The Art of Sewing Tent Seams (1)
One of the challenges of the revitalizer is that of learning how to balance the needs of the legacy members with those of the new group of people who have begun attending the church. The legacy people will need to be informed early in the process that you will be working to build a second group of people who will likely connect with each other easier than with the established members. Once those new friendships have begun, the pastor and leaders will need to find ways to “stitch” together the two groups. (A later article will give you some ways to accomplish this task.)
The bond which exists between the legacy members is one that must be acknowledged in planning a strategy for revitalization. They have known each other for years, often watched each other’s children grow up, weathered relational storms in the church together, and have common stories they love to tell (which naturally leave the new person feeling like they do not belong). Their friendship limit is mostly maxed out and they have likely invited all of the family members and friends they know to visit the church over the years.
Consequently, new attenders are greeted warmly and in a friendly manner, but few of the established members will be motivated to initiate a new true friendship with the guests because they have the friends they need. This should not be condemned by the pastor, just acknowledged. The long-time members need help in understanding it is a healthy thing for the new attenders and members to find friends among their own group.
The guests’ connecting point is the church and they will begin to display some loyalty to the congregation because of their newfound friends. If nurtured by the pastor, the legacy folks will feel less threatened if they know there is a clear strategy for mingling the two groups.
Paul’s example of melding the Jewish believers together with the Gentile believers gives us some good ideas to incorporate in building our strategy for uniting two disparate groups in the church. (To be continued….)
Dr. Lynn Hardaway