Martin W. Bender
One of the challenges of congregational leadership is maintaining and developing a sense of connectedness among the membership. At a recent workshop I was giving as a part of our congregational development plan I was asked how we can ensure new attendees are integrated into the life of the congregation. It’s a great question all church leaders have to answer. This is the beginning of my answer.
Congregational Connectedness is the degree to which an individual is aligned with a congregation in terms of belief, belonging, and practice. My previous post begins the process of explaining these criteria and can be read here, but the short version is that belief equates to doctrine, belonging equates to self-identification, and practice equates to participation in congregational activities. Too easy, right?
In the diagram below we see the intersection of three circles. The orange circle represents belief, the pink circle belonging, and the blue circle practice. As people begin to be affiliated with a congregation they often will be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Greater congregational connectedness occurs when an individual moves from the outer edge toward the ABC area where the categories of belief, belonging, and practice intersect. This is where we as leaders endeavor to move all of our congregants.
(ABC – members, A – nominals, AB – Lapsed, B – Acquaintances, BC – friends, C – Traditionalists, AC – mystics)
Once individuals associated with the congregation are categorized within this system they can then be ministered to in their greatest area of need in order to move them toward membership where they have the greatest degree of congregational connectedness. This, of course, does not answer the question of how a congregation goes about moving people toward membership, but it does provide a framework from which ministries can be developed. Ministries that are explicitly created for the purpose of increasing congregational connectedness, thus improving the overall health of the congregation.
In my quest to develop a thorough theology of ministry this is where I currently am. Am I way off base or does this make sense? Hit me up in the comments with questions and criticisms.