Recently my wife and I took our boys to their friend’s birthday party. It wasn’t just a simple backyard party – no that’s too simple these days. This was a pottery party. Kids gathered at a local pottery shop for cake and ice cream, and they got to paint a piece of pottery and fire it. The party host told the kids to be sure to put a few coats of paint on their pottery to be sure that the colors looked good after the pottery was fired in the kiln. A few minutes into our painting adventure, my four-year-old son said, “Dad, we need more jackets.” My first thought was, “What are you talking about?” After he said it a second time, I realized he was confusing “coats of paint” with “jackets of paint”. Too funny, right?
Communication with one another and with God can sometimes feel like my son’s jacket confusion. Too often we either don’t listen well or we don’t understand what’s being said. In either case we misconnect with people in conversation all the time. Whether in our marriages, conversations with students, or in our relationship with God, it’s important to really listen. Life’s full of opinions and voices, but seldom do we have people who will really listen. Be a minister who listens to students. Active listening is the art of listening to understand and reflecting back what you hear the other person saying rather than just listening so you can talk next. St. Francis of Assisi once prayed that God would help him, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That’s still great advice today. If you’re like most youth pastors you probably like to talk, and it probably comes easy to you. Listening takes more effort than talking. Take time this week to listen. Listen to your spouse. Listen to your children. Listen to your students. Most importantly, listen to the Lord. “The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him.” (Proverbs 18:13 HCSB)