4 ways we can foster deeper church connections

I reread a book recently, Deep Church, by Jim Belcher. While he was talking about several things, I put them all in the category of this question: “How can I make my church experience a more connected one?”

It’s easy to hide in a large congregation. You can very easily get lost. People nod their heads to you and are cordial. However, people need deeper connections and more intimate fellowship than some churches may offer.

But, even in a small church people can become disconnected and lonely. Being smaller doesn’t automatically result in intimate friendship. And, of course we can’t be “best friends forever” with even the 250 people that may call our church their home church.

Church connections have to be intentional. Of course, if the church is composed of a few family groups that are intermarried, and, if there are no family feuds, church is great. We gather for worship, connect weekly, and maybe even eat Sunday dinner together.

But, it is possible to be in church and feel lonely and disconnected, especially if one or two of your friends leave the church for any reason.

How do we create, recreate, and maintain healthy connections in the church? Jim Belcher got me thinking about this again and I want to share four thoughts that were sparked by his book, Deep Church.

1. Church relationships have to be intentional. For instance, joining a Life Group can literally, jump-start your spiritual life

If you are feeling disconnected, be proactive in this. The best way to gain a friend is to be friendly. If not, the temptation is to assume that if you went to a larger church there would be more friendly people there and you would feel more connected. That is an illusion.

So, be intentional about reaching out. As we come to worship, be intent on introducing yourself to everyone you do not know. And, introduce new people to others.

2. Keep the focus of our spiritual life on the gospel of grace and forgiveness and on the work of the Kingdom of God

Avoid the inward focus on our own spirituality or on another’s spirituality. If we honestly look inside, we will find little of worth. If we get our eyes on others, we will come up with all sorts of reasons why that person should not be lifting up hands in worship, why this person isn’t fit to play the piano, or be on the outreach team. We all have baggage. We all need grace.

Before you know it, the two hours per week we spend together (with the goal of worship, fellowship and learning God’s word) will get eaten up with our minds racing around digging up all the dirt we can find to justify why we are in such a mess.

Keep God’s grace and forgiveness central when we come to worship. We are worshiping God “together.” Sundays are designed for corporate worship. Let God worry about the inner life of others. Don’t let someone else's faults hinder your worship. Keep your focus on grace.

3. When we come to worship we are God’s secret service

We are gathered for a weekly debriefing and equipping. Then, we are sent back out into the world to do the work of the Kingdom of God. We are, at our places of employment or influence, God’s way of impacting our city.

Our worship gatherings are meetings in which the Holy Spirit equips us to do God’s work in our city and in the world. The deeper we go in God, the deeper we get into God’s word, the deeper we allow the Holy Spirit to reach inside us, the more effective and less disconnected we will be. Become a deep worshiper.

4. Let’s model what we want to see in church

Don’t be stuck on the sidelines wanting to have friends and feeling disconnected. Let’s model what we want to see. Church is about community. We work hard together to create it.

Church is not a department store where we look for certain products for our personal consumption and then if we can’t find it there we look elsewhere.

Do you want to see more hospitality? Invite someone for coffee.

Do you wish to see people praying for one another in church? Pray for someone today.

Do you desire to feel connected? Connect with someone. Reach out to them. Be the model of what you want to see. What you want to see but do not see may be God’s way of prompting you towards being the solution.

But be on guard, the enemy will take that feeling of discontent and cause you to misread it and you may make errors of judgment.

Praying about things is important but prayer alone can be dangerous. Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and the first words he heard were the words of the devil. I’m always nervous when people make up their minds on things with “Well, I prayed about it.” Before, you make major decisions about church, first be a model of what you want to see in church.

Let's together aim for a deeper church with deeper connections to God and to one another.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Dr. Garry E. Milley is an ordained PAOC minister, author, and speaker.