Listening Well

A collection of resources that can improve your listening skills and help you apply them in small-group situations

"Small Groups in Depth" collections are assembled by the editors of as a method of continuing education for people participating in small-group ministry. Each collection offers step-by-step training on a specific ministry skill or practice. Read through each resource on your own for self improvement, or customize the articles, discussion questions, assessments, and tools for training others.

Overview | Questions | Tools | Evaluation | Next Steps


The apostle James is pretty clear about what our priorities should be when speaking and listening to others: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). This is especially true in a small-group setting. Whether we are leaders or members, facilitators or hosts, we all need to abide by that mandate.

Plus, listening to others can truly minister to them. Listening says, "I hear you, and I recognize your value."

Therefore, listening skills are a vital component of healthy and fruit-filled communities. The following resources can help those in your small-group ministry improve their ability to listen well.


Answer these questions to evaluate your own listening skills or use them during a training session on listening.

  • In your opinion, what are the main characteristics of a good listener? What characteristics or habits would disqualify someone from being a good listener?
  • Who in your life do you consider to be good listeners? What is it like to be around them?
  • When it comes to listening well, what do you find most difficult? Why?


The resources below provide expert advice and practical tips for improving your skills as a listener (and the skills of others in your small-group ministry). They have been divided into three stages to help you progress through the training at the pace you choose. Stage One contains basic tips for listening well. Stage Two addresses specific listening skills and situations. And Stage Three highlights our premium downloadable content, which offers the most in-depth look at the skill of listening well.

Stage One
  1. Listening Repaired
    Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs that can help you listen well
    By Kathleen Miller
  2. 10 Ways to Be a Better Listener
    Follow these steps for greater understanding, attention, and empathy.
    By Michael Mack
  3. The Power of Active Listening
    Learn a skill that is necessary for all small-group leaders..
    By Reid Smith
  4. Why Listening Makes a Difference
    Going beyond the act of hearing can bring a load of blessings to your group..
    By Janet McMahon
Stage Two
  1. Hearing Aids for Small-Group Leaders
    Why listening is such a valuable tool for those of us in charge
    By Cathy Mogus
  2. Good Questions Show Good Listening
    Learn to understand people and help them understand themselves.
    By Doug Self
  3. Having a Good Cry
    Learn to deal openly and honestly with strong emotions in your small group.
    By Brooke B. Collison
  4. Show Them How
    Teach your group members how to listen well by modeling.
    By Diana Bennett
  5. Icebreaker: Gestures
    Let members speak without saying a word.
    By Tami Rudkin
  6. Icebreaker: 1,000 Words
    Improving communication skills with tangrams.
    By Kathy Isaacson
  7. Outreach Options: Glancing Behind the Mask
    Give someone an opportunity to feel safe enough to take off his or her mask.
    By Sue Skalicky
Stage Three

Become a Great Listener
This resource is designed to improve listening skills for both small-group leaders and members. The articles provide training on basic listening skills and the ways in which those skills can be applied in a small-group setting.

The following handouts from Become a Great Listener are especially useful:

  • Self Awareness in Listening, by Emma J. Justes—helps us understand stereotypes and prejudices that can impede us from hearing others properly.
  • What Are You Trying to Say? by Pat J. Sikora—a very useful chart for organizing and translating different methods of body language.

Helping Group Members Become Great ListenersListening well is hard work! And unfortunately, most of us don't know how to listen all that well. Use this resource to gain some expert, field-tested guidance for helping your group members become great listeners.

The following handouts from Helping Group Members Become Great Listeners are especially useful:

  • The Heart of Listening, by Beatrice Rusu—an overview on why listening in small groups is so important.
  • Help Group Members Become Great Listeners, by Rick Howerton—clearly explains the benefits of listening well to group members.
  • Small-Group Listening Skills, by Bill Search—practical tips on listening well.


Am I Listening Well?

Use this interactive assessment to evaluate your own listening skills, or as a place to start the conversation when training others.

Next Steps

The following resources can further your ability to listen well.

Go Deeper with God
One of the ways we can improve our listening skills within a small group is to apply those skills to our relationship with God. In other words, quieting ourselves to listen for God's Spirit will bring us the dual benefit of helping us listen more closely to others in the group, as well.

Convergence: Breaking the Ice (3 session study)
Join Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) and Phyllis Tickle (The Divine Hours, The Shaping of a Life) as they share stories from their own lives and discuss the value of sharing our stories with others. Your group will explore questions including: What's my story? Why is it important? How have places and key people impacted my life? How have conflicts shaped me? What can I learn from listening to someone else's story?

Overview | Questions | Tools | Evaluation | Next Steps

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