this is a site designed to inspire creativity, courage and community. Here you will find a perfusion of inspirational posts, gripping videos, and bold expressions of skill from Payton and his team of contributors.

How a church listens to guests as a first move of welcome.

How a church listens to guests as a first move of welcome.

Introduction
The world is filled with voices trying to be heard, but no ears to listen. In fact, I would dare to say that the best communicators are not always the most eloquent speakers or those with extroverted traits, but rather those who are able to listen intently, process the information, and have the discernment to know when to respond and when to remain silent. The art of listening is an invaluable skill. From the words of one of my favorite poems:


A wise old owl lived in an oak, 
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?


First thing we have to do is establish the difference between hearing something and listening to something. So often these words cross over in our language, but the difference between them, and the impact this can have on interactions with guests, is crucial. After we establish this difference, we then will look at three practical steps you can begin doing today to improve your listening skills.

Different Forms of Listening
Suppose you are walking on a trail through the woods. You are hearing many things. You hear rustling of leaves and tweeting in the trees overhead, you hear the water trickling over rocks somewhere in the distance, and, at that moment, you hear the sound of a scream somewhere on the trial ahead. The first stage of listening is that of simply hearing. This scream is just another sound in the abundance of sounds this portion of the woods is creating. The second stage of listening is the recognition of sounds.

You hear many things and the source of these sounds are registered and categorized in your mind. This process happens very quickly after the first stage of listening. You hear a sound while laying in bed at night that might be out of the norm, and very quickly your brain tries to rationalize that sound. You recognize the sound of the rustling leaves is probably birds and the sound of trickling water in the distance is most likely a brook or a stream.

Then there is a third stage of listening that is not always used, and that is of action. Now, it's not always used because it is not always necessary to use it. You hear the birds chirping overhead, you have no need or desire to climb the tree and investigate. The same with the sound of the water from the distant brook. But this scream that you have heard, you have recognized is a scream of distress, you now have a decision of what your call of action is. Do you run towards the scream? Do you run away from the scream? What do you do?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

“... We listen for what’s behind the words.” 
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway

What you do with the things you have hear is the fulfillment of listening. When you ask your child if they are listening to you, you are not asking if they hear the noises you are producing, or even if they understand the authoritative position that is producing the sound. Rather you are asking if they are processing the information and if they are going to take action towards what you are saying. Action is the fulfillment of listening.

This leads us to our first strategy of listening which is to:

1) Talk less than listen: Here is a simple strategy I like to give out that I call the 80/20 rule, which means that is a conversation your partner should be speaking 80 percent of the time, while you should speak only 20 percent of the time. I would even take it one step further and say that use your 20 percent asking questions of your partner. I completely get that it's difficult to suppress your urge to speak more than listen, with practice and patience you can learn to control the urge and improve the quality and effectiveness of your dialogues by "weighing in at the right time."

With newcomers, we have a tendency to dominate the conversation. We attempt to answer all their questions before they even ask them. We assume we know what they need, and guide the conversation in that area. "Oh you have children, would you like to go to our children's wing? Would you like to meet our children's minister? Would you like to know what they are studying?" --now this approach is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can come off a little dominating. Test out this 80/20 rule the next time you interact with a guest on Sunday morning. You might be surprised on what you hear, or how willing some people are in opening themselves up to an ear that is willing to actually listen. 

You could even lead the conversation with questions like: "So, what you brought you here this morning?" "What are you looking for today?" or even, "How can i connect you to our church?" -- The power of these questions is they not only give the voice back to your guests, but it can also be followed with action. You can move beyond hearing towards listening to your guests.

2) Be respectful: The best listeners recognize that they cannot succeed without seeking out information from those around them and they let those people know that they have unique input that is valuable. When you show respect for other people's ideas, they're more likely to reciprocate. They're also more likely to continue to share their ideas, which fosters growth and increases the likelihood of success. 

Mary-Anne is from the community of Norman and she has been involved in some very unique practices. Before finding our church she claims she was a witch. I'm thinking, 'hey, my wife was that last Halloween too,' but she was meaning something completely different. She claims she practiced with magic, worshipped many forms and shapes of deities, and performed very obscure rituals. Mary-Anne found our church through our Celebrate Recovery program, a program designed for those who recognize they have a hurt, habit, or hang-up that is keeping them from being who they know they can be, and how through accountability, vulnerability, and lots of courage these people can find a new rejuvenating relationship with God, themselves, and others. People who are stooped as far as Mary-Anne was in witchcraft do not just see a poster with that written on it and sign up for the next meeting though. 

So often we spend all our time and attention trying to create the most modern worship experience, with the most accessible resources, so that newcomers can have the most memorable experience when they come. Here is a breakthrough for you though, people are not seeking for that. They are seeking for the life-changing, sin-cleansing, soul-reviving Jesus that they have heard so much about. Mary-Anne found that through our CR program because we listened to where she was, we loved her for who she was, and would tell her when she asked why we did it. And to finish the story with Mary-Anne she was baptized into Christ two Fridays ago and is now a member of my greeting team, helping welcome and listen to our new faces on Sunday mornings. 

3) Take action: To bring us full circle, the final strategy is to learn to take action. Taken from one one of my mentors and senior minister, Rusty Tugman: "Do for the one what you want to do for the multitude." You want there to be world peace, create peace with those who you have tension with. You want to eliminate world hunger, go serve at your local community shelter feeding the homeless and the hungry. You want the world to know Christ, share Christ with your neighbors and friends. 

When we learn to listen to the people who come into our churches, we hear about the local problems that they are facing. We come in contact with the problems that we can provide a soultion for. However, we cannot stop there. Give the voice back to the people, and take action behind the questions they are asking, put in motion and answer to the problem they are facing, learn to listen….and you will be amazed at the things you will hear.

A wise old owl lived in an oak, 
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?
 

How I stay Mentally Fit

How I stay Mentally Fit

Why marriage is harder, but better than ever!

Why marriage is harder, but better than ever!