Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the “Plus One” program of church involvement.
I don’t mean to sound like a bad infomercial. Here’s what I mean: In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.
This is far from everything a church member should do. We are talking about minimum requirements and baby steps. This is about how to get plugged in at a new church or how to get back on track after drifting away. This is for people who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. This is for the folks who should make a little more effort before slipping out the back door.
The idea is simple. First, be faithful in attending the Sunday morning worship service. Don’t miss a Sunday. Sure, you may miss a couple Sundays during the year because of illness. Vacation and business travel may take you away from your local congregation several other Sundays too. But keep these to a minimum. Don’t plan all your cottage getaways over the weekend so that you miss out on your own church (and perhaps church altogether) for most of the summer. Don’t let the kids’ activities crowd out Sunday services. (What did Joshua say? “If soccer be god then serve soccer, but as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Something like that.) Don’t let homework or football or too much rain or too much sun keep you from the gathering of God’s people for worship. Commit right now that Sunday morning is immovable. You go to church. Period.
Now, add one more thing.
When you meet people who feel disconnected from church, start with this question: Are you committed to worshiping with us every Sunday unless you are providentially hindered? If they say yes, then move on to “Plus One.” Is there at least one other activity in the life of the church in which you are consistently and wholeheartedly participating? Usually the answer is no. Most people who feel disconnected from church feel that way because they have not made the effort to connect consistently. This doesn’t mean churches don’t have to do more to care for senior saints, singles, those with special needs, or any number of other folks in the church. This doesn’t mean pastors can say (or think), “It’s all your fault.” Sometimes it precisely the pastor’s fault. But I find that most often–not always, but normally–people who want to get involved, find a way to get involved through the existing structures of the church.
That’s why I say, be faithful on Sunday morning, plus one more thing. Personally, I’m partial to the Sunday evening service. I think it’s the easiest, most historic, and one of the most biblical ways to really get to know your church. In most churches, the evening service (if they have one) is smaller, more informal, and contains elements of prayer and sharing that may not be as present on Sunday morning. Plus, the time after the service is usually less rushed and allows for more genuine fellowship.
If Sunday evening is not an option, join a small group. (I reiterate: these are baby steps. I hope people in our church will participate in Sunday evenings and small groups.) If your church doesn’t have formal small groups, you could still invite a group of friends over every other week for prayer and fellowship. If that’s too much right off the bat, find a good Sunday school class and go every week. Or join the choir. Or get involved with the youth group. Or sign up to be a greeter. Or go on the men’s retreat. Or join the outreach committee. Or take the leadership training course. Or come to the prayer meeting each week. Or teach a kids class. Or volunteer with a local ministry your church supports. Or do Meals onWheels. Or join the softball team. Or do the mid-week Bible study. You get the idea.
Large churches have hundreds of Plus One opportunities. Even small church will have plenty to choose from. Make Sunday morning your first priority. Then try one more thing and stick with it for at least six months. Maybe you’ll realize the church is not for you. Maybe you’ll still need help getting plugged in. Maybe you’ll find it’s time to sit down in person with a pastor or elder. But I suspect you will find that you feel more invested, you’ve made new friends, and you’re eager to see Plus One become Plus Two or Three.