Once a year we run a newcomer’s class - ‘Belonging to the Church.’ In it we cover our Episcopal Church history, our liturgy, our views on baptism and communion - that kind of thing. At the end of the series I lay out five practices that are keys to belonging to the church.
As we continue to live into ‘Invite, Welcome, Connect’ as priorities for our church’s life these five keys seem increasingly important to me as a path to facilitating greater connection within our church family. They’re not new or vaguely radical, but they are critical.
The keys to belonging to the church are as follows:
- Have a Devotional Life
- Join a Small Group
Joining together regularly on Sunday to worship is critical to being a part of the church family. We worship principally to give God praise and worship and to orient ourselves towards him. However, we also worship together - and our shared worship is critical in defining us as a church family together. I strongly encourage people to build a regular Sunday pattern in their lives of turning up and joining in our corporate worship.
Corporate worship is the visible part of life in Christ. It’s the part of the iceberg that sits above the water. The most substantial part of our spiritual lives is unseen. A personal devotional life, where we choose to pray and read the scriptures day by day is critical to forming us as disciples of Christ and to orienting each day with Christ at the center of it.
When we financially give to support our common life as a church we learn to live into a lifestyle of generosity. More than that, it cements in our brains the fact that this is ‘my’ church - I am part of making it happen. Where our treasure is, there our heart is also.
We’re not called to follow Jesus as individuals but in community. There are ways of encouraging one another in faith other than through small groups, but small groups remain the most effective way that we have of connecting people in deep relationships. If a prayer triplet, or some other set of relationship is working for you then fine. Otherwise do think about connecting to others within our small group program - either as part of a single gender group or in a mixed group.
When we take a practical role in making Good Sam happen, it transforms us just as much as the ministries we serve in help to transform others. We really are the church when we serve alongside one another. Whether in Sunday ministries like teaching Sunday School, welcoming and greeting, serving midweek in the Food Closet, or taking advantage of getting involved in less regular activities like the Christmas Tree Sale; there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
None of these ‘keys’ are obligations that ‘must’ be attended to. Rather, they describe the practices of those who feel fully engaged in the life of Good Samaritan. As we consider becoming increasingly better at being Connected, and at helping to Connect one another - these keys describe what a well-connected member of the church looks like.