It surprised me. I never thought I would feel disconnected from church, but I did. And now, after a few months of reflection, I think I may be learning something.
As a lead minister, my world revolves around the life of the church. But last summer gave me a whole different perspective. I was away from my responsibilities at firstChristian for twelve weeks and for three months I attended firstChristian every other Sunday. The other Sundays I visited other churches all over the Midwest. I was eager to learn what it was like to be a guest at other churches, but instead, I discovered something about being a regular attendee at firstChristian.
When I “gathered big” on Sundays at firstChristian I saw friends and familiar faces. People were very kind, and several asked how I was doing and what I’d been up to. In services, I engaged in singing with others and was challenged by the preaching. Still, Sunday alone didn’t feel like… enough.
It could be the big switch from being an insider of all insiders. Over the summer I wasn’t in staff meetings or making decisions. I didn’t go out for coffee with church leaders. But I think my feeling of being disconnected was from more than just my normal connections were put on hold.
So, I wondered, “What does it take to feel connected?” Is it being informed? I read Sunday’s Bulletin and the monthly E-Newsletter. I visited the website a couple of times. I’m not convinced that more information would help. I had all the information I needed to stay in the know, and still, I didn’t really feel very connected.
Could it be giving? I know it helps. Jesus said, “where your money is your heart will be also.” We continued our regular giving to the General Fund and to Change Your World. I dropped change in the buckets for Drop in the Bucket Sunday and we made special gifts to missions. We “gave something” and invested our dollars, but apparently, it takes something else, something more.
By mid-August I was rested, refreshed, refocused, and ready. I stepped back into my familiar world of church and the feeling of disconnection faded within a couple of weeks. Perhaps it was the office friendships, but I think it was something more.
I had coffee with several people from the church, including some of our Elders. I met with each of our staff to listen to how their summer went, what they were working on, and what was going on in their lives. I was serving the church again, side by side with others on a mission. Julie and I welcomed a weekly small group into our home. Some of them were friends we’ve known for years, others we were just getting to know. My sense of disconnectedness faded.
“I discovered that when it was up to me to stay connected with church, I did a pretty poor job of it. But in the process, I think I learned what it takes. It takes face to face time beyond Sunday mornings. It takes coffee meet ups, disc golf outings, and serving side by side. It takes initiative and inviting people out to dinner and into our living room. I feel connected when I’m engaged in relationships. And this doesn’t happen automatically, at least it didn’t for me over the summer.“
I’ve felt connected, and I’ve felt disconnected. Connected is better. It is worth the effort. I want that for you too and I want to make it a little easier for you. So, on Sundays the doors are open, and the coffee is on early. We are keeping the lights up and the music down before and after the services in the auditorium, so you can visit. We are giving time between services for you to connect in the lobby. We will keep encouraging you to find your fit and “serve somewhere” alongside others. We are going to keep providing opportunities for you to “group small” and keep the conversation going beyond Sunday morning. Occasionally we will have a “nametag Sunday” so you can more easily meet the people with whom you gather big. We will continue to offer and share reminders of opportunities to invite and welcome others with whom you already have relationships. In short, I want to help you to do better than I did.
Make 2019 a year of greater connection with your firstChristian family.
Invite someone to lunch. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Join a small group. Visit with people in the lobby on Sundays. Serve alongside others. Why? Because if you are like me,
being connected takes more than every other Sunday. It takes community.
This summer I experienced the saying, “a crowd is not a community.” But I also learned, with a little effort, community is possible, and community is what being connected feels like.
Onward and Upward,