Your church is called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples. But how do you do that in a culture that increasingly values convenience over community? So much of your ministry depends on relationships, and those take time and energy to develop. What happens when the people you’re called to reach aren’t willing to invest the time and energy it takes to create those connections?
It’s not that they don’t see the benefit of community . . . it’s that the perceived inconvenience of the commitment outweighs the perceived benefit. So they choose experiences that ask less of their time, energy, and attention.
This shift in values isn’t just affecting churches either. Businesses are constantly innovating to find more convenient ways to serve their customers—even if it comes at the cost of other things they value, like community. At last year’s Summit conference, Pastor Clay Scroggins of North Point Community Church shared how Starbucks—a company that prides itself in its ability to facilitate and impact community—has seen this shift as an opportunity rather than a problem.
Starbucks’ in-store sales plateaued, but that didn’t mean they sold less coffee. Capitalizing on convenience—through their mobile app, drive-through, and deliveries—allowed them to continue increasing sales even as people became less interested in spending time at their coffee shops.
Starbucks has made a huge investment in finding the most convenient way to deliver coffee. Churches that want to keep growing need to see how Americans’ desire for convenience can create new opportunities for the church too.
Create digital paths to community
You want every person who sets foot in your church to feel like they’re known, they belong, and they have a community. But there are a lot of barriers they have to overcome first.
At a weekend service it’s hard to get to know people unless you’re making an intentional effort to do so. And when you don’t know people, it can be extremely uncomfortable to put yourself out there and attend smaller, more intimate gatherings. It’s often a challenge just to find out what those opportunities are!
You can help remove and lessen these barriers with digital tools. First and foremost, your church app and website need to be hubs where people can learn more about events, small groups, ministries, and other opportunities to build relationships. If someone doesn’t have relationships with people at your church, who are they supposed to ask about these things?
But more than that, your app should make people feel like they’re part of your community. Filling your app with a steady stream of sermon videos, devotionals, articles, podcasts, events, and messages allows people to follow along and participate in your church even if they don’t know anyone.
Over time, these digital connection points increase people’s familiarity with your church and helps reassure them that they already belong, regardless of whether or not they’re part of a small group, class, or team. Additionally, you can use this connection point to educate people about the value of getting more involved in your church and communicate the specifics of what it looks like.
Little by little, your app and digital communications can smooth over the friction people feel when joining groups, events, and other church activities. You’re using a convenient experience (downloading and using an app) to lead into community.
Provide “entry-level” experiences
Small groups and ministry teams are often some of the best opportunities people have to build relationships, experience community, and grow closer to Christ through your church. But when you aren’t already part of a group like that, joining one can feel like a huge commitment.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can increase the convenience of participation. While it’s tough to plan your life around weekly ministry activities, people are a lot more willing to do this once they’ve experienced what it’s like and gained confidence that they can actually do it (and enjoy it).
That’s why churches are seeing a lot of success when they make it as convenient as possible to try serving on a team. Letting people sign up to observe or actually serve on a team before making a long-term commitment encourages them to take baby steps toward greater participation in your community.
What about small groups?
Small groups are a little different. While someone may feel ready to start building relationships and growing in their understanding of the Bible and Christian life, they may also have anxiety about whether or not they’ll fit in with a group. Joining one could feel like walking in on someone else’s family reunion, where everyone knows each other except for you!
Your church can set people at ease about small groups by creating opportunities for them to meet and get to know several different small group leaders. A small group leader meet-and-greet event can give people a greater sense of choice about which group they join; then when they go into their first actual meeting, there will already be someone who they know and who knows them.
As you simplify the steps people have to take to experience community, your church can continue growing even as our culture increasingly craves convenience.
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