Resound recently completed a branding and new website project for Camelback Bible Church where one goal was helping members of the congregation feel more connected. Here are some thoughts we had about connectedness and intimacy in churches as a result of this experience, though these ideas might apply to other communities as well.
Building Intimacy in Local Churches
Developing a strong sense of connectedness and togetherness within a church is growing extremely difficult. As a society, we tend to be more connected with our devices than with the real people behind the other side of the screen. Our interactions with technology tend to be more transactional than relational. This carries over into churches, where spending time with our brothers and sisters is being replaced by the cold, robotic, interrupt-driven tasks of cleaning up emails and clearing out those Facebook or iPhone notifications.
What’s this mean for a local church? It means that unity and intimacy, sincere relationships and community, aren’t just going to happen any more. They have to be intentionally and passionately pursued.
How can a local church build a genuine sense of intimacy among its congregation? Here are 3 things to focus on:
It hurts me to say it, but I spend more time with my email and my wifi connected devices than I do with my wife and kids. It isn’t pretty, but it’s the truth, and it’s probably become the new normal for most Americans like me. If I’m struggling with this within my own home, what chance does anyone have for connectedness within the context of a local church?
The crisis of a lack of intimacy in our churches is not due to a lack of quality time; it’s stemming from a lack of quantity time. How often are we putting the iPhone down and picking up the lives of others, both in our very own homes, but also in our local church? How often are we intentional about setting aside time to be engaged and fully present with a community group or a discipleship group?
Intimacy requires frequency. That means meeting with our brothers and sisters regularly, not just for a brief greeting and handshake on Sunday mornings, but throughout the week as well.
It’s awesome that we have the freedom in America to worship however we choose. But one of the things we’re increasingly choosing is to travel for miles and miles to the big church on the other side of town rather than the small church around the corner. Freeways are great and all, but when churches become regional and attract members from all over the state, it becomes even more challenging to forge close relationships with our brothers and sisters.
Since this isn’t likely to change anytime soon, members of a congregation need to be aware of what gets lost in the church commute, and to focus even more on reaching out to members of their church family located within shorter distances.
For example, my wife and I are blessed to have a family from our church that lives on our side of town, and they frequently babysit our kids and bring us amazing tamales (which is the definition of awesome). It’s important for church families to be close enough to each other that they can give each other hugs, high fives, and Mexican food. We need to see each other face to face, look each other in the eye, and have real conversations with each other on a regular basis.
If geography is becoming a roadblock, we need to choose to meet with the people closer to us.
Perhaps the most important and most difficult ingredient in developing intimacy and togetherness is the willingness to share what’s really going on in our lives and in our hearts. This doesn’t come naturally, and the awkwardness and discomfort that comes with being direct, candid, and truthful with one another can be too much to take. For most people, it’s easier to just suffer alone in the corner than to have to say what’s really going on. People who we’ve known for years, who may seem to have “perfect” lives, are often struggling in private, keeping things “bottled up” so that no one catches a hint that something is wrong. The local church needs to see this as a tragedy.
It’s critical that everyone have someone in their life who they can trust enough to love them and listen to the real thoughts and meditations of their heart. For most Christians, someone at church hopefully fills that role. Of course, this also means reciprocating and being a good listener. What’s really going on beneath the surface?
This takes some practice, but within the context of a local church, it’s of utmost importance that we are transparent and truthful with one another, even when it’s uncomfortable. Are we confessing sins to one another? Are we opening up not only with our closest friends, but also with those in our our community group? The truth is what sets us free.
Part of the mission of the local church is modeling the relational love of Christ here on earth in a tangible way. That’s why it is so important that they be united in love, in thought, and in deed. If we can focus on spending quantity time, living and serving within close proximity with each other, and transparently sharing our hearts with one another on a regular basis, our relationships will grow even in the midst of a wireless age.
(image credit – flickr user AdamLogan)