Have you even been a part of a group that was small and had genuine community? Others on the outside of the community want in. The relationships and sense of belonging are attractive, so the group grows. Pretty quickly you identify a problem: As the community gets bigger, people feel more disconnected, and the relationships and sense of belonging that drew you in the first place are harder to come by. This can, and often does, happen as a church grows from a small, close-knit community into a larger body of believers.
I recently read a post by Josh Hunt in which he describes meeting someone who was no longer attending his church. When the gentleman told him why, he said, “People are only nice to you at church.” He wasn’t looking to have a pleasant experience at church; he was looking for community. Hunt closes the post with a great line: “We must help people to feel from us what God feels about them — love.”
In a report by the Barna Group, the number of Americans that self-identify as lonely has doubled, and the desire to find one’s place among a few good friends has risen to just fewer than 4 out of every 10 people. There is a hunger for connection — but how can you maintain the feeling of a small community as your church grows?
Faith Community Church of Hopkinton has been able to do just that. Here is their story:
Faith Community Church teaches a few important lessons:
People want to be noticed. All too often, people drift in and out of churches unnoticed. By using tools to know who is visiting and who is no longer coming, the church was able to communicate ‘we see you, and you are worth seeing’. This requires more than simply estimating the number of people at a service. It requires tracking individual attendance and engagement.
People want to be known. One of the easiest ways to kill community is to ask someone for the fourth time, “What is your name again?” Knowing people requires a system to track their information and other important data such as interests and struggles.
People want connection. We are built for relationship, and without it, loneliness and despair set in. It is not enough to simply see someone, or even know them; connection takes root when you demonstrate that they are not alone. Having a system to identify needs and mobilize people to meet those needs can be the catalyst to building relationships. It’s one thing to say you care; it takes on new meaning when you show up with a casserole.
People in community stay engaged. Brené Brown has said, “You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” This is the message of the Gospel and our message to carry forth. Creating a place for people to experience love and belonging is the best way to keep people connected to your community.
Christ has demonstrated these lessons for us. He sees us, knows us, and desires a connection with us. When we really embrace these truths, we stay connected to him. Just like Josh Hunt said, our job is to help people feel from us how God feels about them.