Last Friday evening I met with my church small group, as we do most Fridays. I felt a heaviness following the election and wondered what it might look like to create space for us to listen to each other in group. As a spiritual director, a major component of my training was learning how to listen (and let me tell you, as a recovering know it all, that was a hard training). As I was watching the reactions of our country, I found myself seeing a continual lack of listening to each other. Another confession. I so often found myself having to bite my tongue and withhold my “perfect comeback” in the past week as I’ve interacted on social media, and even at times, in person. Yet, I continue to return to the conviction that listening to our experiences is vital – actually listening, and not just waiting for someone to stop talking so I can astonish the world with my brilliant thoughts.
I have below the structure I used last Friday to facilitate a time of listening. If this is helpful for your small group, church, community, neighborhood, etc., feel free to use this and edit as needed. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Supplies Needed: Paper, pens, small candles, and a device to light said candles.
Open with a brief prayer or Bible verse that is about listening.
Describe how the time will be structured. The group will be asked 3 questions (see below). There will be time for each person to answer the questions, by writing down their responses on a piece of paper, anonymously. When the questions are answered, all of the papers will be turned in. Then, each person will take a paper at random. One by one, each person will read the paper they have selected. After reading the paper, the group will observe a moment of silent prayer. You may specifically want to give these instructions on how to listen and pray:
As you listen, you may find yourself agreeing. You may find yourself disagreeing. Whatever your response, return to the question: What is the person in front of me trying to express? How can I love them well with my listening? Lord, what do you hear?
After the moment of silence, the reader will light the candle and let it burn for the remainder of this listening exercise. This process will repeat until every person has gone.
- What was your reaction to the results of the presidential election? You may want to use this sentence to structure your response:
I feel ________, because _______.
- What do you wish people knew about your response?
- What is your prayer to Jesus?
You can end by reading a Bible verse or closing with a prayer (i.e. The Lord’s Prayer, The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, or The Doxology).