The time for fall classis meetings is fast approaching. In the past I have written about letting go and not speaking too much at meetings. This time, both for my benefit and for others, I’d like to share some ideas about speaking at a classis meeting.
- Speak third (thanks to Ben Vande Zande for this idea). I know that you have something really important to say, but instead of jumping up and down and rushing to the front like the third grade kid with all the answers, speak third. Let two other delegates speak first. This gives you a bit more time to reflect on what you will say. More importantly it allows you to listen to two other delegates before you speak.
- Speak in response to what others have said. Classis is meant to be a deliberative assembly. So, instead of just ratting off the speech you’d prepared before the meeting, refer to what others have already said. At the least, this will give the impression that you are listening to others. This can also create space to listen to the direction of the spirit.
- Speak with passion. A recent discussion of the Belhaar confession threatened to be little more than a dry as dust dissertation on the nature of ecclesiastical confessions. Then, a delegate spoke with passion about why he needed a document like the Belhaar and how it helped him in the ministry of reconciliation. In the end his argument did not carry the day, but it did show why the discussion mattered.
- Speak with controlled passion. Too often people I’ve heard people hurt their own cause by continuing to speak long after their point had been made. They are like the preacher Charles Spurgeon described who hit the nail on the head and hammered it home, but kept on hammering away until the board broke and the nail fell out.
- Speak even if it is just to say, “I pass.” If someone has already made your essential point, even if it not as eloquently or forcefully as you would have, simply say that you would like to affirm what elder so and so has already said. After all, nothing is more eloquent than humility.
- Speak when it will make a difference. I’ve heard of a professor who was asked about his influence as faculty advisor to synod. He answered that he only spoke when it would make a difference. If a motion he favored looked likely to pass, he had no need to speak. The motion would pass without him. If a motion he favored was likely to fail, he did not waste his words. He spoke when his words might make a difference and over the years, he gained a reputation as a person of influence.\
- Speak for others. This point might contradict the last one, but in a discussion of the faith formation report I raised some questions I still had. Afterwards, it became clear that others had the same questions even though they had not spoken up. Going against the flow is uncomfortable, but sometimes a minority point of view needs to be heard.
- Finally, when speaking keep in mind what the apostle James teaches; “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
What do you think of these ideas when it comes to speaking at classis meetings? Do you have any of you own to share?