Chris Nye is a pastor, writer, and sometimes professor living in Silicon Valley with his wife, Allison. His latest book is Less of More: Pursuing Spiritual Abundance in a World of Never Enough.
I was only 21 years old when a family asked if they could meet with me to discuss how their marital difficulties were affecting their teenage daughter and son. At the time, I had “pastor” in my title, but I wasn’t yet married and certainly didn’t have any children.
As I read the email, I wondered why they contacted me. I was part of a large staff that included people with titles such as “care pastor.” Surely others were more suited for a job like this. Yet they had emailed me. What wisdom could I possibly bring to such a situation? What would I say? How could I help?
Lending an Ear
When I feel like I have nothing to bring to these moments, I remember my ears. They are, without question, the most valuable asset in pastoral ministry. I cannot tell you how many times I walk away from counseling sessions or visiting someone without having said much at all, yet feeling like I have given them the attention their problem deserves. So often what people need is to be heard with great effort.
This is what I decided to do when that couple finally came to the church to meet with me. As they explained their situation, all I had were my ears. I gave them my full attention, I asked them questions to clarify, and I sought to truly understand their situation.
A moment from the meeting sticks with me to this day. As the husband was sharing their situation, he said, “I guess now that I’m talking about it, I’m realizing how much I’m at fault.” He looked at his wife with tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he said. I hadn’t said a word.
When I meet with people, I sometimes wonder if I’ll be able to give them my mind by providing a great, theological answer. Or I worry I won’t be able to give them my heart by articulating deep empathy. These can be difficult parts of me to bring to the table. But my ears are always available, even though I often forget how valuable they are.
Pastoral counseling is dynamic, and each meeting is unique. Many meetings require me to speak with great conviction. Some meetings require me to speak a lot. But I’ve never regretted listening and I often regret speaking.
Our world is crowded with attention-grabbers. Everything in your phone is working to monopolize your eyes and ears. Our work demands our attention. Our families seem to never get enough of it. In a world of noise, listening—true, active, humble listening—is the powerful ministry of the Father in which we get to participate.
Source: Christianity Today