Years ago, I heard a speaker at a Promise Keeper’s gathering declare, “Diversity is not the enemy of unity.” I think it’s a brilliant quote actually. I believe it to be true.
Are the cells in your church diverse? I trust there are some commonalities in format, vision, and more. But, there’s diversity, right? Because every individual is unique, certainly there are some unique aspects to each and every cell. I would suggest that this is a beautiful thing in the local church.
Years ago, I watched my father begin a new hobby. He got interested in stain glass. I remember looking at his workbench adorned with a myriad of stain glass pieces that he had cut with his own hands. There were various colors and unique sizes represented. They were all different. Eventually, the carefully crafted and cut pieces were placed together displaying a nice piece of art.
To me, this illustration is like the church. We are formed by our Creator in many different ways and His Spirit fashions together a church family. It’s a piece of art, isn’t it? Yet, the pieces are so diverse– sometimes completely different in color, size, and more.
To the point, it’s a good thing when a church has diverse cells. A “one size fits all” type of Christianity in expression and spiritual formation is not reality. I would encourage you to celebrate the diversity– it is a thing of beauty.
Two listening techniques stand out to me as being very important.The first one is eye contact. If you are physically present with the person, it helps to look the person in the eyes.Looking people in the eyes while concentrating on what theyâ€™re saying has been an important revelation for me as I seek to listen to others.
For example, when Iâ€™m leading a cell group and someone asks a question, itâ€™s easy to get distracted by the “other voices” in the room (e.g., John’s yawning, Mary’s coughing, the car passing by outside, etc.). Looking the cell member in the eyes, helps me to lock into what he or she is saying.
Making comfortable eye contact can help you to concentrate. It steers all the voices in your head directly to the person at hand. It helps you to give yourself to the needs of the person, rather than trying to deal with all the competing noises.
Granted thereâ€™s a fine line between looking someone in the eyes and staring. Staring makes the person feel uncomfortable and is not helpful. Slight glances away can break you free from the staring mode while honing in on every detail of the conversation.
The second tip is listening for the unspoken words. Often, the unspoken words are more important than the spoken ones. Yet to hear the unspoken words, Itâ€™s important to read between the lines. Experts vary on how much of the total communication package is non-verbal, but estimates range from 60% to 90%. They all agree on one thing: the vast majority of the communication experience is non-verbal. Reading the body language and voice inflection is essential in understanding what the person is truly saying.
Which of these two techniques have helped you the most?
I coach various pastors. I prepare myself by going over each pastorâ€™s case study. Yet, lately the Lord has been showing me that my preparation should primarily prepare me to listen more effectively–not talk more. God has been showing me the critical nature of listening.
I donâ€™t know about you, but I find my mind racing around when someone is talking. I have to admit, I often am subconsciously thinking about how Iâ€™m going to reply. I donâ€™t like the uncomfortable silence that follows listening. Yet, the Lord has been showing me that listening to people (and not fearing the silence that follows) is critical to effective coaching.
And of course, this application goes way beyond coaching pastors. It applies to all of life. The most effective cell leaders know how to truly listen to their cell members.
Someone said that when youâ€™re fifteen years old, you are concerned about what others think about you. When youâ€™re forty-five you really donâ€™t care what people think about you. When youâ€™re sixty-five, you realize that no one was thinking about you anyway! The truth is, all of us spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. Effective listeners are able to stand back from self and really hear what the leader is saying. Listening involves separating yourself from the noise in order to truly hear your leader.
Are you able to step back from the hustle and bustle of your own life and concentrate on those around you? What are some techniques that you’ve utilized to make you a better listener?
by Steve Cordle
It can be exciting to hear about what is new and cutting edge. And since we want to be more effective in our ministries, we want to hear about fresh insights that we can use. This is all good.
Yet so much of what makes cell minsitry effective is simple and basic. It is doing the basics like praying for the group members and for the life of the cell. It is reaching out to the lost in love, it is spending time with an emerging leader. It can feel rather ordinary and so…daily.
Most of our group leaders do not need to hear about another ministry insight or technique – they just need to be faithful in the basics. Sure, creativity is important, but so often when I see a group that is struggling, the way forward is to return to basics. To the group which isn’t growing – have you been praying for specific lost people? Have you been reaching out to them and spending time with them? Have you actually invited a lost person to a group function? We do what we can and watch God do what only He can do.
If your group leadership doesn’t seem very spectacular, that’s normal! God can do some exciting things through cell ministry, but our part often seems ordinary.
So, keep on doing the basics of group life – so often it is in the ordinary that we see the supernatural God at work.
For my next three blogs I plan on focusing on something that has really been on my heart lately: listening.Iâ€™m discovering that listening to others is critical for effective cell ministryâ€”whether itâ€™s at the level of cell leader, cell pastor, or cell member. In fact, effective listening is critical to all aspects of life and ministry!
The word listen in the Bible occurs 352 times, and the word hear is found 379 times. Jesus said, for example, â€œTherefore consider carefully how you listenâ€ (Luke 8:18). Part of the reason that listening requires â€œcareful listeningâ€ is because we talk much slower than we think (some have said we think 5Xs faster than we talk). When someone is talking, the listener’s mind can race around to many other topics, and often does.
Most people donâ€™t listen carefully. I love Steven Coveyâ€™s famous quote , â€œMost people do not listen to understand; they listen in order to answer. While the other is talking, they are preparing their reply” (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) . Yet, Scripture says, â€œHe who answers before listeningâ€” that is his folly and his shameâ€ (Proverbs 18:13). Really listening to others takes hard work.
When listening, at times, I donâ€™t feel like Iâ€™m doing much work. I naturally equate speaking or teaching with work. Yet, careful listening often requires more work. Listening to the cell member or cell leader means that you need to direct your attention to the leaderâ€™s needs and life, and thatâ€™s hard work!
Do you find it difficult to listen?