If you are concerned with how technology is impacting our students' ability to listen, try this Bible study at your next meeting.
Have each person pick a partner. Assign a listener and a talker. For 2 minutes have the talker talk about anything they want and have the listener provide absolutely no nonverbal feedback—no eye contact, no head nodding, no smiling—nothing. (Warning: this is agonizing to watch) Stop the group then have them do the same thing again, but this time the listener should be the perfect listener—doing everything they can to show they are listening. After the activity, talk about the following ideas:
- How did it feel to not be listened to?
- Did any of that remind you of how you listen?
- How did it feel when the person listened?
- What specifically, did the person do to show they were listening?
Online Icebreaker Option:
Put two listening challenges on your group’s MySpace or Facebook page.
- Ask students to try out listening skills using IM. What can they do to show they are really listening to their buddies? What works and what doesn’t? Have them report back on the group’s blog or wall space.
- Have students monitor how well they pay attention to what people are IM’ing or texting them. Ask them to record how often they are multitasking during conversations and to keep track of some of the other things they are doing while their buddy assumes they are listening.
Define “shared meaning”: a conversation where both parties work to truly understand what the other is saying. Discuss how conversations online make it hard to “share meaning”. Talk about some of the obstacles to true listening that happen when you are having an online conversation. Include things like…
- Text-only leads to misunderstanding
- Lots of distractions—other conversations, etc…
- With no nonverbals you can’t get the real emotions or how serious they are
- They can’t see you aren’t listening
Lead the conversation into “what are reasons we don’t listen well in general?” Write the list on a board or large paper.
- It takes extra time and energy
- Not interested
- We assume we know what they are going to say
- They say something that makes us mad
- Can’t hear, too many distractions
- Don’t want to hear what they have to say
- Keep thinking about what I am going to say
I. Why is it important to listen?
Read the passage then discuss why James makes this one of the first things he brings up in his letter.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…James 1:9
What do we gain when we listen to someone?
- New perspective
What do we give when we listen?
- Help someone talk things out
3. Why is it especially important for Christians to be good listeners?
II. Types of Listeners
There were four types of listeners in the parable of Mark 4:1-22. Assign students to one of the 4 types. Have them read the passage, then talk about how it might relate to listening—both to others and to God.
1. Resistant and closed listeners (Mark 4:4, 15)
This type of soil represents the hardheads that are closed to any new insights. They are resistant to anything new that God wants them to know, whether it be by listening to a friend or reading through scripture.
2. Open but superficial listeners (Mark 4:5, 6, 16, 17)
These people listen for facts, but fail to grasp the crucial principles that are being taught. When they listen to others, they don’t get beyond the surface. When they listen to God’s teaching, they don’t take thing to heart.
3. Open but distracted listeners (Mark 4: 7, 18, 19)
These people might hear but are caught up with other more important things. When they listen to friends, they may think too much about themselves to really care what their friend thinks. When they read scripture, they may feel like riches and glory are too important to them to make the changes they need to make.
4. Responsive and obedient listeners (Mark 4: 8, 20) - These people listen, understand and obediently apply the scriptures to their lives by faith. They continually remain open to new insights—from others and from God. They search for deeper levels of understanding because they recognize that all truth is God’s truth.
Summarize the elements of good listening. Make sure to draw the scriptural lesson of how we are called to listen to what God tells us.
(Thanks to Paul Fritz for insights into the parable of the sower and the seeds)
III. Ways to improve listening
1. Develop openness
- Try to move away from stereotypes (Ask students to think of a time they judged someone before they got to know them)
- Don’t assume you know what people have to say
- Be willing to hear things about yourself without getting defensive
- Hear someone through before developing your response
2. Show caring
- Use supportive nonverbals (have everyone in the group show you they are really listening—what does that look like?)
- Take time and remove distractions
3. Show wisdom
- Provide summaries, making sure you really understand what they are saying
- Ask questions to help your friend clarify their thinking
- Discuss how good listening looks online. Brainstorm ways to show you are listening on Facebook or MySpace, Instant Messenger, even text messaging.
- Have students spend the next week concentrating both on showing others they are listening and actually listening.
- Role model good listening over the next week by overtly demonstrating good online listening skills