Listening to Lakers
The Listening Post gives students a safe place to chat
Jim Markus (left) and Dwight Hillstrom (right) wait for students to come and talk with them on Oct. 13 in Allendale, MI. The Listening Post is an on campus ministry for students to come and talk about anything on their mind.
Walking through the Kirkhof Center lobby, students can see many different organizations at booths, vying for their attention. Amidst the hectic atmosphere, there is one table that sits quietly and lets students come to them. This is the Listening Post, and it is set up in Kirkhof from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday. The goal of this program is quite simple: to listen.
“(We) provide a space on campus where students can share about how their day is going,” said Rev. Greg Lawton, head of the Listening Post program.
The Listening Post is sponsored by the Wesley Fellowship, which is a Methodist ministry located just off GVSU's Allendale Campus that hosts many events geared toward students. The Listening Post is volunteer-run, so the Wesley Fellowship brings them in and trains them how to be active listeners and communicators. Once the volunteers are in Kirkhof, all they need is a student who wants to talk to stop by. Students can talk about a variety of topics like classes, family or even the weather.
“We don’t have any kinds of prompts or questions to lead off with," Lawton said. "If you’re having a great day, you can talk to us and tell us about that, or if you’re having a lousy day."
Volunteers at the Listening Post never bother students to approach their table. Their aim is to allow students to come to them. They find this is more effective in getting their visitors to provide a positive response to them.
While the Listening Post has only been around the GVSU campus for two and a half years, the history of the program dates back much farther than that.
“The original (Listening Post) was founded in 1979 by Mabel Barth as a communications project for her masters degree,” said Susan Cooley, previous head of the Listening Post.
Since being adopted by the fellowship, the Listening Post has expanded its presence on campus from one day to two and has some students that come regularly to chat. They hope that in the future they will be able to install a post on GVSU’s Pew Campus.
“I think it’s that kind of thing that could be present more often, but that would require more volunteers,” Lawton said.
The post is run by trained adults who are giving up their time to help students. Students are not discouraged from getting involved, but the volunteers at the Listening Post have years of experience in active listening, which can work to their advantage.
While the Listening Post is intended to be beneficial for the students, it also brings satisfaction to the volunteers who work it, many of whom are retirees.
“They start out a little uncertain about it and end up wanting to do it more often,” Cooley said, “They are impressed by today's students at Grand Valley.”
In addition to training the new volunteers, Lawton volunteers his own time at the Listening Post in order to connect with the students and to impact their day.
“To be present to hear how someone’s day is going, it really is profound,” Lawton said.
The Listening Post on GVSU’s campus will not be the last to be installed either. This program is constantly growing and spreading its influence to campuses all over. A Listening Post program started at Grand Rapids Community College last year based on the success of GVSU's own.
The Listening Post is located in the Kirkhof Center on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information, visit Wesley's website at www.gumonline.org/wesley.