There are certain tools an artist uses when painting a masterpiece. We recognize the tools that we can see when visiting the artists’ workshop. There’s the easel, the brushes, the canvas, the sketching tools and erasers. These are all tools that we can see and grab hold of. But there are even more important tools utilized when painting a work of art. They cannot be seen or held as they are captured in the mind and heart of the artist. Some of these include colors, shapes, lines and balance. These tools are much more important than the ones that can be seen and held.
In small group life there are lots of tools we use that we can hold in our hands… curriculum, chairs to sit on, candles and a CD player to create the right mood, and of course food. But even if you have all of these in the right place utilized at the right time if you do not become an expert in the unseen art of listening you will never guide your group members to become the masterpieces God intended them to be.
In the amazing new book, Finding the Flow by Tara Miller and Jenn Peppers, they point out that there are three levels of listening, Me, You, and Us.:
Me – “The focus is completely on the self. It’s all about me. How is what I am hearing affecting me? What am I going to say next? What do I think the speaker is about to say? How do I feel about this topic? What are my emotions? How will I defend my opinion? As you can probably guess, this level of listening is the least helpful in a small group setting, as it is the most self-centered. Small group leaders who get stuck here are in performance mode. It’s easy to get stuck here when we are focused on wondering what others think of us…”
You – “The focus or spotlight is completely on the speaker. It’s all about you, the person I am listening to. The skills of a good listener are being utilized. The information is being received clearly. The listener is engaged with the speaker and the facts of the story, figuratively alongside the person, empathizing with what they are saying. Level You listening is what most people equate with good listening.”
Us – “The third level involves and transcends the first two levels. It encompasses more than the people and the facts – it involves an awareness of the underlying dynamics: the actions and reactions, the general vibe, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the space or undercurrent in the room. Rather than focusing the spotlight on one person in the group, it illuminates something more global that’s happening in all of us, in the combination of us – everything that can be seen, felt, heard, and tasted and smelled in the room.”
Obviously, we need to become Us listeners.
It takes knowledge, and practice to become an artist. And someone must tell us what we need to know and how we need to practice if we’re going to be a successful artist. The same is true of being an Us listener.
I suggest you pick up a copy of Finding the Flow as quickly as you can. It will tell you what you need to know and what to practice concerning listening as well as a plethora of other skills that are necessities for successful small group leaders.
In case you’re wondering… Yes, I used the blogspot today to pimp this book. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long, long, long time!