Getting to Know You

Creating caring church relationships

Helen is a pastor's wife in the Iowa-Missouri Conference. Her husband, Merle, is retired from the Trust Services Department.

Often church members meet on Sabbath, participate in Sabbath School and church, return home, and go through the entire week without seeing or interacting with other members. Of course this is not always the case, but so often there is a real need for creating an atmosphere of genuine friendship and fellowship in our churches. in order to do this we must first truly love and care for one another. Without this first ingredient all of our efforts toward real fellowship will fall short.

However, fellowship activities can also help members to get acquainted, providing fertile ground for love and caring to germinate.

Bonding all members together cannot be accomplished by any one activity or project. There are many different interests and needs within a church family, and if a project does not address all crucial needs, there will be those who will not be served. 

Small groups in many forms are often successful in meeting felt needs. Try taking a survey to determine your members' needs and skills and begin groups with those who have similar interests. And be it morning, noon, or night, meet at whatever time it takes to get that particular group of interest together.

I have listed below a few programs that I have had a part in implementing or know of that have been successful.

1. Prayer breakfast.

Have women in your church prepare a breakfast for the men, and the men prepare one for the women. In one church I know of the men held a prayer breakfast once a month, and afterwards those who could, did repair work for someone in need in the neighborhood or within the church family.

2. Ladies' Bible study group.

After study, enjoy doing a craft of your choice together.

3. Special skills classes.

Invite members with expe­rience in specialized areas to hold classes for those who would like to know more about those areas. Some of the requests for classes might include patching and darning, quilting, gardening, identifying edibles in the wild, and car repair.

4. Exercise and health classes.

5. Little league ball teams with­in your church family.

6. Baptism celebration.

Have friends or family of newly baptized members give a reception in their honor. Make it a very special occasion—one they will always remember.

7. New members as greeters.

Try using some of your new members as greeters. Older members won't be offended if the new members don't remember their names, and new members get acquainted very quickly in this setting.

8. "Secret Friends."

We tried this program a few years ago with good results. Two couples (this works best with adults only) were chosen in our congregation to start this project. These couples each chose another couple in the church to be secret friends with for about a month. Anonymous notes, gifts, and baked goods were sent once or twice a week. An invitation was also extended for the couple to hold open a certain night for a dinner or party where they would discover who their secret friends were. The aura of mystery made the "Secret Friends" plan a lot of fun, and it was especially intriguing since no one else in the church knew what was happening. On the given night each couple was picked up by their secret friends and taken to a special dinner (picnics, pizza and "dinners out" all work well). There they exchanged stories about things sent and received—what went through their minds when balloons were delivered or about elaborate schemes used to hide identities. Then all four couples chose four other adults or couples to repeat the procedure for another month. The process spreads fast—since the amount of people involved usually doubles each time—and creates lots of lasting friendships.

9. Family prayer groups.

One family prayed for a musical gift and on faith began singing together. They eventually began to witness to other churches with a music and testimony program, and are now strong pillars in our church.

10. Home parties.

Divide the church into groups according to age and have ge' togethers in several homes simultaneously.

11. Family fun night.

Have everyone meet at the church on a Saturday evening when the sun sets early (January works well). Along with table games we enjoy serving home­made raised doughnuts, apples, popcorn, and punch or fruit juice.

12. Festive Sabbaths.

Invite small groups into homes to enjoy the Sabbath together. In the winter you can enjoy music, Bible Pictionary, and group discussions, or watch spiritually helpful videos (some conferences have them available). In the warmer months you can enjoy God's other book—nature. Be prepared in the evening to enjoy a tailgate picnic together.

These are but a few of the many things that have been done to help create loving church family relationships. I hope they will be beneficial to you in your church family and that these suggestions will help you to develop more ideas of your own.

People outside our churches will never care how much we think of Christ until they know how much we care for each other. When one member rejoices, we should all rejoice. When one member weeps, we should all weep (1 Cor. 12:26). "Let there be such a bond of love between us that when you weep I taste salt."

Helen is a pastor's wife in the Iowa-Missouri Conference. Her husband, Merle, is retired from the Trust Services Department.