Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthA Renewed SpiritualityDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

An option for Lent: focus on growing as a listener

Wednesday January 28 2015

An option for Lent: focus on growing as a listener

Our ability to listen is not set in stone. We can grow as listeners. In the past five or six years, I’ve been reading, teaching and writing about listening. Everything I’ve learned indicates that listening skills can be developed.

Why might listening be a skill to focus on during Lent? Aren't fasting or trying to pray more often more typical Lenten practices?

Almost any Lenten practice is better than doing nothing. Maybe this is a year for you to try fasting from something different or praying in a new way. Those are great ideas. But if you’re wondering why I might recommend growing as a listener as a Lenten goal, here are my reasons:

1. Jesus was a champion listener, and one way to view Lent is an opportunity to be transformed a bit more into Jesus’ image. Read John 3 and 4 (or almost any section of the Gospels) and watch for Jesus’ ability to listen profoundly to all sorts of people.

2. Listening well puts us in a place of receptivity to the other person’s goals, desires, opinions, thoughts and concerns. In other words, listening well can help us engage with other people on their terms, which is an aspect of love. Growing in love lies behind any spiritual practice we might choose for Lent.

3. Listening well helps us grow in humility. Some degree of humility is necessary to go to the place of receptivity described in #2, but going to that place often also helps us grow in humility. It’s a bit of an upward spiral: humility helps us listen better, and listening well helps us develop humility further. Growing in humility is another important goal of all spiritual practices.

4. Listening well helps us see the image of God in others in way we could never have imagined. The unexpectedness of listening, the surprise of what we learn from it, seems to me to be a lovely reflection of the surprise of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Surely experiencing the Holy Spirit in new ways is a good goal for Lent.

If you’d like to set some listening goals for Lent, you might find ideas from some of the resources I’ve written to help people grow as listeners. A good number of these resources are posted here on my website. Here are two articles on:

And some blog posts about:

And there’s also my book, The Power of Listening: Building Skills for Mission and Ministry.

I believe a Lenten commitment to pay attention to listening will bear lovely and unexpected fruit. The last few years of focusing on listening have been fascinating for me, and I’ve experienced lots of stimulating and unanticipated growth. And here's a reminder for this year: Lent starts in three weeks, on February 18.

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