Learning to Listen

by Britt Hester, Minsiter of Youth and Christian Education

 I have a confession to make: I’m not a good listener. If you’ve been around me for more than a few minutes you know that I’m quite extroverted and like to talk. If you didn’t know that, just talk to Courtney and ask her what it’s like living with me. I like to talk. I like engaging with people and sharing stories and memories. I like talking about things that matter (faith, family, relationships, etc.) and I like talking about trivial matters (sports, weather, food, etc.). I like to talk about anything and everything.


Yet I find there are times when I dominate the conversation. It’s not so much that I enjoy listening to myself talk as it is that I tend to process my thoughts through speech. Speaking helps me flesh out what thoughts and ideas are simmering in my mind. Lately, however, I’ve realized how detrimental that can be when it comes to forming deep and meaningful relationships.


Recently I finished the book The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship, and Community. In the book, the authors highlight the importance of listening for the sake of transformation both individually and communally. In their chapter called “Presencing,” the authors write, “Listening is perhaps the greatest demonstration that you do not conceive of yourself as God and that you honor others as worth listening to.” Ouch!


As a minister, my job requires that I talk. But I’m learning that listening—the art of eliminating distractions, clearing your mind, and intentionally being present with God and others—leads to deep and abiding connection that has the power to transform our understanding of God and each other. Holy listening is the pathway to authentic and holistic community. So, with that in mind, I’m going to practice. I’m going to practice the discipline of not preparing my response while another is talking or looking at my phone while a friend updates me on their life. I want to be a better listener for the sake of my own growth as a Christian, but also for the sake of our life together. Will you join me?