The Art of Christian Listening by Thomas Hart
During college, Pastor Audrey was a Student Peer Minister assigned to her dorm as a trusted spiritual companion for other students needing to process their faith life. To prepare for this role, she read The Art of Christian Listening and found its instruction so helpful that she passed it along to me. Maybe this was a subtle hint for me to become a better listener. But isn’t it the case that we could all be better listeners?
We have all been in situations where we feel like we need to process what seems like a critical issue with someone and we are met with barriers. The listening partner could be distracted by their phone or their brain, or they could simply be uninterested. Hart’s book is not an instruction manual only for those looking to go into pastoral ministry or counseling. This is a book to help any person become a better spiritual companion and friend to those persons God has placed in our lives.
During May, the Contemporary Christian Conversations Class (formerly the Young Adults) studied this book and practiced becoming better listeners. We discovered that in many of our relationships as parent, co-worker, deacon, or friend, we can be called upon to act as a listening “helper.” We ought to be prepared and expect that as we become close with people, moments of trusted sharing will arise when we must be ready to stop and listen.
Hart claims that these opportunities for the listening helper can even be sacramental. If a sacrament is a moment when the sacred becomes real in our midst, then moments of deep spiritual sharing between sisters and brothers can be sacramental. Our job as the helper is not to be Christ to another, but to direct the sharing process towards Christ. This is something that any of us can do for the ones we love.
After Hart establishes the significance of Christian listening, he gives some tools for listeners to consider. He outlines introducing prayer, discernment skills, selfpreparation, and potential pitfalls. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the basic skills of Christian listening. The Art of Christian Listening will be available in the West Entrance to be checked out during the month of June.