A few weeks ago, one of my fellow elders said that we need to try to get the young people (children and teenagers) more involved in our church meetings. As I wrote in a previous post (see “Equipping“), I helped my son, Jeremy, get more involved by teaching one Sunday morning.
But, we also wanted the young people to understand that they could (and should) take part in the discussion and encouragement that takes place on Sundays (and anytime they are meeting with other believers). We wanted them to recognize that as children of God who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, it is their responsibility (as much as it is the adults’ responsibility) to build up their brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, whenever one of the children or teenagers have added something to our discussion or has requested prayer or has spoken up in other ways during our church meetings, we (individually and corporately) have attempted to notice and affirm their participation.
Last Sunday, several families were traveling, so we met with a smaller than usual group. However, there were several children and teenagers (7 between the ages of 11 and (just turned) 18). For some reason, they began to take part in our discussion of Genesis. Several of them offered some very good insights, especially as we discussed Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph. (By the way, when I was talking with them later, one of the young ladies told me that she was more comfortable because there were not as many people present.)
(Irony of ironies was that the elder who encouraged us to help the young people get involved was not meeting with us Sunday.)
Later, I was talking with a brother about Sunday and the young people getting involved in the teaching and discussion. He was very excited about it too. He asked, “What do we do if one of them starts speaking too much, or starts saying things that are not true?”
He was asking honestly. But, his question is the one that is normally raised when you begin to talk about participatory meetings. What do you do when someone speaks “out of turn” (however you want to define that). The way I see it, there are two extremes that you want to stay away from.
Extreme #1: Allow anyone to say anything that they want without any consequences at all.
Extreme #2: Don’t allow anyone to speak unless you know up front what that person is going to say and how they are going to say it.
Like I said, I think the church needs to stay away from both extremes. Instead, I think we need to allow people to speak. But, if someone becomes abusive or heretical (contrary to the gospel), then we need to counsel that person – privately at first, but if it continues, it may have to be public. (I’ve never had to move beyond the “private” admonishment.)
So, what do you think about young people (children and teenagers) speaking and teaching when the church meets? What would you do if one of them (or an adult, for that matter) speaks too much or says things that are either untrue or unhelpful?