I love the book of Acts. It’s second only to Romans as my favorite book of the Bible. Why? It’s all about lifetime relationships and community. In the second chapter of Acts, Paul details the need for community to the early Church. Acts 2:42-47 says “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”
It’s not just in Acts we see the Bible teach us the importance of community and relationships. In fact, it is mentioned throughout the scriptures at least 53 times!
As Paul mentions in Acts, the early Church was built on community. People met with each other in homes. They ate with one another. They fellowshipped with one another. Most importantly, they had all things in common and devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. You see, creating relationships through community in the Church body is what keeps the body alive. It’s the glue that holds the believers together.
I venture to say that most prospective members come to the Church because of the Pastor. While they probably come because of the pastor, there are other aspects of the Body that help foster community and relationships that the pastor cannot. Some families may have needs that need to be met, like a strong children’s department, student group or young adult ministry. That is where the community and friendships are formed.
Here are four ways for your church to nurture and foster the friendships formed within your Church body.
1) Create Opportunities – Research shows most people sitting in pews dread the “welcome time” that many churches do at the beginning of each service. “As the praise band plays turn and greet those around you.” We hear it every Sunday. It can drive people away. However, create opportunities for people in your church, even members, to get to know others they haven’t met yet. Encourage them to say hello to two people after the service, or during the time at the coffee station before small groups.
2) Invest in Small Groups – Whatever you call them, small groups are vital to the health of your church. My small group has grown exponentially over the past year to the point we have small groups within our small group. We coined the term “micro groups” last Sunday. Each quarter, new micro groups are formed. We aim to get together once a month with three to four other families, all with the goal of strengthening relationships, friendships and community.
3) Offer an Online Directory for Your Members – With technology, this is now a very easy task to accomplish. Several church management solutions allow churches to create online directories for their members to see information about others in the Church. It also makes it much easier for Church staff to look up members who they have a need to communicate with. Put a link to the directory in multiple places. Your website is a great place to start. Make sure it’s password protected though. You’ll want your members to know their information is secure. If your church management software has a congregational facing piece, place the directory there as well. Taking it a step further, you can even include it in a mobile app, if your Church has one.
4) Challenge Your Members to Reach Out – Jesus commands only one thing of those who follow Him – “Go and make disciples.” Challenge your Church body to engage with someone new each week. Remind your members of the one command to make disciples. When new disciples are made, plug them into small groups. At some point, they will replicate what they have been taught by the pastor and others who have shepherded them along the way, and will make disciples themselves, creating even more community as the cycle continues.
As believers in Christ, just like the picture Paul paints of the early Church in Acts, we long for community. It is a deep, expressed and desired need. As a Church leader, it is your job to shepherd your members and help them find their sense of community and fellowship within the Church you lead.