Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Slip Through the Cracks

Back in "the day" when our congregation totaled less than 75 people (and that was after significant growth!) and we could all fit for worship in the little 100 seat room of our old building, I could tell you who was missing from church every Sunday. After all, when you stand up for 35-45 minutes looking over a group that small, it's not hard to do.

But things are different now. Bigger room. Multiple gatherings. Way more people. For a while I found it frustrating that I couldn't "keep up". But I'm a shepherd and part of my job is making sure all the sheep are in the fold safely. Yet, a few years ago I noticed that was no longer a possibility for me.

In a church that "services" several hundred each Sunday there is no way to know when someone is MIA right away. Unless, of course, we issued cards that everyone had to scan upon entry or something like that, and that's not going to happen. So there are people who unfortunately "slip through the cracks".

How can that be prevented? What can we do to make sure no one is slipping away and/or falling prey to the enemy. And if you think missing church isn't a sign of that, you're likely slipping away yourself.

1. Plug in to a Connection Group. In a small group there not only is Bible study, prayer and relationships, but there is also the caring kind of accountability we all need. In our church they're called Connection Groups. In other churches it might be a Sunday school class or Bible study group. But the small group is your first line of protection against becoming a has-been. Believers who are in groups are far less likely to slip away.

2. Get on an active Ministry Team. And by "active" I mean one that requires your service regularly. Many of our teams minister every Sunday. Your ministry team captain and fellow team mates are a second line of that loving accountability. Plus, ministry gives you and me the sense of fulfilling a call to something bigger than ourselves, and that's something we all need. Churches need to grow past the "20% does 80% of the work" stigma, too.

3. Check in if you have to check out. Let someone in your group or on your team know if you're going to be away for more than a Sunday or more than once in your group. It's easy to make a phone call or send an email. Just don't make everyone else wonder. And yes, they can call, too, but it's much more courteous and responsible for you to let others know. And on that thought, don't be shy about telling someone if you're having to miss due to an illness or surgery!

4. Exercise your spirit. By that I mean stay close to God through your own time reading and studying His Word and in prayer. God wants you to be in a close active relationship with other believers in the church. That's plastered all over the pages of the New Testament. But if we ignore time with Him, we will forget and put His will out of our minds, even finding ways to rationalize our disobedience.

5. Give someone permission to hold you accountable. Develop a friendship with another growing, maturing believer and give that person permission to ask you the tough questions about your own growth and relationships. By the way, you gain that kind of friend by being friendly. Don't sit around waiting for someone to become your friend. God is our great example of being the initiator in relationships. We love Him because He first loved us.

6. If you miss someone, do something. Every time someone comes up to me and says, "Rick, I haven't seen so and so for a long time. Where is he/she?" I want to say, (and often do), "Then why haven't you called him/her?". If you genuinely care, you'll act. You are the church. If we know the right thing to do and don't do it God calls it sin.

Having said all that, (if you want to play games with my mind), don't always sit in the same place on Sunday. Move around. Some of you are so predictable and regimented in your routine! But the positive benefit of doing that is that you'll be introduced to new worshippers. And that's always a good thing.


TerryKM said...

I like that.

David Wilson said...

Really good advice to all of us.

Thanks Rick

Andy Lawrenson said...

Good post Richard. I think #4 is a huge one. Most of the time when a person is slipping through the crack they become so focused on self that they even forget to focus on God and His Word.

Nancy said...

I sent Dale a copy of your blog entry today, and this was his reply: "I am alone, a long way off, and need the connection of our church family if only through emails or letters."

Please don't let those in our church family who are serving n other countries "slip through the cracks." For Dale everyday is the same. The one thing that they have to look forward to is Mail Call. Please take the time to send an email, card or a note. It would mean so much to Dale and others who are in the same position.