The oddest thing happened to me at church a few weeks ago. After service, I was standing in a circle talking to my friends when all of the sudden, a complete stranger grabbed my arm and announced, “Hi! I’m Karen!” I turned around to find a petite, smiling redhead, about my age that I had definitely never seen before.
Karen proceeded to tell me how her and her husband were new to the area and were wondering how they could get plugged into a community group. I told them about my group and, what do you know, they ending up coming that week! Now Karen and Kyle are regular members of our group, active participants, and new friends.
I left church that day I met Karen thinking, “Man, why didn’t I just do that in college?” Instead of grabbing a random church member and asking how to get plugged in, I spent year after year visiting churches for a while and waiting for someone to come grab MY hand and say, “Come be a part of our group!”
While I agree that’s an ideal situation- for church members to recognize a visitor and try to immediately involve them, I also know we don’t live in a perfect world and often times it doesn’t work out that way. Visitors go unnoticed.
Even if you have attended a church for years now, maybe you are struggling to find community. Maybe you feel YOU go unnoticed.
After five years of moves and church changes, I have desired for community in church multiple times now. Every church situation is different, so there is no black and white answer. But after doing some wrong things for a while, I finally found a few things that helped me locate and build community at church. Hopefully they can help you out if you find yourself desiring community also:
1. Get Plugged into an Already Existing Class or Group
Revolutionary, I know. But a lot of church attendees never actually get the courage to go to a class or meet with a community group. Find out what your church already offers and see how you can get involved! And when you join the group for the first time, if you feel awkward, you are right where you’re supposed to be. Everyone is the newbie at some point. Jump in and embrace the awkward.
2. Start Initiating Community Yourself
I’ve written about this before, but I truly believe that our churches will grow in areas they are lacking when we stop waiting for others to change and start initiating the change ourselves (see this post). If community isn’t coming to you, go find it. After service, walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself. Who knows, maybe they will ask you out to lunch afterwards. Or better yet, ask them to lunch. I didn’t expect Karen to grab my arm when she did, but I’m certainly glad she chose to.
3. Once you Find a Group, Dig Deep
One of the biggest mistakes I think Christians today make is not going beyond the surface in community. In reality, a group of people doesn’t make community- a group of REAL people supporting each other makes a community. It’s a good desire to have community in the church- I mean, it’s what God desires for us. But to actually allow the church to be the church, we have to start getting real. We have to confess what is really happening in our lives and in our hearts. And we have to desire to help our brothers and sisters as they confess what is happening in their lives and hearts.
Whether it is helping someone paint their deck on a Saturday or walking them through the death of a child, real community is living transparently with one another, all while seeking the Lord. If you want to find a piece of heaven on earth, find a group of Christians at your church and start being real. It’s awkward. But it’s worth it.
And once you get a taste of it, you never want to go back.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. But let us encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Question: What is the hardest part about finding community at church? Any other suggestions?