The Challenges of Intentional Listening

By 1JustCity Citizen
May 8, 2016

When I think of volunteering at a community ministry, I know that there are roles and tasks. But being a listener isn’t one that pops to mind, yet it’s an important one.

Last week I experienced what it means to be a listener, and the challenges with the role. Each day at Oak Table and West Broadway Community Ministry, there are volunteers whose role it is to listen and talk with guests that come to the space.

At Oak Table, several volunteers are present with designated ‘listener’ on their nametag. The listeners spend time talking and interacting with guests, whether it’s having a deep theological conversation or playing cards. At West Broadway volunteers are part of a pastoral care team whose job is to listen to the needs of and connect with community members. Both of these ministries have recognized the importance of conversation, and providing a safe, open space for anyone to talk.

Being open to have conversations with anyone is important, and each conversation is different. Some people need to express their frustrations and share their own story, while others want to discuss current affairs and news.

When I was volunteering at these ministries, I found being an intentional listener more challenging than I expected. Intentional listening is a skill, and it’s one that I don’t practice often. It involves more than talking with someone; it involves an open mind and heart to engage with someone in whatever type of conversation they need. These people don’t have someone to call when they’re lonely, so they call on us, on me, on you! Your gifts mean they get love in the form of a listening ear.  Over the next months, I hope to continue practicing my intentional listening skills and have many wonderful conversations with people in the ministries.

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One response to “The Challenges of Intentional Listening”

  1. […] you for letting us continue this work of listening – through compassionate listening to the voices […]

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