Weird things about a new congregation (and how to make the most of them) Number 1....
"People here don't seem to know each other so well..."
A church where most people don’t know each other very well is odd. When a church has been up and running for some time, you have a ready made core of people who know each other really well (Sometimes really very well- like they’ve been in a small group together for 25 years). So when a newcomer arrives, they are fitting into a whole set of strong pre-existing relationships.
But when a congregation is brand-new, and has drawn quite widely from different people and groups, it’s not that straightforward. There will be some people who know each other very well from a previous church, or elsewhere. But there isn’t a sense that most people know most people. In fact most people don’t know many people very well at all!!
Jesus said ‘by this shall all people know you are my disciples, if you love one another’. Over time, that should be where every church is heading. But a new congregation is starting a long way back, and it will simply take time to begin to build up strong relationships.
Although it’s a weird situation for a church, it comes with some great opportunities too. Here are a few
1. It’s an easy environment for newcomers to feel welcome
A church that is full of lots of very long-established relationships can be quite a hard place for a newcomer to feel welcome. After all, when you’ve been coming for 3 weeks, it can be intimidating to watch on as people who’ve known each other for 25 years chat and banter away.
This isn’t a problem when everyone is new! This makes it an easy environment for new people to quickly feel part of things. Make the most of this unusual time to invite new people along!
2. It’s an easy environment to form new relationships
When someone has been at a church for a long time, it’s easy to have your group of friends, and never really go beyond a superficial acquaintance with anyone else. This can happen for various reasons. Busyness- you simply don’t have the time to invest in new relationships. Nervousness- it’s more comfortable talking with people you already know. Laziness- it is simply harder work to reach out and form new friendships.
So being part of a new congregation is a great opportunity to form new (and perhaps even surprising?) friendships. So make the most of this unusual time by getting to know new people!
3. It’s a great opportunity to remember what draws us together
Christians are drawn together by Jesus. Churches should be full of people who may be different in just about every other way, but who form a deep connection because of Jesus. Being in a church full of lots of people you don’t know very well, and perhaps seem quite different, is a brilliant opportunity to remember that.
So, yes, it’s weird.
But it’s brilliant too. Let’s pray we make the most of it.