How do you build community in a small church?

John Koessler serves as chair of the department of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

When large churches try to build community, they create structures that approximate the experience of the small church. Bible studies, Sunday school classes, support groups all try to create a context where face-to-face relationships can develop. But what does the small church do to build community? Does it even need to be intentional in this area? Or is community automatic?

In the small church, community building takes place primarily through socializing and service, usually in that order. It's the people, not the programs, who attract those who worship in the small congregation. This is reflected in the way the small church carries out its ministry. Volunteers who staff ministries are as interested in the opportunity to spend time together as they are in getting the "work" of the ministry done. Nearly every activity of the small church has the flavor of a social event.

This social dynamic is often frustrating to pastors, because we tend to be task-oriented. We may feel that the church's ...

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