Building Community

We’re exploring ways to build community at my church. We get mixed signals from people that attend our church about the friendliness of the people. Maybe muddy-signals-based-on-longevity is a better descriptor.

New people walking in the door tell us we’re very friendly, that they felt welcomed, that people were very nice to them, all good things. More established attenders, (the more established you are the more entrenched you are and the more you are connected to other entrenched attenders), will comment:” Who are you talking about?”, “I don’t know that family”, “I wish there was a way to get to know the younger people”, not very good feedback.

To help create opportunities for creating community we’ve started doing some mixer things on Wednesday around the mid-week-church-meal. The Wednesday mixer opportunities will help only a sub-group of the church. This summer we’re taking it to a new level. We’re hooking our Sunday services to our Wednesday night experience, with Wednesdays being cross generational, very interactive and include everyone in your family, except for the youngest preschoolers. Artificial summer family units are being created to mix people up. It’s going to be fun.

With all that we’re doing to create community, I think it would be good to look at some things that limit or tear down community. Here are the first five community building limiters that we can experience during a Sunday morning worship service time (the time when most churches have the largest number of people on campus:

  1. Keep conversations short.
    You are busy, you have a lot to deal with in your life, if you talk to someone you might get close to them and that takes time and energy that you don’t have. Just keep it short and sweet, don’t bother talking about anything more than the weather. If you don’t know a person is hurting, then you don’t have to do anything about it.
  2. Always sit in your “assigned” seat
    By always sitting in the same seat you always sit around the same people. These folks know the deal, and stick to the appropriate 30 second conversations: weather, sports, how the new preacher is doing, etc. Also, this keeps you from having to venture out, meet new people, and possibly sit next to someone you aren’t familiar with.
  3. Avoid new people
    It’s one thing to deal with all the people that you already know at church, but it’s another to actually meet new people. Seriously, you aren’t good with names; you don’t have the time, or the energy, so just walk right past anyone you don’t know. After all, they won’t notice that you totally avoided them.
  4. Come in late
    Don’t overlook the beauty of this one. By coming in late you totally avoid even the 30 second conversations. And (bonus), you avoid the new people! It just makes life easier.
  5. Leave immediately after the service (or early)
    This has the same benefits as coming in late, with the added benefit of getting on the road more quickly to beat those other churches to eat. This way you get out of that crowded church building so that you can go sit with your people and eat a meal. If you add this method with the coming in late method you could go to a church for years and never meet anyone.

Do any of these sound familiar? Tomorrow is Sunday. Look around and see how many people are using some of these five community limiters. Take a look at yourself. You may be surprised at how you may have fallen into a routine that employs some of these five. Tomorrow I’ll share five more.

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