We are so caught up in the church with trying to close the proverbial backdoor that we often forget about the front door. No, I am not talking about the décor or look of your church entrance, so to speak. I am aiming at the culture people feel the millisecond they step foot into our communities.
How do people feel when they walk in? Answering this question may very well assist in the reduction of people that walk out feeling disconnected. Side note: fully closing the backdoor of our churches should never be the goal, as some people aren’t meant to stay with you in every season and some people will not help you go where God has called. Keep the backdoor cracked so those who are not committed to the vision have a way out. However, we must do a better job of both connecting and engaging with our communities.
At our church, The House Fort Worth, I have been extremely intentional on building a front door culture. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. This means every person that walks through our doors is going to be greeted warmly, most likely be offered a hug, and feel overwhelmingly loved throughout their experience. I just wrote a book called Love Changes Everything and I believe that when it comes to the spirit of our church and team, love absolutely will change everything about someone’s church experience.
In today’s times, people no longer want a cold, distant church experience. They long to belong. We must become okay with people belonging before behaving. People will want to be connected to your vision if they feel like you really care about them. Typically, this is where many engagement issues begin. If you are a part of a growing church, or really any church, you probably don’t know the name of every person in the building. So how do we care for people without knowing them? It’s all about the culture your team carries. And your team carries the culture of the pastor. The pastor does not tell others what the culture is, because he or she carries the culture. Culture is more caught than taught. So before we can come up with a system to better connect with the congregation, we need to be aware and alert of the culture of our churches.
The serve team does not dictate the culture. The worship band does not solely control the atmosphere. The congregation should not govern the climate of your church. It flows from the top down, from the pastor to the staff to the team to the people. Connection culture begins with the vision of the house. The vision of the house comes from the heart of its pastor. And if no one knows the heart or vision of the pastor, the culture will not be what it needs to be. Communicate vision, speak from the heart, build clear next steps, and be a living example.
Connection and engagement are not an accident nor a byproduct, it is a culture built with intentionality. One major way we stay highly engaged with our church community is through our small groups. Small groups are a simple next step for seasoned believers and newly saved alike. They encourage community and connection on weekdays which helps avoid the weekend warrior syndrome. The weekend warrior syndrome, as I call it, is where a church is only about the weekend and has no actionable movement for the community during the week. Thus, in return, the church is building people that are weekend warriors and only serve, engage and involve themselves within the confines of your service times. However, the weekend should be viewed as a great launching pad into clear next steps that take place outside of a Sunday, such as small groups.
Here are a few good questions to start with that will bring stronger connection with the community:
How do people feel about our church experience?
If I was a visitor at your church, would I feel welcome?
What is your follow-up strategy for visitors and newcomers?
What system is in place for your people to sign-up or get involved in the church?
Is it easy to get involved?
How simple or difficult is it to get into a small group?
Does your church have clear vision for connection?
What kind of spirit does your team carry?
What needs to change about your current church culture?
The way you need to answer these questions is honestly. Make this an open format with trusted people and team members as well. Oftentimes the greatest way to grow is by listening to honest feedback from trusted sources. Build the culture that encourages connection and engagement, add the systems necessary for the season you are in, and watch the community flourish.