Let’s agree from the get-go that we were never meant to do life alone. We were created and meant to live our lives in connection with others. Relationships are key to ministry and critical for strong, growing churches. As you encounter new challenges due to church size, it’s easy to make four common mistakes when it comes to connecting. The popular ministry guide, How to Connect Personally When You Can’t Know Everyone, addresses these.
- Isolate yourself: Look at the stories of fallen pastors and you see one common theme: isolation. As the church grew, they protected their schedules so they could focus on their work. But this can easily extend into everything else, leaving no one able to approach a pastor.
- Assume other staff members should do it: The entire staff should absolutely be known by people in the church. This responsibility isn’t theirs alone, though. Set an example as a senior leader, otherwise staff will follow your lead and distance themselves from individuals too. Before long, no one really knows the staff.
- Be insincere: People sense when someone isn’t being authentic. Whether it’s on a stage or on social media, most people have a pretty sensitive authenticity meter. It pings when they detect someone being fake. As you spend time with people, be comfortable being you. This is tough for ministers.
- Ignore technology: Technology doesn’t replace relationships; it supports them. It’s why grandparents FaceTime their grandkids. Ignoring technology means you miss opportunities to make connections with people in your church.
We are looking for ways to stay connected with church members this Winter and Scripture points to the need for connection time and again. I’m especially burdened by the Message wording of Romans 12:4-5, “In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body.” Yet, in our humanity when we struggle with something or are insecure in ourselves we are compelled to withdraw from the Body Of Christ and those to whom we belong.
We all have done it and we will probably have those tendencies in the future. But, the great news about being personally known and connected is that when one person seems to drift from the group, his lack of presence is noticed and missed and he is then pursued with love to get back on track and plugged in. Many people around us are lonely and in need of a genuine connection and then the work begins to maintain and grow that connection.
We need to recognize that being known and connected to a community is always part of God’s plan. If we see people as God sees them (or as close as we think He might see them) we would be intentional and full of compassion. It starts easily enough when you are first introduced to someone. It’s believed that if you say a new name three times in that meeting, you’ll be more apt to remember it the next time you get together. Isn’t it comforting to see someone at the grocery store who you met last week briefly in the schoolyard and you are called by name? It becomes evident to you- in that split second of a moment- that they intentionally set out to know you. Be that person. Be deliberate about getting to know people personally and connecting them to the active body of Christ.
Bringing your attention to what not to do hopefully will help you creatively think of what to do. Another blog will be soon shared with thoughts about some next action steps to take when there are so many people in your church and connecting personally with them feels overwhelming. Until then, we can pray for clear direction on how to prioritize the need to connect and that you and your staff will be stirred with the genuine desire to do so. Pray that congregants will also be ready to step forward. My wife often thanks the Lord for how He is moving in ways we see and those we don’t- so let’s pray and agree on how He mysteriously and purposefully moves as this is going to be a continual team effort.
People follow who they know. As a ministry leader, they look to you for vision, spiritual direction, and biblical teaching. But a large church creates more demands on your time and more people to meet. This latest resource, How to Connect Personally When You Can’t Know Everyone along with the other guides in the Know and Grow: Solutions to Large Church Problems Series, show paths you and your team can follow. And, to make it even easier and so you don’t miss any of our Church Growth Resources, you can also receive our ministry blog posts straight to your inbox!
As the Vice President of Marketing for ACS Technologies’, John is responsible for Marketing’s overall corporate strategy and direction. Storyteller, promoter, problem solver to churches of all sizes and shapes. John has traveled the world working with prominent non-profit ministries. He also serves on the board of directors for Dayspring International.