Create a Culture of Connectivity at Your Church
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2005 5 May
People come to your church for a wide variety of reasons. But there’s one thing that will cause them to stay – close, meaningful friendships.
Being friendly to visitors is a start, but to truly nurture personal relationships among your congregation, you need to create a church culture that deliberately connects people to each other. If you do, you’ll strengthen not just your church, but also the faith of everyone who’s a part of it.
Here’s how you can create a culture of connectivity at your church:
Help people feel like they belong.
Emphasize to all your church members and staff the importance of communicating love, acceptance, and respect to everyone who walks through your church’s doors. Enlist volunteers to serve as greeters to warmly welcome visitors. Get to know people’s names and engage them in conversation in non-threatening ways that demonstrate genuine interest in their lives.
Move visitors from “outsider” to “insider” status as soon as possible.
Bring people into the church fold by helping them join Bible studies and other groups and encouraging them to participate in ministries without having to join the church first.
Create affinity groups.
Form groups of people who share common interests, such as groups for animal lovers, cooking enthusiasts, or car buffs. As people who share an affinity for a certain topic participate in their passion together, they can develop deep relationships with each other over time and begin to grow spiritually as a result.
Give people plenty of opportunities to use their talents to support the church and its surrounding community. Help them discover what their talents are and motivate them to serve in their areas of giftedness. Expect that volunteers will form close friendships while serving together, and that those friendships will increase their satisfaction level at your church.
Eat meals together.
Provide regular opportunities for your congregation to share meals. Host potluck lunches or dinners and special parties (with pizza or ice cream) at the church. Encourage people to open their homes on a rotating basis for meals within small groups. Plan to church outings to various local restaurants. Know that the practice of eating together is a natural way to foster meaningful conversations that lead to close friendships.
Give young people opportunities to serve.
Help children and youth serve in your church (as junior ushers, greeters, choir members, or custodians) and in your local community (through projects such as singing at a nursing home or washing cars for the elderly). Mentor them as they serve.
Reach out during times of need.
Shower people with kindness when they experience a crisis or time of intense need (such as after being laid off from a job or having a baby). Provide things they need with compassion (job leads and training, home-cooked meals, second-hand baby equipment, etc.).
Help kids get to know each other better in Sunday School.
Snap a photo of each child and post them on a large bulletin board. Play games that require the kids to know each other’s names and discuss their mutual interests.
Host or develop short half-day seminars for felt needs like recovering from divorce or parenting teens. Invite community members to your church for a one-time event on a specific topic, then give them a chance to join a small group on the same topic.
Sponsor a community Bible study.
Host a study at your church and open it up to anyone from the surrounding community. Provide free childcare.
Schedule movie nights.
Host movie nights at the church building, or have different church members take turns hosting movie nights in their homes. Serve simple refreshments. After watching each film, discuss it together.
Encourage your congregation to witness to others.
Emphasize the importance of bearing verbal witness to their faith in all their relationships – especially those outside of church.
Celebrate spiritual milestones.
Commemorate baptisms, baby dedications, and other spiritual milestones with pictures, gifts, parties, etc. Let people know their family of faith is celebrating with them.
Create prayer partners.
Encourage everyone in your congregation to have at least one designated person they pray for during the week. If possible, prayer partners could also meet outside of church to pray together.
Attend special events in church members’ lives.
Find out when one of the kids in your church will play in a championship soccer game or act in a school play. Discover when one of the adults is getting married or retiring. Then attend the game, play, wedding, party, and other events as often as possible.
Foster intergenerational relationships.
Mix ages in your church’s small groups so people of different generations can get to know each other better. For instance, have teens interview seniors about their life experiences.
Host prayer vigils.
Give people throughout the church opportunities to come together in concentrated prayer for a period of time about a specific issue. Encourage people to come to the church building to pray, either as individuals or with their small groups.
Host ministry fairs.
Every so often, host a ministry fair to showcase your church’s various ministries. This provides a single time and place for people to ask questions about ministries that interest them and talk with people who are currently involved and passionate about their service.
Adapted from Friendship: Creating a Culture of Connectivity in Your Church by D. Michael Lindsay, copyright 2005 by Group Publishing, Inc. Published by Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, Co., www.group.com.
D. Michael Lindsay is a sociologist who specializes in issues surrounding religion and culture. With degrees from Baylor, Princeton Seminary, Oxford, and Princeton, he is the co-author of The Gallup Guide: Reality Check for 21st Century Churches from Group Publishing and Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs.