Sadly, it's possible to attend the same church for years without developing any meaningful relationships. You sit near the same people every week, worshiping together without even learning each other's names.
If you're new to your church, it'd be nice to think that you'll simply build a community over time. But if you don't make an intentional effort, that may not happen. You don't have to be an extrovert to make connections with people at your church, but if you crave meaningful relationships, it's going to require a little work.
Thankfully, your church is probably already full of opportunities to get to know people. You just need to know what they are and make use of them.
Here are five things you can do to build community at your church.
1. Ask people questions
"Community" isn't something that happens all of a sudden. It takes time and consistency to grow. While weekend services don't always have a lot of opportunities for meaningful connection, they can offer the time and consistency you need to start relationships with the people around you, and you can build on them week to week.
When your pastor says to "greet someone around you," most people just talk to a friend or shake a stranger's hand and sit back down. It would be pretty uncomfortable to launch into a deep conversation with a stranger during a meet and greet, but it's perfectly natural to introduce yourself and learn someone's name or ask another basic question.
You can do the same in short discussions in the foyer. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the people you sit next to or frequently bump into. It's a baby step toward community. As you learn (and remember!) people's names and other details about them, it gives you building blocks to take your conversations further and learn more about each other when you run into each other again.
Who knows—as you introduce yourself to more people at your church, you may find yourself running into more people from church around town.
2. Make yourself available
As you talk to people at your church, you're bound to hear them share about things they could use help with. Maybe there's a big yard project they've been dreading, a test or event they're preparing for, or some home repair they're in the middle of dealing with. Especially when you don't know someone very well, it's easy to simply nod your way through these conversations and say, "I’m sorry," or start sharing about your own life.
But if you want to build community, these everyday conversations can reveal opportunities to deepen your relationships through service. It can be uncomfortable to offer help to someone you barely know, but people are generally more receptive to help from strangers who are part of their church.
Making yourself available is crucial if you want your relationships to progress beyond brief weekend meet and greets and post-service small talk.
3. Join a small group
Most churches have some sort of small groups. Whether your church calls them life groups, Bible studies, or something else, this is one of the best opportunities you have to build relationships with people at your church.
Whether there are thousands of people at your church or less than a hundred, a small group allows you to consistently spend time with the same handful of people and get to know each other. Your church's small groups might be designed to encourage you to share about your lives, or simply to talk about Scripture. Either way, the setting will help you have deep conversations with your fellow believers.
If your church doesn't have small groups, you can always start one. There are a lot of people longing for deeper connections, and they would jump at an opportunity to connect with others regularly. Talk to your church's leadership about their history with small groups. Is this something they might be interested in rolling out on a larger scale?
4. Volunteer on a ministry team
Next to small groups, ministry teams are one of the best opportunities your church gives you to build community. As you serve alongside other people who go to your church, you'll naturally get to know and care for each other. You will likely be encouraged to talk about things that are going on in your life and have opportunities to pray for each other, similar to how you might in a small group. By working together as a team to fulfill part of your church's mission, you'll also likely feel more connected to other ministry teams and staff at your church.
If you currently volunteer, then you can help foster community by inviting others to join you. Invite someone from church to visit a local nursing home with you and grab a quick bite beforehand. These are the kinds of shared experiences that foster meaningful relationships.
5. Pray for opportunities
If you want godly community, it helps to invite God into the equation. God desires for you to be connected to His body, and He knows what you need to grow and be a thriving member of His kingdom. Pray for God to reveal opportunities to deepen the relationships you have and develop new ones with people at your church. As you pray, you'll become more aware of the things you can do to build community, and God may send people your way, too.
Community doesn't just happen
True, meaningful community forms through relationships. Sometimes your church gives you a scaffolding to start new relationships, but that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to work at them and actively seek out opportunities to get to know people. God wants you to be an active part of a local church. And if you let Him, He can help you build a community of fellow believers.