Monday, February 6, 2017

What a Pastor Does the Rest of the Week...

I talk for a living. So they think. They might be my congregation, siblings, or random person I meet at the supermarket. They say things like, "You only work an hour a week. Har. Har. Har."

The aforementioned hour is Pastoral Primetime (with limited commercial interruptions). It is my weekly window to wax eloquent to a live studio audience.

For the remainder of the week, they are my focus. They might be my congregation, children, or random person I meet at the gas station. They talk; I listen."

Eighty-five percent of pastoral ministry is listening--actively, prayerfully, reflectively. I give my week to hearing from God and good authors, podcasts and pundits, scholars and colleagues, Hispanic toddlers and daycare kids, and, of course, my friends, family, and spiritual community.

Their stories inform my sermons. Their thoughts complement my teaching. Their problems shape my preaching. Their lives affect my liturgy.

But this is not why I listen. Active listening is not a means to a better message. Acting listening shows love and increases one's understanding of another. I want to love, so I listen.
In fact, I wish more people would learn to listen actively. In his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazerro identified reflective listening as a primary skill for loving well (see pp. 181-184). He provides five guidelines for the speaker (e.g., talk about your own feelings), four for the listener (e.g., let the speaker finish her thoughts), and cues for validating and exploring the other person's thoughts.

When the leaders of his church modeled active listening and trained their people to do likewise, Scazzero noted a seismic shift in their spiritual family. He writes, "[Listening] does not come naturally to anyone I have met thus far. Few of us have every had the experience of being truly listened to. When I began to listen - really listen - to the people's stories and hearts... they felt valued, worthy, and loved."

Preaching may remind, provoke, and inspire, but active listening shows love. They should be glad I only work an hour a week. (Har. Har. Har.) It allows me much more time to listen and show love.

Written in conjunction with a newsletter I wrote for The Equipping Network.

Click here to learn five obstacles to active listening and how to overcome them.

No comments: