Kippax Uniting Church
Small Group ‘Connecting’ Series
Study 1 – week beginning 30 May 2010
Gather with your small group, share a meal together (each person brings a favorite food to share), take time to socially talk over the meal, then share the following study (the study is from Connecting congregations and communities, Boards of Education and Mission Synod of NSW & ACT, UCA 2010).
1. HAVE SOME CONVERSATIONS WHERE YOU REALLY LISTEN.
Conversations are the most basic thread in making connections. Those that really work well are those where you get to listen to and be listened to about the things that you both care about most.
Quality conversations will always be core foundations for community connecting...in building relationships, finding things out and linking people with each other. They are portable, flexible… and only require two people to get going!
Think about a time when you had a conversation that made you feel that you really belonged, that the other person wanted to know what was important to you, where you got to tell your story and someone else listened closely and openly. How good did it feel? Long time community connector, Mike Green, calls these 'listening conversations.' These are at the heart of community connecting.
We sometimes have these conversations by accident, but if we set out to have them intentionally and often as we make community connections, they can offer a source of wisdom and a firm foundation for anything that is to come - second to none!
On meeting the woman at the well Jesus takes a risk and initiates a one on one conversation. Although it started with a conversation about getting a drink Jesus makes sure that it soon moves beyond that.
A key aspect of these conversations is that they are one on one, and they are equal and two-way. I listen to someone else and they listen to me. We both take time to connect with each other. Listening conversations are not one way…but mutual and respectful.
As I recall such conversations, for me the energizing and sustaining thing was that there was a chance for both of us to recognize and value each other…and to discover some common ground. A relationship had begun.
Some characteristics of quality listening:
Have we really stopped to understand what is going on around us? Or what is going on for others? Quality ‘listening conversations’ involve listening deeply to another person, coming to understand things from their perspective, stepping beyond our own agendas. We need to become fully present for others, seeking to step into their shoes and see what they are seeing. Hearing people leads to understanding. That understanding gives us insights into what drives people and sets their direction.
Listening deeply involves checking with others to see if we have understood them correctly, checking out what we have heard. It involves creating a space where people can feel safe to talk honestly with us. It will involve asking sensitive open-ended questions.
Asking questions about people’s hopes and dreams, about their passions and things that give them energy can initiate meaningful conversations and generate motivation to act. In this way such quality ‘listening conversations’ can be critical to developing new initiatives that have the greatest chance of success.
Listening conversations can help us to understand other people’s stories. In the process of hearing another’s story, we can start to understand more deeply their aspirations, needs and dreams, as well as their strengths and gifts. It is a first step in building a community out of a collection of people, or in achieving change.
Such listening conversations are essential at all times, and especially at the outset of any community connecting initiative and when putting in place sound foundations for new directions.
There are many different ways to get started with having great listening conversations. Here is something to try in your church or group...
Set aside some time after church one day (or at a time when people can get together). Invite people to spend 20 minutes having a conversation with one other person (10 minutes each) about some of the things they care most about and some of the things they feel they have to contribute to others –great themes for listening conversations!
Do this in one or more pairs. It is really good for the whole group to then get together and share some highlights from the conversations they had – especially things they learned about the other person.
Look for places where you already have everyday conversations with people. Intentionally listen more deeply in that conversation. What are you hearing about what the other person really cares about, what they have to give and how they see the world.
These conversations are where the energy and the ideas for weaving community come from, and the place from which they are sustained over time.
You could also do this in the same way in any groups you are part of! As you start growing confidence, try having such conversations more widely with people you do not know so well.
A story about Listening Conversations.
In Ivanhoe Community Services were meeting with the Aboriginal Working Party to develop some services in the town, however the meeting was not going well until the coordinator from Aboriginal Affairs realised that the same story keep coming up and was not being heard. It turned out that many years ago an aboriginal child had been taken from a family and no-one had had any contact since. The Aboriginal community needed closure on this before they could develop new relationships with Community Services. Once people were able to tell their story, Community Services could get the facts and put the family back in touch, they were able to move on. However, without the group stopping and really listening to each other there would never have been a way forward.
for further info on this study series or the Kippax small groups contact
Steve Coster, Care and Formation Leader, Kippax Uniting Church
email@example.com and/or ph. 6245 1733