Pastor Church Resources Celebrates 40 Years with Listening Initiative

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In 2022, Pastor Church Resources is celebrating 40 years of ministry by sharing one of its favorite tools for helping pastors and churches navigate seasons of growth, transition, or challenge: a “talking piece” to help turn challenging conversations into listening circles. 

The initiative, called “Quick to Listen,” is available online at crcna.org/pcr/listen. A mailing about it went out in January to all Christian Reformed congregations. “Quick to Listen” introduces and encourages groups such as church councils, Bible studies, and youth groups to try using a talking piece of their choice in at least two meetings this year. 

A talking piece can be any physical object easily passed from person to person, such as a stone, a bouncy ball, or a pencil. It can be an object with meaning to the group, but it does not need to be. A talking piece’s power is in its simple premise: that only the person holding the talking piece may speak while everyone else only listens. 

By passing a talking piece around a room, everyone is invited to speak once and listen a lot. This subtle shift tends to produce noticeable results: less anxiety, wider participation, and increased trust among a group’s members. 

“Especially in situations where the topic is a difficult one or the emotions are charged, it can be helpful to use a talking piece to make sure every voice in the room is heard,” said Rev. Dave Den Haan, a PCR ministry consultant. 

Based on the apostle James’ instruction to be “quick to listen (and) slow to speak” (James 1:19), this initiative is an expression of the work PCR has been doing for 40 years. Since 1982, PCR’s team and its regional partners in classes have found that when things get difficult and anxiety increases, pastors and churches seem to lose sight of the basics. As the pressure builds, we can begin to see those around us as enemies and threats, not fellow children of God. As fear creeps in, we listen only long enough to determine our counterargument, not long enough to understand. In other words, at the moments we need it most, we neglect Jesus’ most basic instruction—to love God and one another (Matt. 22). 

One of the most concrete ways to love another person is to listen well to that person. As simple as that sounds, says PCR ministry consultant Zach Olson, “Truly listening to what others are saying is hardest right when it is also most necessary.” 

About the Author

Sean Baker is an ordained minister in the CRC working as a Ministry Consultant with Pastor Church Resources.

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