What happens when we listen to people?
Chaplaincy often brings to mind dog collars and hospitals, prisons or the armed forces. It brings to mind times of personal and emotional crisis. And certainly, in critical, pivotal or scary moments, such a listening ear can be essential and comforting.
But all of us want to be listened to, to safely share the joys and challenges of life and for our heart and needs to be heard. In third spaces, where people are rushing less than usual, we relish the opportunities to be present and give people our time and the space to be heard. Actively listening becomes a gateway to knowing how to really love people – how to love them as God does.
Luke Rollins is our DJ Ministry Coordinator. His role involves supporting a network of Christian DJs across the UK, and seeking ways to bring chaplaincy to the music industry at large. Responding to the high incidence of mental ill health among artists, the challenges of isolation and the rigours of the music industry culture, Luke believes that chaplaincy can be a real and effective answer to providing the support and care that is sorely needed.
We asked him why he thinks it’s so important to listen to people…
Taking time to listen to someone ascribes value to them. When we give people our attention and really listen to them, we can model something of God’s love in a culture that, more often than not, doesn’t have time to listen. Sometimes it’s just about kindness. Other times it leads to prayer and truth. Occasionally, it might even change someone’s life.I believe we pray to a God who listens. There have been times in my life when He was the only one listening, the only one who understood, or had time for me. I’m convinced of His goodness through His willingness to listen to my voice amidst the infinite number of other concerns presented to Him every nano-second. God loves me. And He reminds me of it by listening.
At Third Space Ministries, this is why we are passionate about active listening. We love the way that it demonstrates God’s love, care and compassion, allowing trust and respect to form. The way that it deepens relationships, cultivating longevity and forging fruitful connections. Sometimes, the simple act of listening can alter a person’s day and even their destiny. It may seem like a small thing, but it is often just the act of kindness that a person needs.
Many of the DJs in our Unity group have struggled at some point with their faith, their place in the Christian community, with their mental health, with their sense of identity as an artist or with the performance and drugs culture prevalent in the music industry. As we meet together, humbly listening to each others’ stories, we are learning how to care for one another, how to encourage each other in our aspirations and how to challenge each other to making the best choices for our lives. Our community has become a place of friendship, vulnerability, sharing, prayer and growth. Individuals have blossomed in confidence, become bolder in their faith and found support for their struggles.
I also believe that active listening is a critical ingredient of relationally authentic evangelism. The world is busy, schedules are tight and there is little chance of, or indeed motivation for, effective listening. Against this backdrop, being people who care enough to really listen sets us apart and allows us to represent something of God’s great love, kindness and selflessness to those we meet. The kind of love that people are drawn to.
Recently, DJs from the Unity group hosted an event at a club in London. At the end of the night, after spending time listening to the stories of the individuals around us, 3 people had been prayed for and ministered to, and the venue staff commented on what a relief it had been to have kind, decent people running the event.
Just as we are transformed when we sit with God and He listens to us, so I believe people are impacted and transformed as we create and take the opportunities to lovingly listen to them.