As pastors and particularly Church Revitalizers or Replanters we struggle with providing a robust family experience with little to no resources. Ironically the Christian Community is what most often struggles to find playing time in our pursuit of winning that game. When a church leverages Christian Community correctly they can often see positive effects in the areas of discipleship, church growth, membership participation and even church discipline. If you have yet to read the first two post about Christian Community I would encourage you to do that now because they build on one another. Listed below are a few factors I would look at in the pursuit of fostering Christian Community within the church.
- Simplify. To put it bluntly, most often it is the pastor and or leadership that chokes out genuine community in a church. No one has time to live life together when they are running from committee meeting to luncheon, to service to volunteer rotation. Keep in mind that every person you are asking to spend at least an hour with their Small Group is also being asked to spend an hour volunteering in the church, a weekend with the disaster relief team, a night or two a month on the finance team and don’t forget men’s breakfast, women’s retreat and kid’s summer program. On top of all of that they work 40 or more hours, commute an hour each way and still have to mow the yard and try to get in work out. The best thing a pastor can do for his church is to simplify what they do. Stop with all of the programs and events and make the community aspect the second greatest emphasis just short of the corporate worship gathering. As my friend, Micah Fries, says not every church can be simple but every church can be simpler. As a point of encouragement simply readjust your expectations of people and then communicate those. At Sachse’s Church where I serve as pastor, we emphasize three disciplines every church member should have – corporate worship, small group and service. This means I do not expect everyone to be at the Wednesday evening Bible Study, I do not expect everyone to attend the Fourth of July event and I tell them this. I let them know that the supplemental things we do and offer are good but not necessary. I tell them if they are volunteering on a rotation in the nursery then that is great and they should feel no guilt to make sure they are at every clean day. Understanding that your people only have so much time and energy (that is vastly less than yours) should readjust what you try to do in the first place.
- Emphasize. We call our primarily community program – Small Groups. We talk about them regularly. We have regular events that are designed to emphasize the importance of being involved in a small group. We run our programs and events through the lense of the small group. Regularly when I preach the application portion of my sermons I will do so picturing the small group applying the message of the text together. Most of our small groups are sermon based discussions. This let’s us leverage the entire energy of the church collective toward the necessary discipline of Christian Community as opposed to it being an appendage that we just add to the long list of things you could be doing.
- Model. My previous post was all about this topic but it took for granted the idea that you as a pastor would be involved in a small group. I am troubled by how many pastors I know that are not in a small group. They tell people to do it, their wives might attend and their kids never miss but they are too busy to join in. My friend, if your sermon is not done by the hour before the worship gathering begins you have a time management issue. If you are too stressed by interaction with other people before you preach, then you are infact not preaching, you are performing. I have no issue with saying that it is vital for the pastor to be in a small group. Furthermore you should require all of your leadership to be in a small group. The church as a whole will not truly do what you do not. If they do, it is a serious sign of a lack of true health.
Most of what we do as revitalizers and replanters is toward the end goal of reaching more people and making disciples. These are good goals, however I am constantly amazed at how many pastors neglect the most effective means of doing achieving substantial movement in both goals. Plan through and begin next season simplifying, emphasizing and modeling Christian Community in the church life as a whole.
Published August 2, 2016