For Youth Workers Post

The Art of Listening

Kara Oliver

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for March 10–16, 2014.


“At a meeting of parents of youth in the church, I asked the parents to pair up to practice listening. The first parent in each pair was to take five minutes to tell the other parent about his or her week. The second parent was simply to listen, with no questions, comments, stories, or commiserating. Then the parents were to trade roles. Most parents could not listen. Many interrupted and broke all the rules.

“Young people have few places where they are listened to well and where they learn to be good listeners. Listening is an art. Not everyone does it the same way. It’s a subjective skill and an important skill to start practicing now.” —Kara



Kara Oliver2 ITH 287170_10150766671795305_1530530_o
Kara Oliver
continues to practice the art of listening as essential to being a good writer and editor in the United States and Africa. After living in Malawi for two years with her family as Volunteers in Mission (Our Journey: Called to Malawi), she has the privilege of continuing to support publishing teams in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe through work with the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship. In her free time, she practices yoga, hikes, and enjoys time with her husband and two children. Be sure to check out Kara’s blog.



  • computer with Internet access
  • scrap paper
  • pens
  • newsprint
  • markers
  • Bibles
  • copies of devozine
  • index cards (optional)
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session





Before people arrive, listen to the song “Listen,” by Beyonce, and take note of the lyrics. Pray, asking God to help you to listen well to the voice of each group member during the session and to encourage each person to find and use his or her voice.

Start the gathering with a listening exercise. Explain that listening is a skill that can be developed. But listening is also an art. People will develop their own techniques and strengths as they become better listeners.

Invite people to get comfortable. Explain that for the next two minutes they will be listening to the sounds in their environment.

Distribute scraps of paper and pens. Explain that at the end of the two minutes of listening, group members will be asked to write down all the sounds they heard.

Begin the two minutes of silent listening. At the end of two minutes, have people write down as many sounds as they heard.

Ask a volunteer to read all the sounds he or she heard. Write them on newsprint. Continue by asking each person, in turn, to add to the list until it includes all the sounds the group heard in those two minutes.

[Optional: Invite group members to do the exercise twice. The first time, do not tell people that they will be asked to write down the sounds they hear. The second time, tell them before they start listening, and see if they hear more sounds. Discuss the difference between the exercises, focusing on listening that is intentional.]

Discuss as a group:
       What distracted you from listening?
       What makes listening difficult?
       Are you a good listener? Why? Why not?
       What is the value of being a good listener?
       Are most people good listeners?



Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1–10

Ask a volunteer to read the scripture passage. (If group members are outgoing, invite volunteers to play the parts of God, Samuel, and Eli and to act out the story as it is being read by a narrator.)

Invite discussion:
       What did Samuel think he heard?
       What did he actually hear?
       How did he come to know the difference?
       To whom can you go when you need advice and when you need help hearing God’s call in your life?

[Optional Activity: Invite group members to write a note of thanks to the person they turn to for advice or for help hearing God’s call. Encourage them to deliver these notes in the week ahead.]

Ask the group to imagine that Samuel could read this week’s issue of devozine. Have each person choose the devotion that Samuel would appreciate the most. Ask group members to tell one other person why the devotion they chose would have been meaningful to Samuel. Invite volunteers to tell the whole group.



Explain to the group how much more effectively we can pray for one another if we listen to one another. Listening may be our first and best act of prayer.

Ask people to choose partners. Explain that each person will have the opportunity to practice the art of listening. Post these directions on newsprint.

1.  For the first three minutes, one person in each pair will finish one of these sentences: “This week I was happy when . . .” or “This week I felt . . . because . . .”
       > Say whatever comes to mind.
       > Give details.
       > Talk about the place, people, conversation, resolution, questions.
The other member of the pair will actively listen.
       > Keep eye contact.
       > Don’t let your mind wander.
       > Don’t ask questions or offer your opinion or stories.
       > Be comfortable with silence.
If the listener simply can’t stay quiet, he or she may use the responses on the bottom of page 16 in devozine.

2.  For the next three minutes, the other person in each pair will talk while his or her partner listens, repeating the process outlined in #1 above.

To conclude the session, choose one of these options:

  • Invite the partners to pray for each other.
  • Bring the group together. Begin a prayer for the group. Then ask each person, in turn, to pray aloud for his or her partner. Once everyone has prayed, conclude the prayer.



  • Encourage members of your group to start the day by listening for God. They may want to begin by saying, “Here I am, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
  • Invite group members to pray the scriptures together. Email members of the group the link to “Audio Lectio” from Alive Now so that everyone is listening to and praying the same scriptures. Start an online discussion about what members are hearing through the scriptures.
  • Does your group have adult volunteers or mentors? Try to schedule time for each group member to have a one-to-one listening session with you or a mentor who understands the art of listening.
—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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