By Mark Hallock
One of the challenges pastors regularly face is trying to get people connected into true community in the church.
Few things burden me more than the thought someone in our church doesn’t feel loved and cared for and may fall through the cracks.
As leaders, we must work hard to do all we can to provide clear on-ramps of opportunity for individuals and families to connect.
At the same time, after serving as a pastor for more than 20 years, all too often I’ve seen folks avoid taking responsibility for their lack of effort to pursue relationships with others through readily available options.
This is a pastoral leadership challenge and opportunity every leader in the church will face.
So how do we respond to: “We just don’t feel connected at this church”? Let me share the following as one way you could respond pastorally, either in talking face to face or through a written response:
Thanks so much for sharing your concern. I’m so sorry you haven’t felt very connected here.
I assure you, we deeply desire for you and your family to feel incredibly loved and connected to other believers in our congregation! We want you to feel at home here, we really do!
You’re right: God made us for community in the church, not isolation. We grow most when we’re in relationship with other believers.
Of course, Satan hates this and seeks to put up any type of roadblock/lie/confusion he can to prevent us from connecting with other believers.
Connecting also takes work and intentionality. As a church, we’re always trying to grow in helping individuals, couples, and families (like yours) have easy “on ramps” to meet others and really get connected.
I can tell you; our staff is regularly having conversations about this, working hard to get folks connected. At the same time, it’s also our responsibility as individuals to pursue community, to pursue relationship with people.
While it takes work and can be a little awkward—and at times scary—it’s worth it! It’s worth putting ourselves out there and trying to build relationships with others. The Lord made us for relationship.
Let me suggest three of the most simple and often overlooked ways to get more connected to our church family.
1. Stay around after services
One manageable first step is to just stay around after the conclusion of our weekend worship services.
We want to encourage folks to stay around and talk, to hang out with new people and those they don’t know super-well. This may be awkward at times, but please stay around anyway.
Make an effort to talk to others you don’t know. We’ll always have leaders and pastors around who are eager to spend time with you.
Many of our people have made lifelong friends this way.
2. Join a group
Another helpful step may be to join a group. We don’t require joining a group, but we do try to make it an easy and welcoming option.
Groups meet at various times and locations around the area, spread out on different weeknights. These are a prime way to connect.
Another option is our classes. Each Fall and Spring, we offer four different classes on Sunday mornings.
In addition to these avenues, we have multiple women’s studies and men’s studies throughout the week.
As you can see, our church is blessed to have many different types of groups that meet at different times on different days and nights.
Any of our pastors or staff would be glad to talk with you about a group that might work well for your schedule and location.
These groups are welcoming and nurturing environments that help you continue to grow toward even broader and deeper relationships within the congregation.
For most, these groups play an integral and vital role in their ongoing spiritual growth and connection to Christian friends and community.
3. Offer and accept hospitality
Throughout the Bible, one thing that regularly marks God’s people is their love for others through hospitality.
Admittedly some folks may feel a little weird about being the one to invite people over (or out) when they don’t know many people very well. But we’re trying to build a culture where hospitality is normal.
For this to happen, it takes individuals who can help model and lead this. We encourage those who consider our church “home” to reach out to those who are new or checking us out.
Still, we also hope that those who are new will step up and invite longer-term attendees and members over for a meal or out for an activity.
Living these kinds of open lives together is a big part of how we can create and sustain a hospitable culture of a gospel community at our church. It takes work on everyone’s part.
As Christians, we each need to pursue this. If we don’t, it doesn’t matter how many programs, classes, groups, etc. a church has to offer; we’ll never experience the kinds of friendships and community the Lord wants us to have.
MARK HALLOCK (@markhallock) serves as the Lead Pastor of The Calvary Family of Churches in Englewood, Colorado.
He is grateful for 16 years of marriage to his wife, Jenna, and loves being a daddy to their kids, Zoe and Eli. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary.
This article originally appeared on the NAMB Replant Blog.