Many congregational leaders are rethinking their approach to local, hands-on mission. Challenged by such books as Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts, they’ve decided to move away from doing “for” people to doing “with” them. This big shift to a more mutual form of ministry requires congregants to retool. No longer are good planning, organizing and recruitment skills all that are needed for such things as soup kitchens or homeless shelters. Folks are learning that if they want to work with people – especially people who may be different from them – they’ll have to get to know them. They’ll need to build relationships.
Building relationship is rewarding, yes, but not easy
So writes Lynne M. Baab in her book The Power of Listening: Building Skills for Mission and Ministry. Forming relationships that go beneath the surface requires good listening skills. Congregants who learn how to listen well can offer a great gift to the people they long to serve. Listening is the key ingredient to building the relationships.
The Power of Listening makes a strong case for training congregations in the art of listening. Chapter 4, “Listening for Mission,” offers examples of congregations which begin with listening in their mission and outreach work. Chapter 8, “The Listening Toolbox” provides an excellent tutorial on listening skills.
Congregational leaders and members must have courage and humility to build relationships with people who are different from them. Skills are also needed. Good listening skills, while not simple to learn, can make all the difference.
By the way…
If you want to learn more about mutual ministry, take a look at the video Ministry with the Poor and Walking with Nehemiah: Your Community is Your Congregation by Joe Daniels and Smart Compassion by Wesley Furlong.