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Then, invite questions for clarification. Don't take it for granted that people know how to listen. We live in a culture where people are much more skilled at arguing their position than they are at engaging in mutually influencing relationships. The following are a few guidelines for entering into and maintaining a listening posture.

  1. Become settled in God's presence.
  2. Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, imagination, and rational faculties).
  3. Do not interrupt. And pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.
  4. Speak for yourself, expressing your own thoughts and feelings and experiences. Avoid broad generalizations.
  5. Do not challenge what others say. Rather, ask questions that enable you to wonder about things together.
  6. Listen to the group as a whole—to those who have spoken aloud as well as to those who haven't. If someone hasn't spoken, feel free to ask what he or she is thinking. Some less assertive people have much to offer because they have been listening and observing.
  7. Hold your desires and opinions lightly. Be willing to be influenced by others.

Notice without judging

The listening phase is to gather as much data as possible. Use the following to notice everything without judging.

Pertinent facts. Gather background information, financial reports and implications, pertinent research and statistics, actual proposals, advice from experts, etc.

Voices from the community. Listen to those affected by our decision, those who will carry out our decision, and those who have a special giftedness, experience, or expertise in the area we are discussing.

Leadership discernment involves listening with love and attention.

Direction and calling. What fits best with the direction and calling of God on this church or organization? (It can be helpful to review your mission statement here.)

Scripture. Is God bringing to mind Scripture that has direct bearing on what we are discussing? Do the larger themes of Scripture provide a context for this decision?

The life of Christ. Is there anything in the life and teachings of Jesus that informs our considerations? Does this decision reflect the mind of Christ as described in Philippians 2?

Fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:22-26. Which choice will nurture the fruit of the Spirit in our community?

Consolation and desolation. Which alternative brings us the deepest sense of life (Jn. 10:10), inner peace (Phil 4:7), freedom in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17)? Which brings us a sense of wholeness, authenticity, congruence with who we are in God? Which choice fosters a deeper level of surrender to God and to love? Which would draw us away from God? Pay particular attention to distress, confusion, desolation. Even the more difficult emotions need to be acknowledged.

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Ruth Haley Barton is founding president of The Transforming Center near Chicago.

From Issue:Ministry's Core, Fall 2012 | Posted: November 5, 2012

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Michael C. Mack

November 06, 2012  2:46pm

Very thought-provoking article. You're right. Listening is key.

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