A large church presents a host of new problems. One of the more uncomfortable problems, though, is figuring out how to connect with people when there are so many people present. As pastors, it’s a “problem” we’ve prayed for that our pews would be full and we’d outgrow our service so we need to add another one or two or even start a building fund. The days of knowing everyone’s name and personal conversion story are gone. All of the things you did and thrived in as a smaller church just don’t work anymore. In order to set a culture of connection, it has to start at the top.
This new season requires you to do new things. It means making some changes in your schedule and planning so you maintain personal connections with people beyond your staff and key leaders. The recognized ministry resource How to Connect Personally When You Can’t Know Everyone outlines three next steps to build relationships with people so you avoid becoming an isolated leader:
It’s easier to lead when you’re known.
John Maxwell once said, “A leader without followers is just out for a walk.” People will likely follow you because of a title or perceived authority. More people are likely to follow if they know the person leading.
Find out what’s going on among people.
Leading a church means casting a vision and working to fulfill that vision. It also means existing in the daily needs of people in your congregation and community. When you connect personally with people, you discover the challenges in their lives and in the community. As a result, you get more clarity in how to lead and serve people well.
Let’s face it: trials come. Difficulties arise. Tensions mount. In those challenging seasons of ministry, you need people who know you as a person, and not just someone on the platform. You need people to fight off any attacks on your behalf. The more people know you, the more advocates you have. This is a wonderful asset for you, your family, and your ministry leadership.
We know that people are the driving force of our ministry. As more people come, the people-related problems only grow. These issues may seem abundant. In reality, they’re often variations on a theme. In this case, problems that seem disconnected can be solved by strategically building relationships because that is where our beliefs intersect with the individual. This is where we are engaging outside the walls of the church and getting to know her people.
As a ministry leader, you want to serve all people well. Why bother trying to connect when you can’t possibly do it for everyone? The answer is this: you should do what you can so you engage with people where they are. Practically speaking: be a good and active listener, look for how God’s spirit works in others lives to encourage them, be intentional to develop a relationship in the community and not just within the church walls and corridors, and finally, humbly request church members to make an effort to connect with you. This will encourage spiritual accountability and connection along with spiritual growth to ultimately thwart the enemy’s plan to rob us of our relationship with Christ and each other.
Do you pray the Scriptures? When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, almost 30 years ago, we were guided to insert our names in the place of the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as this would be the foundation (and ultimate goal) for our marriage in the days, weeks, months, and years to come to reflect upon when we didn’t feel like being patient or kind and acted rudely. If I may, as we are on this connection journey together, I’ll pray Hebrews 3:13 for you and I’d like to encourage you to also pray this for your family, congregants, and staff as you connect with them, “But encourage ________ (insert name here) daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that ________ (insert name here) may not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
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.