Is your church congregation more like an island or a wheel? Are you an isolated island who only connects with each other? Or are you a wheel with spokes reaching beyond your walls, expanding to your community? All of us logically know we should be more like a wheel but at times this feels hard to accomplish. We don’t even know where to start.
We have all (hopefully) had experiences with gatherings of individuals who worship in a variety of different spaces, and in various ways, and walked away feeling graciously welcomed. Sadly, this is not always the case and there are many who have been so hurt and disillusioned by religion that they would not even consider stepping foot in a church. As church attendance across all denominations declines and we look for ways to connect with our community, we must realize how important it is to get out of the sanctuary and to try to connect with our community, in the community. At Saint Luke you often hear our pastors emphasize “All are welcome, No exceptions,” but maybe we need to say that to our broader community and not just on Sunday mornings to those in the building?
In a passage in the book of Matthew (28: 16-20), Jesus tells his disciples, “Go and make disciples.” Jesus was known for being out and about in the community, talking to tax collectors, widows and Gentiles. In fact, I believe most of his sermons were on a hillside or in someone’s home, not in a temple or a religious space. He did not wait for them to join him in the building, but sought them in their unique spaces.
Here at Saint Luke we have decided to look for opportunities to connect with our community as a whole and individually. We will try harder to get out of our “bubble” and to discover new ways to reconnect with our neighbors in their spaces.
Here are 3 steps you can take to join in on this venture to be less like an island and more like a wheel…
1. Check out the article- "The Face of the Church is Changing” by Megan Brandsrud. Be inspired and start dreaming of leaving the island for more wheel like ways of living.
2. Be on the look out- Pay attention to your natural connections in the community, not with the goal of just inviting them to come in, but with eyes to see ways that you can share God’s love with them right where they are at. Remember, it’s not really about getting a welcoming message out about Saint Luke, but most importantly that with Jesus-“All are Welcome, No Exeptions.”
3. Have open arms- Even a wheel has a center hub. Gathering together in religious settings does have value and a place. Yet, if the goal is for others in the community to be able to easily join in, we must be sure that we are ready to welcome them with open arms. Say hello to someone new at service. Offer a tour to a guest. Invite a visitor over for coffee.
Lord, mold and shape us. Round our rough edges and mend our brokenness. Transform us, individually and as a church, until we reflect your heart to the world around us.
Special thanks to Jen Wright for her contributions to this post. Jen leads a Sunday morning adult group called, Table Talk. Table Talk is an adult discussion group about using our faith in everyday life.