Meet people in the "coffee shop." The coffee shop is the relational environment where people forge new friendships. At church, the coffee shop can be represented by activities such as retreats, social events, or mission trips where people get to know each other better. Help people see that spending time with you and others from your church is much more than just one more activity to cross off their "to-do" lists. Rather than letting people hide in the crowds at weekend worship services, start conversations with them about topics they're interested in, and listen well so you can respond well to what they share with you. Keep in mind that people usually need to experience a sense of belonging before they'll begin to believe. Give people plenty of opportunities to connect, belong, and engage at their own pace, without any pressure. Host social events, invite people to join service projects, and create church groups around people's shared interests that new people can plug into if they're interested. Communicate clear and simple next steps for people to move forward from wherever they are. But give people all the time they need to build trust in their new relationships, and make sure they understand that you're not calling them to a program, event, or project - you're calling them to Jesus.

Meet people in the "living room." The living room is the relational environment where people develop deep and lasting friendships. At church, the living room is usually represented by home groups, where people openly and honestly share their thoughts and feelings with each other and ask tough questions together while making commitments to God and each other that help them grow. Share your stories of how God has worked and is working in your life, and encourage people to share their own stories with you. Work together to discover, develop, and use your talents in the world and spiritual gifts in the church. Support and encourage each other as you each grow closer to Jesus. Accept your friends for who they really are. Love them unconditionally. Listen well to them. Allow them to share their desires and fears without criticism. Discuss the struggles of everyday life together. Confess your sins to each other without judgment. Celebrate your victories together. Work together for a common cause: to fulfill the missions God calls you to fulfill.

Adapted from Faith in Real Life: Creating Community in the Park, Coffee Shop, and Living Room, copyright 2010 by Mike Tatlock.  Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com
Mike Tatlock is the lead pastor at Grace Chapel in Portland, Oregon. He has been one of the youngest teaching professors at Prairie Bible College and Multnomah Bible College. A frequent teacher at workshops, seminars, seminaries, and churches around the world, his pastoral experience includes leading within urban, inner-city, and suburban churches.

Original publication date: June 9, 2010