How to Create Real Life Communities of Faith
- Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mike Tatlock's new book, Faith in Real Life: Creating Community in the Park, Coffee Shop, and Living Room, (Zondervan, 2010).
God has given all people an innate desire to live for something greater than themselves. But many people don't yet realize that the best way they can fulfill that desire is by joining a church. They probably won't just walk into your church looking for community. If you build relationships with them wherever you meet in your everyday lives, however, you can generate momentum that will help them eventually connect with God and other believers.
Here's how you can create community in real life:
Focus on people rather than programs. People don't fit into nicely organized boxes. Ask God to help you see people as unique individuals instead of as products. Understand that even the best programs won't have nearly as much power to get people to visit your church as personal relationships will. So don't waste time and energy trying to use gimmicks to entice people to attend your church. Invest in developing friendships with people instead; then personally invite them to church when the time is right. Keep in mind that people are at different stages of their spiritual journeys, and tend to connect in different ways (such as around shared needs, shared experiences, or shared questions).
Align your goals. Your church will reach unchurched people best if people there are working toward goals that are all aligned with God's vision for your church. So pray and reflect carefully about what God wants your church to be like, and why. Ask God to help your congregation align its calling, purpose, mission, culture, leadership, people, and strategic process in unity with His will for your church.
Meet people in the "park." The park is the relational environment where people usually meet and interact for the first time. At church, the park can be represented by activities like a weekend worship service, neighborhood event, or community service project in which church members first encounter people who don't yet attend church. Be intentional about associating with other people as often as possible. Once you've made initial contact with them, demonstrate consistency so you can build trust and open conversations that can lead to deeper relationships. Pray for each unchurched person you meet to be able to see Jesus at work in your life in some way. Market your character rather than your church, shifting the focus from what your church does to who the people in your church are. Instead of sending out postcards giving people information about when your church holds worship services or what types of programs you offer, focus on serving the people in your community so they can see your character and be drawn to your church because of the kind of person you are. Make first impressions that last by: creating an environment at your church that is welcoming and including for visitors, creating an atmosphere of sincerity that empowers people to trust each other, validating people by showing them that you genuinely care about them, listening well to people, respecting their views and seeking to understand them, expressing affection for people in appropriate ways (such as through handshakes and hugs), laughing with them, giving them the freedom to explore and experiment with faith without fear of judgment or criticism, inspiring them by showing them how compelling faith in action looks so they can imagine their own lives being transformed if they engage more with the church, communicating well through visual images as well as the spoken word, demonstrating a passion for Jesus, and creating worship services that point beyond entertainment to truly encountering God's presence in your church.
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