Carluke Listeners

Seven years ago (2010), the Church of Scotland in Carluke adopted a Listening Ministry as one of its Mission Priorities.
A program of listening training soon followed, and when the Rev Elizabeth Clelland from Braehead House, herself a very experienced listener, agreed to act as our supervisor, a ‘listening service’ was offered. Currently, here in Carluke, we have 10 fully trained, supervised listeners working for the mission of the Church of Scotland in Carluke.

What is listening?

Sometimes we have a need to talk over what is on our mind, tell our story, tell someone how we are feeling.  At those times, we need to know that the person, who listens to us, will not judge us, will not interrupt us and will not hijack the conversation as their own.  But instead, will value and respect us, treat everything we say in strict confidence and empower us to reach our own decisions.

Listening respects and values the speaker, giving them time to say what they have to say without interruption.  When someone is talking over something that is important to them and they are interrupted by comments such as, ‘I once had something like that happen to me’ or ‘Oh, wait until I tell you about ……’ the focus moves away from the speaker and how they feel.  In listening, the listener puts aside their own agenda, puts aside what is on their mind and gives full attention to the speaker.

Listening means not just concentrating on words that are being spoken but watching body language, pitch of voice and speed of delivery – these all convey part of the story.  Listening to the tears (are they tears of frustration, anger, sadness or even happiness) and the silences are important too. Short periods of silence are accepted as essential for the speaker to think through the situation. Listeners do not jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. 

Listening gives the speaker time to explore and express their feelings – not always easy!  Sometimes we do not want to admit even to ourselves, how we are feeling so the listener must ensure that the speaker knows the space is safe and non-judgemental.  The Bible shows us that God experiences the full range of emotions.  In the Old Testament, we see him weeping, rejoicing, angry, tender.  In the New Testament, we see Jesus fully human – loving, rebuking, sad, joyful, annoyed.  We are made in God’s image and so emotions are part of our God-given humanity.  We need to accept our feelings and express them appropriately.

The listener reflects back to the speaker the feelings and thoughts expressed.  This helps the speaker hear what they are saying and brings together their emotions and their thinking.

Through the use of set questions, listening empowers the speaker to reach their own conclusions, make decisions and hopefully move forward.

Of course, all that is shared during the listening session is strictly confidential unless it is outwith the law or the listener is concerned for someone’s safety.  Even after a period of time, all that is heard remains confidential

Listening is not counselling - No advice is given, interpretations and assumptions are not made.  Diagnosing, challenging, confronting is not the task of the listener.