by Todd Lowans

Have you ever seen Up? You know, the movie with the old guy with the flying house and the round kid dressed like a Boy Scout. My favorite character in the movie is the dog, Dug. He delivered what might be the most memorable line of the whole movie, "Spuirrel!" If you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch the youtube link below, it's worth watching.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with anything, but there's a point. You see, I relate with Dug. I sometimes, ok lots of the time, have a hard time concentrating on just one thing. Sometimes I love being wired this way, because once in a while a great idea comes from my wandering mind, but at other times it's a huge challenge.

When I began working with Campus Life, the one thing in particular I noticed that I was really bad at - there are others, but let’s just focus on this one for now - is listening. When kids would tell me their problems or feelings, I would become easily distracted and would immediately start thinking about how to fix it and what I should say next. Consequently I did a lot of telling and very little listening. I felt like I was getting things done and 'fixing' a lot of problems, but in reality, I wasn't. I was actually setting myself up to be an ineffective minister because I was failing to do the most important thing, simply listening.

Kid's love to be heard. They love to feel loved and valued. And the best way to affirm that they are heard, loved, and valued is to listen, not to tell. This is difficult, because there are so many times that I listen for hours and the whole time I'm thinking, "If they only knew..." or "But that's not true, God says..." . What I’ve learned is that there's a time to listen and a time to tell. Listening comes first, and often a lot of listening comes first. When you listen you earn trust, you build a deeper relationship and you show that you truly care. It gives you the opportunity to dig deeper, ask good questions and speak truth even when it may sting a little. Listening sets the table for real authentic Christ-sharing relationships (Dave Rahn made me put that line in there;).

So how do you listen well? There's this thing called active listening, and I latch onto the active part. Basically it's some simple practices you can implement to make sure you listen well. I included a few blogs (links at the bottom) that talk more specifically about it. Here are a few specifics that have helped me immensely.

Pay attention to your body language. This is huge, the majority of our communication is nonverbal, so make sure you're body says you're listening. Nod your head, lean forward and keep eye contact.

Clarify what is being said.  Ask for clarification if you don't understand something. It communicates you care about what is being said and want to understand fully. Avoid too many of these though or you look like you aren't listening at all.

Listen, don't wait to speak.  Avoid thinking about what you will say next or coming up with a solution to the problem while listening.

By becoming better listeners, we earn the right to be better tellers of God's story.


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