The Power of Connection in Your Church
I know that I am dating myself, but I still remember the opening sequence in Cheers. I think one of the reasons that that show connected with so many people was that we are all looking for a place of belonging. On some level, we all want a place where we can be ourselves and be known. I think many of us are worried that if people REALLY knew us, that when we walked into the room the “NORM” would sound more like ‘Oh no! Here comes Norm. I can’t stand that guy,’ instead of the “NORM!” that we see in the show. When he walks into the bar, everyone shouts his name and you know they are saying ‘we’re glad you’re here! This is your place and you make it better by being here’. Even the song in the opening credits helps us know that we are welcome.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
The church is the place that this song should be describing. It is a big tent and all comers are welcome. But too often people feel left out, excluded, and even outright rejected. There are a small number of churches that do this with intention, but more often than not, if people are feeling left out, the church that they feel excluded from isn’t intending to send that message at all!
Helping people have a place to belong and be known is what successful churches do. We all have our junk. If we have to fix our mess before we are welcome, we will never feel safe or comfortable connecting. So, how can we create a place where people are confident that if they show up, we will be glad they came?
How are you welcoming people into the community? I visited a church once where the greeter pointed out ‘At our church, we show God gratitude for allowing us into his presence by dressing up a bit’. I guess she didn’t appreciate my jeans. Oh, and I never went back. On the other hand, I have visited churches that noticed I was new, thanked me for coming, followed up with me and invited me back. I felt like they were glad I showed up.
We all want to take a break from our worries. That is part of the reason our bars and movie theaters don’t have a problem filling up. At a church, if you want to lay your worries down, you need to be known and embraced. This means that we need to have empathetic people. Here is what that looks like:
There is a reason that cults, terrorist cells, and gangs all target disaffected youth to grow their ranks. They give voice and a sense of belonging to people who feel marginalized. As a church, if we want people to belong, the goal is to help people feel like insiders who have previously been outsiders. This might mean using less insider language, creating a clear path for people to engage, or taking the time to make sure that people know what is expected. The largest form of belonging comes from being known and listened to. Take the time to hear the stories of the people who walk through your doors and let them know that they are welcomed.
At aware3, we provide tools for people to connect with your church. Find out how mobile technology can help you increase connection.