Hey you! Yes, you, dear one. The one that never reads the Religious Education stuff ‘cause you don’t currently have a child or youth in your household. Can I ask you to please read this column? Thank you!
We have hundreds of cool things going on in our wonderful Heritage community every week — building community, nurturing souls, and helping create a better world. So much going on that sometimes it’s hard to add new things to our church calendar. Recently you might have picked up one of the green booklets, What’s Happening at Heritage, which contains 10 pages of listings and opportunities to connect with groups, opportunities to serve, and events in our church. Looking at this comprehensive but far from exhaustive resource, you might think that getting new people involved (or older members reconnected) would be easy. But it’s not easy.
Humans have a remarkable tendency to self-segregate. Once you’ve found a place where you feel like you belong, you tend to gravitate to that group and in many ways it becomes part of your identity.
One way that adult social connections naturally form is around children in different stages of growth — parents of preschoolers tend to congregate together, as do families with elementary school age children, middle-schoolers, etc. This is natural, well and good … up to a point.
Adults with children or youth in their households find they rarely have opportunities to interact socially with adults not currently in that life-stage. Caring for children and/or youth takes lots of energy, not to mention time and money, leaving few leftover resources to pursue other social connections. But these adults crave connections that don’t revolve around their children!
If your household doesn’t include children/youth, you’ve probably found different ways to be involved at church. You might have found a place to belong in the choir, or working for social justice, or in a Chalice Circle. This too is all natural, well and good … up to a point. When the social groups that include families with children don’t overlap with the social groups that don’t currently have children, silos can form and misunderstandings can easily happen.
Taken to the extreme, these silos can lead to individuals and/or groups feeling discounted or ignored. This theme came up within more than one of our recent “Growing Conversations” and deserves to be more thoroughly explored.
How do we become “One Church?” A place where connection is nurtured among people of all life stages? A place where groups appear authentically welcoming and open to new participants? There is no one right answer to that question and no single path to reach that goal. But the first step is to recognize the issue and create opportunities for further dialogue and renewed connections.
But… (I can hear you say) we have the green booklet now, not to mention the blurbs in the Order of Service or in the online announcement list. People can just look through that book (or in the OOS or online) and find a place to fit in.
If only it were that easy! Do you remember that last time you were the metaphorical “new kid on the block?” Remember hesitating to join in a conversation or go to a new activity? If you’re like most people, you probably waited for an invitation.
Ah, the power of an invitation! An invitation means that someone noticed you. An authentic invitation means that someone actively expressed an interest in getting to know you better. In general, people like to be invited to things. It makes them feel recognized and valued.
When was the last time you personally invited someone to join the choir? Or invited them to attend the Women’s Group, or the Social Justice Collaborative meeting, or Babes with Books? Or sat down to talk long enough to find out what really stirs their hearts or piques their interest?
Invite someone into your circle at church. Let’s break down those silos and become a church where everyone feels recognized, valued, and welcomed.