The Listening Process

Practical Advice

You might be thinking of engaging in a listening process on human sexuality. The following practical advice is only a guide. There are resources available for all kinds of contexts. Your particular situation will be different from any other, but there are some features common to all good listening processes.

Please learn from the experience of others.

Remember for any genuine listening to happen you have to have a safe place and you have to have common ground to stand upon.

These are some of the common features of good listening processes:

Convening

Successful listening processes require a convenor. This is a significant person in the context of the community who has the personal and spiritual authority to bring people together. In many contexts this is a bishop. In a parish it might be the pastor. It might be the leader of the Mothers’ Union.

The convenor needs to set the boundaries of the conversation. They need to decide whether the invitation to participate is open  to all or limited to those she or he invites. Both have great value, but they are different and need careful planning.

They need to set the aims, although it is best to do this in consultation with others.

Convening involves sorting the practical issues of where and when to meet. It involves arranging for money to be found and the appointing of a facilitator.

Facilitation

Facilitators should have experience of running a group. They will need to create the safe space and establish the common ground needed in order for conversations to take place. If the group is large and smaller group work is envisaged, a team of facilitators might be needed.

They will need to set the ground rules and ensure they are accepted and honoured.

They will need to ensure that the resources to enable listening are available.

The Rules

The rules need to be clear, simple and agreed by all participants. Here is one set as an example:

  1. We will respect people’s integrity as members of this community of faith.
  2. We will assume that as people of faith we are all sincere in our beliefs, including our reverence for Holy Scripture.
  3. We will assume that lesbian and gay persons are present.
  4. We will not use language known to be offensive to others.
  5. We will respect the right of people to “name” themselves and their experiences.
  6. We will ask no questions that we are not prepared to answer ourselves.
  7. We will speak in the first person.
  8. We will respect the privacy of others.

Resources

The primary resources for any listening process are the participants themselves. There are a variety of ways in which they can be enabled to speak and to listen.

  • Discussion questions might be used.
  • Stories read out and discussed.
  • Situations may be set out for discussion.
  • Speakers can be invited to share their stories and their opinions.