People genuinely want authentic community. The church has long since been a place that is supposed to reflect genuine community. We read in the pages of Acts and from our early church and see how Christians loved, supported, and spurred one another on towards Christ and the gospel. We see an incredible growth in Christianity largely in part due to the way in which Christians took care of each other and the communities around them. Now you may know that I’m not a huge fan of a small group programs offered by most churches largely because I think the contribute not to community but to a false sense of community in which they don’t have friends outside the church and simply gather together to talk about how broken the world is and how much better they fell when they do that. Now this isn’t all small groups and we could certainly read a lot about small groups but here is where I’ve been really trying to understand how can the church redeem and recover community?
So how can a church redeem community? I believe we first have to ask the question, is the church directly responsible for community? I believe most people will answer that question with a resounding yes. I believe that is why we see small groups and bible studies and all sorts of programs designed to help people get to know one another and disciple one another. The church as an organization is one of the fewer places where they go out of their way to facilitate people creating relationships with one another. By in large most people have to take ownership of the particular aspect of their lives on their own. If you want to connect to people you have to put yourself out there to get to know them. If you like to run you find running groups and people that run to get ideas from and know what kind of gear to buy and what works best so that you can become a proficient runner. I’m wondering why we don’t put the same onus on our church members to search out people in our congregations. In some ways it should be easier because we all have Christ in common but dare I say it’s not easier.
Here are some ways I think a corporate church could make community more accessible to people.
- Educate – you have to teach about why community is really the responsibility of each member and not a corporate responsibility. How many times have we heard the saying, stop going to church, be the church? We should take that to heart when we talk about community.
- Don’t force a model of community on the congregation but rather facilitate multiple points of connection if possible and allow the creativity of the people facilitate community.
- Help to coach, mentor, and disciple leaders who are capable of leading communities. Allow their passions and creativity to flourish in your congregations.
- Offer some kind of short term classes or opportunities for people to meet and know one another so relationships can be built on their own.
I would enjoy hearing your comments and ideas for how community can take shape in your church or perhaps some positive experiences you’ve had with community.