Churches in the 21st century must strongly consider what type of community exists among your body of believers. Today’s church-goer wants to be a part of a church where people are real and genuine in their mission and service to the Lord. To overcome church barriers to unity and growth, an authentic community must be a high priority.
An authentic community of believers has many qualities, but none more important than being a safe place where members can be open, honest, and even vulnerable with each other. To have an authentic community also means being part of a group where relationships are important. Activities that help build those relationships among members well beyond the surface takes your community to a whole other level.
Here are a few ways to help members belong to an authentic community:
Be specific in your communication.
Churches are made up of many different groups of people. By targeting your communications, all of your people will feel important and included into the greater mission of the church. Let your members know why you are suggesting certain things or what you are hoping to achieve. The most prescriptive you are when communicating, the higher the chance of participation. This communication strategy should be all across the board and will help you overcome church barriers.
Free up and encourage your members to use their gifts.
Often times, churches can make it difficult on its members to serve. This is not true of the church that is purposeful about being authentic and genuine. Offer options for your volunteers to participate in different ways – this could be during Sunday church hours or even behind the scenes on weekdays. If you reach out to members the right way with the right offers, you will find people who are ready to step up and participate in many different ways. The result is an authentic community, which promotes discipleship and increases church engagement.
Really get to know your church members.
Every member wants to know their pastors and staff. A small investment from the pastor in knowing their membership pays huge dividends. Every member has needs from time to time; be there for your people when they need you most. Also, interacting with families on a social basis really makes a huge statement that you care about them. Church members are increasingly active on social media; pay attention to their status updates, good and bad. Be there for them when they need it most, or even when they don’t expect it. A friendly face goes a long way, no matter the circumstance. When church members know you genuinely care, they respond by being by present and support the church and you as their pastor.
Churches can talk about being authentic and genuine, but it doesn’t take long for a guest to figure out if that is true or not. The original N.T. church in Acts is a beautiful picture of unity in Christ and of an authentic community. (Acts 2:42-47) The test to see if you have an authentic community at your church is related to the number of people who show up to worship with you every Sunday. Larry Osborne (pastor and author) states, “If your church doesn’t feel authentic, people won’t invite their friends.” It all goes back to the environment you have created and how your current members feel about it. May you as pastor take the necessary steps toward building an authentic community that mirrors Christ and helps believers grow in relationships and in their faith in God.