reshared with kind permission from author Barry Voss.
An important and often unrecognized role of the church leader is to build community among those he or she leads. Just as Christ surrounded Himself with his disciples and lived in fellowship with them, we too as leaders must develop a Christian community among our people as well. We need to recognize that God desires that we work together in ministry, with each of us being a part of the Body of Christ. No person can do all of the work of the ministry alone. By developing a community of faithful believers we discover that together we are more powerful and productive than if we walk alone. Ministry work is also filled with disappointments, difficulties, and spiritual attacks. We need our brothers and sisters alongside of us to encourage us and support us, especially through the difficult times.
There are 4 major reasons why we should build community within our churches. First, building community is following Jesus’ example. Jesus gathered his 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-16) and continually taught and mentored them. Jesus also often had fellowship with His disciples and made it a big part of his ministry. Second, we need to develop a sense of belonging for our church members. They all desire to feel a part of the church and to participate in the life of the church according to their gifts and skills. They also desire to feel wanted or needed. Third, we should encourage fellowship among members so they build relationships with other church members. We all need others to love and support us and especially need a Christian brother or sister to turn to in times of trouble. Finally, we need to build community in order to create regular contact with our church members. Friendship can only develop with regular interaction. Loss of contact generally produces a loss of interest.
Why is building community in our churches so important? It’s because God’s church on earth is relational. We all have a relationship to our Lord as well as a relationship to each other as children of God. These relationships form the foundation of our Christian faith. We are called to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:37-40). Additionally, we continually need encouragement in our faith journey. None of us measures up to God’s standards (“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23) and we all struggle daily with sin (“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” – James 4:17). Faith is a process, not a destination. We are also the ‘Body’ of Christ where we are given an identity and sense of belonging (“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27). Together with one another we also have a defense against Satan’s attacks (“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12). Finally, we also need accountability in our faith. We need others to sometimes help us see our sin in order to correct and protect us. We also need the support and love of others during the trials we face in our lives.
So how exactly do we go about building community? Here are some steps to help us build a stronger community of believers in our churches:
1. First and foremost, we must focus on Christ. We should build on the cornerstone, which is Jesus, and remember that He is the common link, not the church itself. Jesus should be at the center of everything (“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” – Hebrews 3:1).
2. Develop and encourage relationships. Be a leader of leaders and set an example for others on how to build relationships. Be a “connector” by helping people build relationships with one another. Track member connections so it is possible to determine how people are connected to one another and who may be at risk of becoming disconnected (those with few or no connections).
3. Encourage teamwork. Organize teams to accomplish goals and consider putting people who are not connected together on a team to create more interaction and relationships. Assign projects that require people to seek others to help them and utilize team-building exercises and activities to facilitate that.
4. Utilize a small group ministry. Small groups will act like teams. They help build stronger and deeper relationships and provide a means for accountability and care.
5. Provide regular fellowship opportunities. It will create an environment for interaction and will keep people connected to each other. Remember that Jesus often broke bread with his disciples and ministered and taught during fellowship. We should follow His example!
Building Community within our churches is an important role of the church leader. It strengthens the ministry of the church and enables church members to have Christian relationships that support and encourage them in their faith. Without these relationships a church can easily fall apart or see its members disconnect from the Body of Christ.
We encourage all church leaders to pray for, and works towards, building a strong community and to keep track of how church members are connected to the church and to one another. Having such information will help church leaders spot disengaged members before they disconnect from the church. As I was often taught in my marketing career, it is always easier to keep a customer than to try and win them back!
(taken from chapter 5 of Barry Voss’s Management for Church Leaders™ Volume #2 Training Manual © 2010)