Some of the content of this article is taken from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter ‘The Pastor’s Coach’ available at www.INJOY.com.
So we’re a “family church.” Sounds nice doesn’t it? But like its neighborhood namesake, a family church may not be as healthy as we’d like to think. Lots of families don’t get along well and don’t have healthy ways of dealing with their issues. Families often struggle with authority structures too, leaving one person dominant and the rest as subjects of his will.
Of course, when we say “family church” we mean that we all love each other and feel very connected. But that same feeling frequently gets in the way when someone wants to “join our family.” Newbies are not always easily received. Rather, they can find a gauntlet of expectation and the need to prove themselves before they are allowed into our inner circles. Hardly Great Commission thinking, but it rules many churches under 100.
• Change the perspective on how the church is perceived, from friendly family to focused fellowship.
Eight out of ten churches under a hundred (the two remaining are usually new church plants) are viewed as a “friendly family” and not a “focused fellowship.” Friendly is a good thing, but not if it prevents you from reaching new people and serving your community. Friendly families are just that, very close and connected, but closed to outsiders. A focused fellowship is still warm and friendly, but with a different priority. The focal point is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20.) The small church must still be itself, and why not enjoy the warmth of close relationships, but the shift is in the ultimate purpose for gathering. It is not for the sake of the existing relationships, but for the sake of the relationships, with Christ and others, that have not yet been formed.
The shift to a focused fellowship demands intentionality. We often must act our way into new ways of thinking. So we practice hospitality, perfect greeting strategies, and find as many ways as possible to take “outward-focused” steps. The church must begin acting like it expects and wants new friends before any will scale the mountain.
Remember, inward focus is a key reason for church decline. To break through this wall, we must be intentional in our actions, even if it means tampering with that family feeling.