I recently had a phone conversation with a woman from our congregation who said, “We’re thinking of leaving the church.”
“Tell me why,” I replied.
“Because we just haven’t been able to connect," she said. "The church is so big.”
I can’t argue with that point. Churches can get big. And I believe there truly are times when someone is called out to serve in a different capacity within the community. I’m not one to suggest there is one church that can meet the needs of an entire community. In fact, I truly believe it’s the whole church (all church organizations working together) that will meet the needs of a community because we are the functioning body of Christ.
However, I believe when people find themselves in search of a new church, many times it boils down to their desire to feel needed and known. I believe it roots back to what Solomon discovered at the end of his life. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, God reveals through Solomon that we are wired for community—to “do life” with others. Needed and known are the two major elements of community.
Think about it. Although the first time someone enters a church, they may be generally hesitant, at some point they want to be known. It’s why they seek out a Bible study, sign up for a team sport or participate in other events. It’s part of our internal wiring.
Being known taps into our need to identify with others. We are wired to do life together, not alone. It’s why we surround ourselves with friends. Even the most extreme introvert has a tight-knit group of friends that knows them like no other. I don’t know anyone that thrives in isolation. In fact, isolation can be a tool of the enemy, and he loves to get the in the way of life-giving community.
Another element to community is the innate desire to contribute. We’re wired in such a way that we want to feel needed—we desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s why we vote, why we recycle, why we participate in charity races … because our small contribution won’t solve the problem, but our small piece contributes to a greater whole that will make a difference, and there is an internal sense of satisfaction that comes with that.
As a church, our ability to help people feel needed and known will make or break our ability to pursue the vision God has for us. We cannot partner with God in His plan to reach our community unless we do it together. We cannot do it together unless we invite others to join us.
First, we help them feel known by providing an environment that allows them to be who they are, no masks required. Second, we help them feel needed by providing opportunities for them to use their talents, skills, experiences and gifts to contribute to the whole.
The remaining question is, How do we do this? How do we create an environment where people feel needed and known?
Great question. Let’s look at what’s available. Though there are so many other ways to draw others in toward feeling needed and known (i.e., women’s/men’s ministry events, Celebrate Recovery, small groups, local missions experiences, etc.), the weekend worship services are commonly our starting point. Even in the largest of churches, weekend worship services are a great opportunity to help people feel needed and known.
The 60-second conversation in the lobby can go far toward communicating to someone that you care about who they are and not the image they’re trying to present, and the 30-second invitation that you extend inviting another to join you as you serve helps them feel needed in your community. Helping people feel needed and known doesn’t take a lot of time on the weekends, but it does take some intentionality.
Imagine how many people we can engage in community when each of us determines to invest the time on the weekend to help one person feel needed and known.
Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn. For the original article, visit ginamcclain.com.