the weblog of Alan Knox

To encourage active participation when we gather with the church

Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 in discipleship | 10 comments

Let’s be honest. For the majority of Christians (especially in the west), “church” means attending a weekly event in which there is singing, praying, giving, and listening. God works through these events in many different ways. However, I think that God intends to work even more to bring his children to maturity by working through more of them when they gather together.

Obviously, when we see the church as God’s people gathered together (and not defined by some specific activities, location, organization, etc.), then any time we come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the church. These times of gathering together with other believers are designed to be interactive, conversational, mutual.

But, there’s a huge divide between the passive “church” experience of most western Christians and the active gatherings that I’ve just described. Sometimes, even when people realize that something is missing – and that they should “participate” – the believers still do not know how to break through the barrier of what they’ve been taught is “church”… “worship”… “holy.”

Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” has offered “7 ways to turn your passive church service into an active learning experience.”

Briefly, here are Kathleen seven ways to help people move from passive listening to being “involved and participating”:

  1. Get them moving.
  2. Make it fun!
  3. Use all the senses.
  4. Let them discover it.
  5. Get them talking.
  6. Share an experience.
  7. Reflection and response.

Be sure to read Kathleen’s post. She explains each of the points above in detail.

I’d like to add a few others to consider, especially by those who are seen as leaders among the church:

  1. Don’t be afraid of silence.
    Give the Spirit time to work in the hearts of the people who are struggling to know when and how to participate. If you (or other leaders) are filling all the time speaking, the others will never speak because they don’t have opportunity.
  2. Don’t respond to everything that’s said.
    In other words, don’t feel like you always must have the last word, even if you think you can explain something better. Don’t do it.
  3. Sometimes, don’t say anything.
    This is self explanatory. But, at some gatherings, don’t say anything at all, unless it is to thank someone else for what they said.

What would you add, change, or removed from the advice above to help people move from passive gatherings to actively participating in helping one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ?


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

  1. 7-3-2013

    Looks like a number of us are “on the same page” today. Hope you don’t mind me sharing this link:

  2. 7-3-2013


    Share away. Thank you.


  3. 7-4-2013

    I love your additions, Alan. They show your experience in these situations. There is a phenomenal power in listening and using silence – one that rhetorical speakers just don’t realise. I’m planning on blogging about that one day.

    – Kathleen

  4. 7-4-2013

    Like the part about not having to have the last word…leaders are tempted to control.

  5. 7-4-2013


    Yes, I had to learn those the hard way.


    Yes, and it’s hard to let that go.


  6. 7-8-2013

    I wish I’d read this about 2 years ago 🙂

  7. 7-8-2013

    Alan I think that your 3 added choices are the ones to major in. Nothing squelches the Spirit, for me anyway, like directives. Tell me what to do with my body, my hands, or anything else…when we gather to wait on the Spirit, and I am in conflict…and have an instant deaf ear and hard heart. If the Spirit moves someone to exhibit some expression of their worship etc. fine. If the Spirit moves me to follow suit, fine, I will. But tell me what you feel I should do in response to the Spirit of God and I am at war with myself and you. Invite me is another matter, though unnecessary I believe. Possibly the result of spending too many years in a Pentecostal setting…but none the less, I think that what I feel is resident in many other souls and I would caution anyone, especially in small meetings, to beware of directives in regards to worship.

  8. 7-8-2013

    Came across this today in an unrelated post…I think it could fit in here.

    The best sermons are lived, not preached.

  9. 7-8-2013

    Rita – as usual, I really relate to what you are saying. Thank you!

  10. 7-12-2013

    Randi and Rita,

    Thanks again! 🙂