An Ingredient for Relationship

Listening is part of communication. Communication is bi-directional. If you are communicating with someone you have to listen and after listening you use that information to understand them. Listening, is to communication, as accepting another, is to relationship.

There are different ways of listening. Orient your listening so that you focus on the explorer. Note this word:

  • Attentiveness: the action of assiduously attending to the comfort or wishes of others; politeness or courtesy.  

To amplify the camp guide recommendation of listening, listen in a certain manner:

  • Listen with attentiveness.

If you listened to an explorer with attentiveness you would most likely,
1) agree
2) care
3) look at your watch or cell phone
_ _ _
We suggest that attentive listeners would not necessarily agree but they would care, and certainly they would refrain from distractions. Therefore the most likely answer is [2].

Practice listening in the abstract:

¿?:  What does the basketball say when it bounces on the blistered concrete?

¿?:  Would you risk your life to be present among the ice mountains as fractured cliffs plummet to ocean depths?

¿?:  If your eyes suddenly snap open in the silent dark, do your ears strain to sense the patterns of the file and scrapings of a lone katydid?

¿?:  Beyond the capacities of your tonal senses, the roar of jet fuel burning through the dirt-track’s race-car engine becomes a bliss that mind and body flow in, almost float in. How do you feel? How might the driver feel?

Listen. What do you hear? But it is not only what we hear but how we hear it; in its context, in its grandeur. The same sound, but from different contexts, can carry different meaning. We may categorize, “loud”, as obnoxious in one case or as transpositional in another, depending if its source is a rusty clanging bell calling us to a task we louth or trumpets and timpani honoring what we adore.

Listening shows interest and respect. Listening demonstrates deference. Listening positions you in a role as beneficiary, servant, and learner.

Listening allows you to learn about the other. Listening permits you to consider, reflect, and take in the thoughts shared.

Active listening directs a conversation.

When listening, evaluate and process incoming information whether verbal or non-verbal. Don’t only use the time to formulate your next question.

...a man who listens speaks to eternity.
Proverbs 21:28b

Listen to yourself when you talk:

    • Are you saying things that bless, encourage, edify?
    • Is your speaking relevant to your listeners needs?

Engaged listening can be hard. Improve your listening by asking:

    • How can you get a higher percentage of content correct that you interpret?
    • How can you adopt the information you are hearing to an active concern toward the other?

How do you hear your explorer? What do you listen for? Does your heart take time and patience to interpret the plea and emotion of a child or does your mind throw the sound clutter into a bin labeled “later”?

Each element in the periodic table is God made and God designed,  and each element has its own cosmic voice. Each explorer in your cabin speaks from uniqueness. Can you hear them for who they are? Resolve to study their language of expression. Do you know grammar of tears, laughter, disappointment, or joy? Is the syntax of “I don’t know.” and “I forgot.” recognizable to you as, “I am learning so, so, much!” and “That detail got lost because I am busy and excited about discovering life.”? Be a kid-language translator.

Biblical Listening

The Scriptures

Reading is another form of listening. As we read we attend to the ideas, concepts, and thoughts of the writer. When we read the Bible, we are, listening to God tell us about himself and tell us about ourselves, others and narratives about good and bad relationship.

Hearing and Doing

So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man doesn't produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:19-25

God is Listening

God is a God who listens to his people. In the 34th Psalm David wrote, “I sought Yahweh, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Later he says, “This poor man cried, and Yahweh heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”  Jesus also often stopped what he was doing to listen and attend to people who cried out to him. For example, in Mark 5 Jesus steps off of a boat and a man approaches him, falls at his feet and asks if Jesus will come to heal his daughter. Jesus goes. Who knows what Jesus' plans had been before this man came to him. Jesus listened to this man's needs and went. As the Son of God, he was able to fix the problem and heal the daughter. You may not be able to fix a person's problem, but to set aside your own agenda and attend to an individual by listening to them is to give them a glimpse of Jesus' love for people. We are commanded to bear one another's burdens. How will you bear those burdens if you do not know them? How will you know what those burdens are if you do not listen?

The Bible recounts instances where people hear directly from God. Samuel heard a word from God to tell Eli the priest. Elijah heard God's voice in a low whisper. Both were given instructions and they obeyed though the instructions were not easy to follow. Think of Martha too. She sat at Jesus' feet and just listened to him speak. She set aside even work and service to just listen.

God speaks to his people to comfort, to teach and to instruct them to act. Even when we listen well, we need the grace of discernment and strength to obey God. Take Paul as an example. In chapter 21 of  The Acts of The Apostles, Paul knows God wants him to go to Jerusalem. Others prophesy and warn him that it will be dangerous. They warn him not to go because he will be imprisoned if he does. Paul listens to them, but he decides to do what he knows God has commanded him to do. This passage shows a number of things about how God speaks. He leads Paul directly, first, pointing him to Jerusalem. He also uses others to speak to Paul. Their words are true, but scripture tells us not to  just take the words we receive for granted. We are to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), asking for confirmation and checking to be sure the words are in line with the Bible's teachings. Though Paul heard the warnings, he also knew he had to be willing to suffer or even die for the name of Jesus (vs. 13). God had sent him to Jerusalem and he had to obey, loving God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength, as the commandment says. Though you must be careful to test any words you think might be God speaking to you - whether he speaks directly to you or uses others - you can be sure that God does speak, and it is wise to listen and obey.

How to Listen

Listening to God

An extremely important, though sometimes difficult, path to navigate is that of listening and hearing from God. We believe he hears us through prayer (when we pray as we should – see verses). But how do we practice listening to him and how do we know when we have heard clearly and accurately?

It is truly amazing that we can hear from God. Why? Because the contrast between infinite omnipotent spiritual being and limited flesh-bound mortal is so profound. He makes communication possible but places the responsibility, of being in right relationship with him, on us. Humility, obedience, holiness are gateway practices to open communication. A counterfeit attitude may say, “God told me…” when in fact he did no such thing. When the immutable (unchanging) King of kings has our smallness flippantly pronouncing his will for us and others that contradicts itself, we can know that we did not hear from the Almighty. Statements that falsify God’s will are arrogant and harmful.

Listening to God is important when you are doing ministry. God wants to speak to you about those you lead, to help you lead them better. Sometimes he will speak through you, using your mouth to deliver his words to people. As you minister at camp, ask God to speak to you and through you. Also, ask him to remind you to be silent when words are not necessary or when they are not from him.

Try inviting God to speak to you and then be silent. It is difficult not to start talking to him and not to get distracted. However, try to abstain from talking for five minutes. He may not say words, but no time with God is wasted time. Let him guide the discussion. He may not talk about things you want to talk about, but that is why you are listening and not talking.

It is difficult and even frustrating at times to listen to someone who you cannot see in front of you. We do not benefit from body language cues when we are in prayer with God. However, we do have the Bible. It affirms, clarifies and supports things that are truly from God.

It is hard to have a growing relationship with someone you do not listen to. Reading God’s Word is a great way to develop an ear atuned to hear from God. Listening with attention and regard to making the effort to understand (to hear) layered with an ability to distinguish biblical truth from worldly error, produces the fruit of discernment. And being able to discern God’s communication to us is a worthy endeavor.

Prayer Disconnects

You ask, and don't receive, because you ask amiss, so that you may spend it for your pleasures.
James 5:3

But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Isaiah 59:2

He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Proverbs 28:9

If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord wouldn't have listened.
Psalm 66:18


Communication that Flows

This is the boldness which we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.
I John 5:14,15

So whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.
I John 3:22

We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God, and does his will, he listens to him.
John 9:31


Listening to Others

For better or for worse, listening to others (in reading, media, or face to face) – authors, people, peers, kids – will change the way you think and act. It is more than just hearing words or just smiling and nodding as someone speaks. You can hear words and care nothing about them. Really listening to someone's words means that, to some degree, you hear, process, sympathize or even empathize with them and you consider their words in your next actions or statements. It comes from a genuine interest in someone's well being.

If someone shares with you a struggle they are facing, listening to them does not necessarily mean you can tell them how to fix it. You take in their words and based on what you observe and perceive, decide if advice is appropriate or if just letting that person know you care is better. You may even want to ask them questions to find out more about their thoughts or about the situation.

Sometimes briefly telling a person that you have gone through something similar makes them feel as though they are not alone. Still you do not have to have an answer for every question. Remember that it is not your job to fix the other person's life. Sometimes you can suggest an action, but other times listening without action is appropriate. For cases where justice is a needed but an absent element, action is likely someone's responsibility.

Blessed are those who keep justice. Blessed is one who does what is right at all times.
Psalm 106:3

There are many ways you can react after listening and your response can be based on what you observed and heard as the person shared. Listening can also happen when you are not directly in a conversation with your explorers. For example, during an activity you may not be having a conversation, but the explorers are. You can still listen to their interactions with each other. This will help you learn more about the individuals and how they interact as a group. Do they trust one another? Are they, themselves, good listeners? Do they respect one another or do you need to help them work on that? Throughout the camp day you can use these same listening skills to find out more about individuals and about the group.

Statistics About Listening

Listen so your ambassadorship will contribute to an eternal decision.

Talking is certainly part of evangelism, but research has shown that listening is also crucial.
In fact, “listen without judgment” is the #1 quality non-Christians and lapsed Christians look for when seeking out a person to talk with about faith (62%).
However, only a minority (34%) says the Christians they know personally possess this quality.


Be a part of the growing one third of Christians who are developing the quality of listening first.

Summary: Camp Guide Job Description Element – Listen

A good guide does this: he is with his kids close enough to hear them well, she is so close to her explorers that an ear bud would be jealous. When guides and explorers are together: listening, communication, and relationship building can happen. And when they do happen, a great purpose of camp happens – relationships get built. Listen to God. Listen to your explorers. Listen and then go the next step, do.

Go to the next section: Skills - Asking Questions