“Message sent isn't message received.” Perhaps you've heard this idea expressed in the context of improving communication skills or resolving conflict. Did you know this also can apply to the Bible? The original languages of the Bible are Hebrew, Greek and even Aramaic. Because of that, we may read a Scripture in English but the word or phrase can mean something a little different than what the underlying original language meant. Something may have been “lost in translation”.
Here's a great example. Take Jesus' words we know as the Great Commission. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). When we read this, it is easy to assume Jesus wants us to do two things: “to go” and “to make disciples”. Surprisingly, though, in the underlying Greek language, the only command is to “make disciples”. The going, baptizing and teaching are all included as parts of that process.
Why does that matter? Reading these words in English, we might think making disciples is a job for missionaries and pastors — people who have to go somewhere and preach about Jesus. But what about discipleship on the homefront? There is not a single more pivotal place for the family's spiritual formation than where we wake up, eat, and call “home.”
Whole books are devoted to the topic of discipleship in the family. At its core, though, making disciples at home is all about building on the relationships in our families. Here are four ingredients to create a culture of conversation that will fuel those family dynamics.
1. Practice active listening.
“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)
Active listening key to good communication. It is the intentional effort to hear every word someone is saying without simultaneously thinking about how you will respond. We can admit it; this is difficult! Yet, it's not impossible. Active listening allows us to know more about the person we are listening to. Sometimes we fall prey to either half-listening, multi-tasking, or listening so we know how to respond. But active listening gives us vital information and greater detail regarding what someone cares about or is going through. What better place to be an active listener than at home where we are needed most?
2. Take interest in the interests of others.
In the midst of encouraging the church in Philippi to continue practicing humility and caring for one another, Paul penned these words: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:4 (ESV). Much can be said about how this is lived out, but have you ever considered taking interest in what a family member is interested in? That's easy when their interests are the same as yours, but what about listening when your child describes in painstaking detail each of the characters and their powers in a video game?
Perhaps you've heard the phrase, “in order to be more interesting, we have to first be more interested.” Taking interest naturally follows after active listening. We can pinpoint what someone's interest might be after we have first listened to them. When it comes to discipling our children, if we want them to care about issues of faith and things that matter to us, should we not first care about what matters to them? You can improve your communication in this by asking yourself:
- What gets them excited?
- Is there something they talk about often and consistently?
- What bothers them?
- Where do they hope to go?
- What do they aspire to do?
These are just a few questions that may give us a clue of what someone is interested in. The insight from questions such as these can provide help us generate more meaningful dialogue. And this leads us to the next point.
3. Learn to ask good questions
Communication is not about improving the way we speak. It involves eliciting information from other people. Jesus was a master at engaging people by asking good questions. Sometimes, when people asked him a question, he asked one right back. Is this side-stepping the topic? Nope. It is genius, actually. Jesus asked questions to gather more information. He also did this to help the listener come to greater self-awareness of their own dilemma.
A good question is usually open-ended, requiring more than a yes or no answer. This allows the person to share and verbally process the topic. Think about your own experience; are you more inclined to want to talk to someone about something who always has a quick response? Or do you prefer to talk to someone who is willing to get you thinking more with their questions and interest?
Last but not least…
4. Follow up
Whether it be a spouse, child, parent, friend, or co-worker, if someone has entrusted you with their passions, hopes, struggles, or dilemmas — follow up! This demonstrates we were listening in the first place, we are concerned, and we want to know more. Intentionally following up will be the key for creating a culture of conversation at home.
Try implementing these four ingredients and see if this creates a more conversational culture where love, trust, and community grows.
Let's have our homes be the place where communication thrives, where we unhurry ourselves and take interest in one another by engaging in dynamic conversations!