Recently, between Monday-to-Friday jobs I’ve been doing temporary work as a Market Researcher for Dipsticks in Hexham. I’ve done street surveys in Carlisle, and telephone opinion polls of marginal constituencies for the coming election. This has encouraged me to do a street questionnaire in Hexham, for the church of which I’m the minister. I’ll write more about that on Thursday.
It has been fascinating to discover the similarities between being a pastor and being a market researcher. Both depend upon being a good listener, and helping people to articulate what they really want to say.
An early question in the professional street survey in Carlisle was “On a scale of one-to-ten, how satisfied are you with your life right now?”
When somebody answers “one”, it is completely natural to ask “Gosh – so how is that?” which leads to further conversation.
In the last six months I’ve also been able to do pastoral listening in the factory, in the office and indeed over the phone while doing an opinion poll. I’m not talking about counselling, which is a really important skill to be offered by well-trained people. Instead, it’s about offering the gift of time to listen, even if only for a short while.
What this suggests to me, is that there are many people out there who really long to be listened to by somebody, even if it is only a market researcher.
You might think that pastorally listening like this would get in the way of doing the research, but the opposite is true. If people feel they will be heard, then they become more than ready to talk and the “hit-rate” of interviews per hour goes right up.
Listening can be done anywhere. It isn’t restricted to church. It can be colleagues, neighbours, friends or strangers being surveyed.
So who can you listen to today?