People often ask me how to GROW their ministry or how to PREACH with more skill.  Rarely, if ever, do people ask me how to LISTEN more effectively.  But I think INTENTIONAL LISTENING is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give to another human being.  And today’s church world seems to be much more focused on TALKING than on LISTENING.

Let me ask you a really important question in youth ministry: How good of a listener are you…really?  We in church circles often seem to be lots better at talking than we are at listening.  That’s a pretty tragic statement, but an agonizingly true one.

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So, let me share some ideas that will help you up your “L.Q.” (Listening Quotient)

  1. Realize that genuine listening takes INTENTIONAL EFFORT on your part.  It is FAR from being passive.  It doesn’t “just happen.”  Listening is hard work.
  2. Learn to “say it back.”  Occasionally re-word what they’re saying and repeat it back to them.
  3. Fight to keep your eyes from wandering and your body language fully engaged.  I remind myself often, “Wherever you are, be all the way there.”
  4. Don’t FIX IT TILL YOU FEEL IT.
  5. Don’t interrupt and try to impose your decisions.  Interrupting sends a variety of messages. It says:”I’m more important than you are.” … “I don’t really care what you think.” … “This isn’t a conversation, it’s more of a contest…and I am determined to win.”
  6. At all costs, avoid T.R.T. (Typical Religious Talk) and other cheapening responses like, “I know just how you feel.”
  7. Keep an open mind and listen without judging or jumping to quick conclusions.  Don’t be a sentence-grabber.
  8. Prayerfully try to HEAR sometimes what their actual WORDS REALLY AREN’T SAYING.
  9. Ask them a few days later how the situation is coming that you LISTENED ABOUT earlier.
  10. If you don’t have time or circumstances prevent you from listening right away, OWN it.  Schedule a time in the near future when you can talk.

A 2016 survey put out by the Schaeffer Institute reported that 58% of the pastors surveyed said that they didn’t have any “good friends.”  That’s a lot of loneliness among those of us in the ministry.  And after lots of years in youth ministry trenches I’ve learned, if you truly want to connect with the people’s hearts, I promise you that intentional listening is a really, really big deal.

Youth Leaders CoachIf you need some help with your “L.Q.” you may want to listen to the Youth Leader’s Coach Resource called, “The Lost Art of Listening.”