As a pastor, I do a lot of listening. This is an important part of being a help and a guide to the people that I serve with and minister to. Unfortunately, this has led me to be a poor sharer (especially with Lauren) of what is going on in my life (you can read more about this here). Thankfully this is beginning to change as Lauren and I work hard at developing a healthy culture of sharing in our relationship. As I mentioned a few days ago, we have committed ourselves to spend time every day to connect with each other about what is going on in our lives.
While we were at the EHS pre-conference we learned a great skill to help us to continue to grow in this area. It is called the Community Temperature Reading (I learned about this last year but it was great that Lauren was exposed to it this time). The goal of this skill is to create a healthy culture of sharing through (1) Sharing positive aspects about one another (2) providing language that decreases assumptions and judgments and encourages exploration (3) being honest about negative things impacting you, suggesting possible solutions in respectful ways and (4) keeping current with what is going on in one another’s lives.
There are five parts to the “Community Temperature Reading.” They are:
1. Appreciations or Excitements: Appreciations are about the positive aspects of life together – what is good about others or what they have done. Most of us live by the rule: “no news is good news.” If nothing negative is happening, then we see little need for communication, expressing appreciation for people only when they go above and beyond the call of duty.
Scripture invites us to see people as image bearers of God who share in His beauty. On a practical level we can reflect the beauty of others,whether its family members, friends, co-workers, neighbourhood acquaintances, etc. through expressing appreciations of them.
Excitements give us a chance to express that which delights our souls. “I’m excited about having this week off to ‘chill’”; “I’m excited that my work project will be finished this week”; I’m excited to begin a work project this week.” The sharing of excitements give us windows into one another’s soul’s.
2. Worries, Concerns or Puzzles: People often do not express worries or concerns for fear of appearing inadequate or stupid. We hold them inside ourselves and then make erroneous assumptions about people and situations.
Puzzles are close related to worries and concerns. It is easy to jump to negative interpretations about events going on around us. Yet Scripture teaches us to “judge not, lest you be judged.” Expressing a “puzzle” enables us to avoid assumptions, negative interpretations, and judgmentalism. i.e. Instead of saying: “Who didn’t do the dishes last night?”, we say “I’m puzzled as to who was supposed to clean up last night.”
If there are things you don’t understand (or need clarification about), ask. Sharing our worries, concerns and puzzles prevent unhealthy assumptions or faulty thinking from turning into unnecessary resentments.
3. Complaints and Recommendations: The purpose of complaints and recommendations is to help each person be aware of and take responsibility for the small irritations and annoyances that arise every day. When they are unspoken, they can become a painful wound. When spoken poorly, they can become destructive. The intention is to help people take responsibility for their worries and concerns and share them maturely. This is not about arguing about or solving concerns but to hear each other, learn to negotiate and perhaps agree to disagree. Here the person with the complaint takes responsibility for coming up with a possible solution, speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:25). A helpful format to use is, “I notice … and I would prefer …” i.e. “I notice that you don’t put the DVD’s away after they have been used and I would prefer that you did.”
4. New Information: This can take many forms – events, appointments, new decisions, achievements, opportunities, activities. This ensures no one feels excluded or passed over. Relationships can only grow when people know what is happening in each other’s lives – the trivial as well as the important. In addition, when we are heard, we feel validated and better about ourselves. i.e. “I have a Deacon’s meeting on Monday night” or “I got 97% of my test.”
5. Hopes and Wishes: This moves to the immediate future. A hope is not verbalized has little chance of being fulfilled. Many of us have not learned to talk about our hopes and wishes and yet they are significant parts of who we are. Sharing hopes and wishes are windows into your unique soul. Family life, in particular becomes richer as we support and listen to each other’s hopes and dreams. i.e. “I hope that I get a new job that opened up in our company.”
Lauren and I want to use this skill with our children as well. Our plan is to take one or two of these areas and use them at dinner time to help create a healthy culture of sharing in our home. This skill can also be used in churches to help foster a healthy culture of sharing.
Let’s do a community temperature reading of the readers of this blog. What are you excited about right now? What worries, concerns or puzzles are troubling you right now? (I would love to be able to pray for you.) Here are my answers: I am very excited about what God is doing in our church right now. I am excited as we continue to build bridges into our community. One big concern that I have right now is our downstairs renovation. I realize that this is a HUGE job and I am concerned about how we are going to get it all done this summer.
Now it’s your turn!