the weblog of Alan Knox

Once you get ’em started

Posted by on Oct 6, 2010 in discipleship, edification, gathering | 4 comments

Once you get ’em started

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?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-6-2010

    What an encouragement Alan.

    Of course as you mentioned, adults can and do talk too much and say things that are untrue and inaccurate as well. I’d say what passes for as a pastor in the institution is a prime example of someone who speaks too much and often says inaccurate and untrue things! 🙂

    I meet with a group where we have absolutely nothing pre-planned as we seek to see how Christ desires to lead us when we gather around Him as His church. Most if not all of the adults in our group our self feeders, who spend time with the LORD daily endeavoring to hear from Him as He speaks to us through His living and written Word. When we meet we share with each other from the overflow of our time spent with Christ throughout the week. This has been a wonderful and exciting time for me as we all come from diverse cultural, ethnic, and spiritual/”denominational” backgrounds.

    Although it does not happen often, from time to time something may be shared that is inaccurate.

    How should the situation be handled:

    1) Each person should always be free to share anything as they feel led and should never be made to feel silly or embarrassed for doing so as we do not want to crush a dear brother or sister.

    2) I find it personally helpful to consider what is said even if I completely disagree with it on first blush to see if my understanding may be incorrect.

    3) In our meetings if you’re going to say something please understand that you can expect a number of follow up questions to be asked and comments to be made, in this process the brothers and sisters flesh out what is said from other scriptures and make application from it, by the time all is said and done as the teaching has gone through the group the teaching has been fleshed out and brought back to an accurate biblical understanding and application without demotivating the brother or sisters whose comments may have been less than accurate.

    4) This process will follow an accurate teaching as well so we always come away with a fuller understanding of an issue or teaching as Christ has revealed it to other brothers and sisters in their walk with Him.

    In this we see Christ literally being our only Leader, Teacher and LORD and His Spirit leads us into all truth.

    BTW: We must keep in mind that even in a traditional setting with selected approved pre-planned speakers doing all of the teaching that there are many in the pews that hold to inaccurate and harmful beliefs. So controlling the narrative does not result in a group who does not guard from error, especially since the best the group can do is mature to the level of their human leader’s weaknesses and the errors that he holds to. I think an open discussion is actually a much better way to address error in a gentle manner…it gets it out in the open. 🙂

  2. 10-6-2010

    Correction: So controlling the narrative does not result in a group that is guarded from error…

  3. 10-6-2010

    I meet with a few groups of believers where we have decided differences in theology and practice. But there really is so much of everyday walking with God that humbles us all and this provides a ton of common ground.

    You’ve already pointed out one very important way–speaking to them privately. We are still so meeting focused at times that we forget our lives together are a continuum of days and not just a once a week “regular” assembling together. Not everything has to be done within the few hours we meet.

    When talking with someone privately it is also helpful to remember not everything has to get done in one conversation. We don’t have to win or persuade another “right this minute.” I find letting people wrestle with issues that remain unresolved and un-agreed upon is very helpful. Exposure to new ways of seeing things, in an atmosphere of acceptance and gentleness, allows people to think things through (and, I think, allows the Holy Spirit time with them). Sometimes our own perspectives are also changed.

    If you are in a very open style of meeting, sometimes a direction someone wants to take the meeting in (including practices/views they want to exercise) does need to be stopped.

    How? Politely ask them to stop usually works, though it might be a tense 5 or 10 minutes moving them to actually stop. Start with something like, “John, as you can see, several of us are really uncomfortable with what you are (sharing/doing/asking of us). Would you please set this topic aside for now?”

    If they press, I’ve found letting them go on a few minutes more while you listen is helpful. Ask for clarifications. Listen to understand (Proverbs 18:13), repeat what you think you are hearing, and be prepared to discover you are misunderstanding or just wrong.

    After they have been heard to some degree, they are more likely to agree to put off further discussion. You can ask for a time of silent reflection. You can affirm your love and desire to learn from John and to build up John.

    It is reasonable to point out that there is something more important, deeper, among us than this present issue/topic. We want to honor that God has put us together and that we are bear with one another and forgive one another. It may be our weakness, but at this time, we need to move in another direction for our time together. Nothing is to interrupt our love for each other, even if we never agree on this topic. But for now, it is causing pain (or contention or distress)…

    Sometimes it is helpful to “on the spot” examine this teaching/understanding in the scriptures together/ask specific questions about how this view fits with this passage, etc. More frequently, this will degenerate into opposing sides in the group meeting forum. But this (to me) is always worth attempting and it is really important to be patient and to listen and understand before asking them to see it differently. This has much more chance of success if, at the end of the day, everyone agrees the scriptures are the source of authority.

    The most helpful thing in these sometimes tense circumstances is to remember that this does not have to get satisfactorily resolved, but I do have to conduct myself in love and gentleness. Having been wrong on several occasions

    I think just a few posts back you mentioned open meeting styles are messy (along with being family together 24×7).

  4. 10-6-2010


    I like your explanation, and your reminder about group in which the teaching is tightly controlled.


    Another great comment. You’re right… our Sunday meeting is only one or many throughout the week.