How to develop your church into a healthy family:
Growing up, I have watched several TV sitcoms. For the most part, these sitcoms all have a level of dysfunction. Dr. Cliff Huxstable may have been able to keep some kind of health in his family, but most sitcoms had their Homer Simpson or Ray Romano who were leading their homes with great dysfunction (and some love, too, of course!).
In the life of our churches we need to begin to act more like families, but not the ones headed by Homer or Ray, even though we may have some pastors who act like those characters at times. We need to truly be a people who understand what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to let love and grace be the foundation of our church, which takes out the dysfunction. We want to act like a family of God, in the Kingdom of God. When churches are healthy, they function at a high level in serving and caring for others. Healthy churches are much more inviting. And people like to visit healthy churches.
How to know whether or not you are a healthy church family:
1. Does life together--Churches gather on Sunday morning and worship Jesus, but which is the most important day of the week? When--besides Sunday morning--do you gather? Do you create opportunities for your church family to get to know each other? Midweek services, studies, softball leagues, working at soup kitchens or other mission work, and small groups are ways of doing life together. The church should provide some opportunities, but then do you do life together with those you worship with? Do you go to ball games or community events with others from your church? These are great times where you can be an example to those in your community who may want to be a part of a loving church family. Doing life together needs to be focused on fun, missional, and caring for each other’s needs.
2. Eating together--As a pastor I have enjoyed many potlucks and carry-in meals. These meals are more than just showing off who can make the best cheesy potatoes--it is a time of fellowship. Jesus often did his preaching and discipleship over meals. This is healthy! We are a busy people, and studies show that in our own families, we often do not sit down to eat together. If we do this together as a church, it will allow for us to share food, converse, fellowship, all while doing something we all need to do to live!
3. Pray together--Some of the best church communities I have been a part of have been ones where prayer is at the center. If I know I always have someone praying for me, I am already that much better off. For a church to be healthy, there has to be lots of prayer. Prayer for each other, for the community, for the world, in small groups, praise and prayer gatherings, and praying for vision will form a healthy church family.
4. Not neglecting the NEW part of the family--too often we can treat people in our congregations like crazy Uncle Bill or ignore the new brother or sister in-law. We expect them to just jump in and figure out how the church works without help. They easily stop coming to the family reunion, (Sunday worship), because they do not feel part of the family. When new people walk into your church, they want what you have, so share it! Let them be part of it! Do not hesitate! It is what church is all about!
(I remember when my sister married her husband, my father did not hesitate to get him a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt. We are huge Cardinals fans and we did not want him to feel left out, just because he is from Cleveland. Get people on board quickly!)
I believe the church has to be a family, but one opposite of the world. We need to live in a healthy way together, so our church is always demonstrating the love of Jesus.