Excerpted with permission from 6 Tips on Joining a Church Community
Copyright © 2013 by James Lepine. All rights reserved.
Here are a few tips on getting established in a new church, based on our experience:
1. Dive in and serve. There’s a tendency among church-goers to consume and complain. Meaning, they sit in the pews and listen to the music and the preacher and then find things to nitpick about.
Don’t fall into that trap. Get involved. Serve. If you don’t like something, find a way to respectfully bring it up with the leadership. And come to the meeting with a solution (that you can implement) in mind.
2. Show up consistently. Make church a priority. If you have to schedule a flight home a little earlier to make it to church, do it. If you have to come home early from camping, do it. If you’re tired and overwhelmed, go to church anyway. In fact, go because you’re tired and overwhelmed. And if you go to a church where you can’t show up tired and overwhelmed … it might be time to switch churches.
3. Invite people into your home. There are conversations that will happen in your home that will never occur at church. Inviting people over provides a context for them to open up and share their lives with you … and for you to do the same. It provides a context for you to not only get to know each other better, but also to speak truth to each other.
4. Invite friends to join you. Not long after moving to Denver, I started recruiting my friends from Arkansas to come join me. About nine months later, one of them came. Then three months later, two more moved.
And I’m working on another two.
If you have close friends who are able to relocate, ask them to come join your community. It’s important to have close friends around, and it often makes building that community that much easier.
5. Do it even when you don’t want to. We host a small group on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. And without fail, every Tuesday at 4 p.m., I start thinking, Man, I really don’t want to have people over tonight. Maybe we should cancel.
And then, every Tuesday night at about 8:30, I start thinking, I’m so glad we did that. My soul is refreshed.
Realize that community is hard, but community is good. As Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
6. Do it with others in mind. We have a newly-married couple in our small group. They first came to our group about a month before getting married. I still remember their first week back after the honeymoon.
When we split into groups of guys and girls for personal discussion and prayer, I asked this new husband how married life was treating him. He answered, “Not great. We had a huge fight yesterday. We’re almost back to normal, but not quite there yet.”
All the married guys in the group smiled knowingly, and I told him, “I’m really glad you’re here, man.” We did our best to speak truth into his life and pray for him. I think he left feeling encouraged.
Philippians 2:4 reminds us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Keep this in mind: If you’re hosting a small group at your house, it’s not primarily about you. It’s about the folks showing up every week and what they’re struggling with. It’s about listening to them and praying with them.
It’s not easy, but it’s good.