The friendships within your church are incredibly important. They in large part keep people connected to the church. The better connected people are, the more often they show up, the more likely they serve, the more likely they give, and the more likely they’ll invite someone else to come visit.
Which is why, I believe, the most important investment you can make this year behind your personal relationship with God and your family is with those within your church.
Now, that’s not to say, you need to be best friends with everyone in your church. More than likely you’re going to have a handful of people you connect really well with, and that’s perfectly fine. But keep in mind, just like you value those relationships, others inside and outside of the church desire those connections as well.
So, I want to encourage you to be more intentional about helping the people who are currently attending or who may be new to the church, to find and build friendships.
It’s incredibly important.
I’m starting to believe that people value friendships within the church they attend more than;
- Practical preaching/teaching they can understand and apply.
- The style of worship music and how well it is performed.
- How outwardly friendly the church is.
- How safe and fun the kid’s ministry is.
I think these four things are extremely important to someone who is looking for a church to attend. And it doesn’t matter if that’s a Christian family who has just moved into a new community, or if it’s a single mom who wouldn’t consider herself a Christian, but she’s looking for answers.
They’re going to value very similar things. But above all, I believe they value a place where they have friends or can make friends.
Now, if you’re a pastor or church leader who serves in a small town community like I do, you kind of know what it’s like for everyone to know everyone else. They went to the same high school, they shop at the same grocery store, they eat at the same restaurants.
This has both its pros and cons. The pros are obvious. Community naturally happens because you become familiar with seeing people around town.
However, it can be really difficult for people who didn’t grow up in the town to feel included. Many people already have long-time friends, and aren’t really looking for more. Because let’s be honest, we barely have enough time to spend with the friends we currently have.
A very similar thing happens within churches. People who’ve been coming to your church for a while get connected with a group of friends, and over time they become less welcoming to those outside of that group.
So, the church may appear very friendly to those who’ve been there for years, but to a new family it may be hard to get connected. They may enjoy the church and show up for a few weeks, but if they struggle to make friends they’ll start looking elsewhere, or even worse they’ll give up on church and God altogether.
I don’t want that to happen, and I know that you don’t either, but unless you become really intentional about addressing the issue it will continue to happen.
So, what can we do?
First, you need a team approach. Get others involved.
Can you do this by yourself? I think so, but if you’re the pastor, you have enough to worry about on Sunday mornings.
That doesn’t mean you get a free pass here, it just means you need help.
Who should help? Find a few (2-5) people who are friendly and enjoy meeting new people. It’s great if these people are on your board, or in leadership somewhere, but that shouldn’t be a requirement.
The most important thing is that this group of people have relationships within the church, and they also enjoy engaging new people.
Once you have your team, you’re ready to give them their assignment.
- Anytime you are at church or at a church function, you’re looking to engage people that you don’t personally know by name.
- Have a conversation with them, and look for opportunities to connect them with someone in the church who has similar interests. For example, your daughter loves gymnastics, let me introduce you to this family whose daughter loves gymnastics. You love deer hunting, let me introduce you to Joe and show you the deer he just killed. You live by yourself with three cats, let me introduce you to the other crazy cat lady in the church.
- Continue to connect with these people regularly, until you’ve connected them with at least three other people within the church.
That’s it. That’s all this team needs to do. And if they do it well, I believe you’ll see more people get connected and stay connected to the church.
I love sharing what I’m learning about growing healthy churches on my Facebook page. I’d love for you to like the page, or if you’re already following, invite another small town church pastor to the page.