People have a strong drive to feel included and respected. It is a basic human need for community and belonging built into all people—in families, in smaller groups, in large crowds. Even at a rock concert, people feel a strong drive to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Who feels they BELONG at your church?
Take a little time for some self-assessment. Who is feeling a sense of belonging at your church? Who is thriving? What demographic is engaging, participating, and growing? Those are the ones who feel like they belong.
Now consider– how can you expand that sense of belonging? How can you communicate: this is for YOU? You want to be sure that it’s not only people who are already there–and already involved–that feel like they belong. What about the people who have just walked in the door? How can you create an environment that communicates to them: You belong here.
3 ways to expand belonging
1. Create a welcoming environment
Consider your church from the point of view of a new person. You could even send in someone from out of town who knows nothing about your church, and see what kind of experience they had. Was it welcoming? Were they officially greeted? Did someone help them know where to go, what to do, how to get what they needed? Were they unofficially greeted… say by the people who happened to sit near them or passed them in the hall? Did people make conversation with them or invite them to anything? Consider how you can create an environment where people feel truly welcomed. The power of being welcomed is considerable in expanding belonging.
2. Acknowledge specific needs
There’s nothing like acknowledging very human problems and needs to help people breathe a sigh of relief and begin to feel like they could see themselves here. Simple things like signage that tells new people where to find things like the bathrooms and children’s ministries, or ensure there is access and space for people of all sizes or with mobility constraints. Even in the announcements, offering some ways to get involved that recognize and meet needs can go a long way: a grief group, a recovery group, support groups for parents… basically supportive types of groups for anyone help us all feel like it’s okay to not be perfect here. Because we can belong.
3. Branch out into new endeavors
Sometimes when you want to make a change at your church, you don’t need to try to get everybody to make that change. Rather, launch a new pilot group of some kind. Even if it’s something simple like, “We’re going to try a new type of small group. Who’s in?” Other groups can stay as they are, but by allowing people to opt into something new, you provide them with a chance to get in on the ground floor and take ownership instead of forever being the “new person.”
Belonging is powerful
Expand it as much as you can. We can experience God together in ways we cannot experience God alone. EVERYBODY is looking for the kind of community churches can offer when they’re healthy. We can offer a place where people feel they belong. We all feel a deep need to belong, but most of us don’t fully appreciate that need in others.
Many, many people are missing out on the important dynamic of experiencing God in community. How can we invite them in? Because they are longing for an experience of belonging. And when we live like Jesus taught us to live—and practice those behaviors in community—they produce a powerful sense of belonging for all those around us.
Creativity and Innovations Skill Builder- Does trying new things intimidate you? Even if you don’t consider yourself creative, you can still learn how to tap into your unique personal perspectives and views of the world and translate them into new ideas and concepts that might be useful to you and to others. Give it try!