The Listening Post – Nancy Janisch

19 Feb

Every Tuesday at GRCC (Grand Rapids Community College) a couple of people sit in the student center and students walk up to them and say things like:

“My girlfriend just broke up with me and I don’t know why.”

“I just want to say, I’m tired of winter.”

“I got the job.”

“Would you pray for me, I’m three months sober and coming back to school.”


“The professor in the cafeteria line ahead of me bought my lunch and I don’t even know him.”


These  people are in the student center and students walk up and talk to them because Tuesdays from 11 am to 2 pm our campus ministry sponsors the Listening Post.  Two people from local congregations come onto campus for 1 ½ hour shifts each week during the academic year.


They are there to offer compassionate, non judgmental listening. They listen to whatever a student wants to talk about. Sometimes it is serious. Sometimes it is not. But always the students are looking for someone to talk to. The Listening Post has more repeat visitors than you might expect. Relationships are beginning to develop.


The Listening Post is an unofficial extra set of ears for the school. Some students have been referred to the school counseling center. Students have been encouraged to talk with their academic advisor about disability support services. College staff stop by and offer a word of encouragement and they tell students about the Listening Post.


When you think about it, students (as well as the rest of us) seldom have someone who will simply listen, really listen to us. In part that is because compassionate, nonjudgmental listening takes some effort. We give our listeners two hours of orientation where we discuss active listening skills, appropriate boundaries and talk about the realities of college life these days.


Apart from campus, the Listening Post has helped connect our campus ministry with local congregations. “Regular” people get a glimpse of what college life is like these days. They hear the students’ stories and then they begin to understand why campus ministry matters. People from different congregations have met each other and become friends.


We are not the only ministry with a Listening Post. Listening Posts are quietly present on campuses around the country. Do you have a Listening Post or similar program on your campus? I’d like to know about your experiences.



Nancy Janish is the The Ministry Coordinator for True North. After 20 years as a 
practicing veterinarian, in small animal and emergency medical practice, Nancy 
returned to seminary and received a Master of Divinity Degree. She is a member of 
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids. Nancy has a particular interested 
in the areas of vocation, spiritual formation, and science and religion.
True North is focused on helping college students in Grand Rapids integrate their 
Christian faith with their daily lives, academic work and future careers. 



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