What do we want from the guys that lead our meetings? I do most of the preaching in our Sunday all age meeting. I occassionally lead. I’ve tried to do things differently in recent weeks. These are my nine resolutions that I’ve tried to put into practice. They’re not all that we want to say about leading a meeting. I’ve got something else on that. I just think that if we don’t have these then our Sunday meetings can be a little flat and discouraging.
1. we need to stay at the front
We want Jesus front and centre, that’s a given. But we also want our leaders to take control and provide us with a visible lead. People sometimes vacate the front when the singing starts, no doubt feeling uncomfortable and awkward stood in front of everyone and singing to them. But the congregation need their leaders to lead our praise. They ought to give it some welly and show that their words and voice express what’s in their heart. We mustn’t leave ourselves open to the accusation that there’s no heart love for Christ. If we’re in the habit of expressing our praise of God physically I have no objection to that, as long as it’s not showy, self-promotional or distracting for others. But let’s lead from the front.
2. it’s alright to ditch the silence
We’ve developed a ‘tradition’ [perhaps habit is fairer] of introducing the confession with a few words and then inviting people to take a few moments in quiet reflection to ponder their sin. I have no objection to that. I just think it’s hard in an all age congregation with small children. Parents spend the time fretting about keeping the kids ‘schtum’ rather than quietly expressing their repentance for sins. The kids just want to talk to Mummy or Daddy whilst they bow their heads in silence. It’s like a challenge to get their parents to talk! Why not go straight into confession? We’ll need to make sure that it’s kid friendly in terms of its content and introduction. The kids are in for this important bit and we need to make sure that even they understand what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that we need to be childish but it does mean that we need to be clear.
3. It’s true that less is more
Most of us say too much. It means that the congregation are bombarded with lots of words and they don’t know which ones to listen to. Most conservative evangelical gatherings are pretty word heavy already; our sermons have something to do with that! But if we say too much it makes the congregation nervous because we don’t all have the requisite communication skills to hold people’s attention for very long. So it’s much better to keep it brief and upbeat. We shouldn’t feel that we have to introduce everything in the songs. When we run two songs together liaise with the musicians about how to introduce them. Our evangelical credentials are not open to question if we choose to say nothing!
4. Learn to sell
If we rate ourselves as a bit of a salesman, then great. But if we’re uncomfortable or ineffective as persuading people then get the marketing boys on their feet to give whatever we’re promoting the hard sell! A change of voice is helpful and getting the staff up always signifies importance. However, don’t forget that the sales pitch of a ‘layman’ is surprising because they’re not paid to be enthusiastic! In a conversation with Tim Keller last weekend he said that they never advertise anything at Redeemer. Instead, they’ll get someone to talk about how being involved has changed their life. That’s got to be worth thinking about.
5. Give the good news like it’s good news!
The gospel is the best news that the world has ever known. But sometimes our restatement of the gospel is painfully turgid. Let’s be a little more expressive and enthusiastic about the accomplishments of Jesus’ death. We’re allowed to be a little bit unrestrained in our enthusiasm that our sins have been forgiven and that God has sent His Spirit to transofrm our lives!
6. Run a tight ship with respect to timing
We all know that a 60 minute meeting is more effective than a 90 minute one, at least in crèche! Whilst we don’t want church to revolve around those under two, it’s worth remembering those who have to deal with screaming children! Our lengthy monologues or unprepared ramblings as we stumble our way through the notices all adds up. Ruthless efficiency is the way forward! For the record, I have no idea what this looks like!
7. Look me in the eye
People feel engaged if they feel that we’ve looked them in the eye. We need to learn to look up at people and not down at our notes. Eye contact is important in all forms of personal relationships so let’s get it right from the front. I want to feel that you’re engaging with me and leading me and not just going through the motions of getting through the meeting.
8. It’s not all doom and gloom
Cheer up! Life isn’t all bad. Not all of us feel like Job did in chapter three all the time. Let’s feel the joy! And so beware of phrasing good things in negative ways. Sometimes I just feel like we’re telling each other off even when we’re telling each other a good thing! For example, ‘the Bible tells us that it’s good to encourage one another, so let’s not forget to do that over coffee’. I hear this as, ‘it’s a sin to forget to encourage other people so don’t you dare do anything else but encourage over coffee and if you don’t then you should feel condemned’. I don’t hear it as, ‘we’ve got a great opportunity to encourage one another over coffee’. Too many admonitions is wearying. Why not just say something like, ‘isn’t it terrific that God invented church so that we can encourage one another to keep trusting Him. Welcome to church. Let’s pray that we leave here encouraged!’
9. Fix your eyes on the only audience that ultimately matters
God’s assessment of what we do is the most important one. Not the elders or the congregation. But you knew that, didn’t you! He looks on the heart and that’s far more important than my superficial evaluation.
It might be that those on the ‘receiving end’ of meetings have something to add?