the sights, sounds, and smells of creation; through the Holy Spirit in Scripture, devotional times, and worship; in music; through people; and so on. What might it look like to listen for what God might be saying to you?
- Samuel was surprised to hear God, and he was surprised by the job God had for him to do. In what ways has God spoken to you? Have you ever had God speak to you in a surprising way? Have you been surprised by what you sensed God was saying to you or calling you to do?
Storytelling. In advance, invite someone (or several people) to share a story of a time when God got their attention, or to share what they’ve been learning through listening as a faith practice. Stories often lead to more stories—provide time and space in small groups for people to share where/how they are learning to listen for God’s voice.
Lectio listening. Reading a Scripture passage individually or together in a lectio style provides an opportunity to practice listening well. (If you’re not familiar with this practice, Lectio Divina: An Ancient Contemplative Spiritual Practice on Faithward.org is an excellent place to start.) Provide large-print copies of the selected Bible passage and coloring pencils for marking words or doodling. Read the passage out loud two or three times, pausing to walk people through the following listening steps. Encourage grown-ups to work with young readers.
- Read. What did you notice? Were there any words or phrases that stood out for you?
- Repeat. Does what you noticed remind you of anything?
- Reflect. Talk to God about what you’re noticing. Ask God to help you hear what God might be saying to you in this passage. Invite those who wish to do so to share what they were hearing or noticing.
The video Lectio Divina—Do Not Worry about Tomorrow (Matthew 6:31-34) by Sanctuary CRC provides another entry point into a lectio experience. After watching the video, you might provide smooth stones on which people could print (or draw!) what they are hearing.
Attentive listening. Take a 15-minute walk or find a place to be still while practicing intentional listening. Pay attention to the ways in which God might be speaking to you through your senses. When you return, share with each other what you heard or noticed. How might you practice listening in this way in your daily life?
Creative listening. Read Psalm 65 and/or the picture book When God Made the World by Matthew Paul Turner. Use your imaginations as you listen to the details of what’s being described. Share stories together of when and how you’ve experienced God speaking in creation. Use art supplies to collaboratively depict the ways God speaks through creation. One idea: tear and glue colored paper to form landscapes, animals, or a giant globe. An online search for “group collage ideas” will yield many more results.
Send people home with faith practice resources they can use to continue the practices they’ve experienced during your time together. Some ideas:
- If you’ve done the “lectio listening” activity, provide additional printed copies of a verse or passage and coloring pencils.
- Invite further conversation about the importance of listening well to and with other people by sharing a Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story.
- 5 Ways to Practice Listening with Your Family—a free, printable resource for households with children
- Faith Practices: Holy Habits That Help Us Love God and Our Neighbor, Listen to the Spirit, and Become More Like Jesus—one booklet per person or household