OR . . . maybe you’re in a church that is well-established. You’ve been a part of it for several years. You know a lot of names of church members and regular attenders, and you can even connect some of the names with faces you see in worship services. But you don’t really know those people. The church has lost the connection internally that allowed it to grow in the beginning and stay healthy.
In either kind of situation, maintaining or creating church harmony is a task that must be intentionally addressed on a consistent basis. So what kinds of factors are important to church harmony? It’s difficult to give an order to how church harmony is maintained or regained, and it may be that the factors involved in harmony have differing priorities depending on the particular situation. What follows are some factors to consider and apply as appropriate
STAFF CONNECTION — I remember hearing in seminary and at youth ministry conferences that a ministry of any kind should not be built on the personality of the minister involved. It would be nice if that were to be true, but it’s not what happens in the real world. The fact is, the ministering staff plays a significant role in attracting or distancing those looking for a place to worship and invest themselves. With that in mind, consider the following:
- Within the ministering and support staff — There needs to be connections that are encouraging, supportive, understanding and enjoyable. Healthy respect for each person’s calling and position on the staff with honest, open dialogue about cooperative efforts and differences are evidences of a healthy staff. Joy in ministering spills over to the rest of the church family, energizing the entire church.
- With church members — Ministering staff participation in a variety of age group events, regardless of area of responsibilities, endears a wide span of members and brings a feeling of connection with staff. This carries a lot of meaning for most people attending activities and encourages participation.
- With Community — Just as it is important to church members, it gives the community a connection to the church through the staff’s involvement with them.
INTERGENERATIONAL BONDS — When cliques develop within generations, younger adults and teens get the feeling of being excluded or unimportant. Teens may believe that older adults have nothing to offer because they’re out of touch with the latest fad. Consider getting generations together so there is mutual respect and appreciation.
- Expand “inner-generational” relationships to become intergenerational — Inner-generational relationships are the friendships within a generation which limits their connection to those outside their peer group. The typical result is a lack of appreciation for older and/or younger people. It’s possible that this is often a case of not knowing each other well enough to appreciate what each has to offer.
- Mixing and matching — It isn’t a real intergenerational project if the young adults are together on a project while the youth are together but elsewhere and the other adults are somewhere else. Blending age groups on the same team allows for a connection as they work side-by-side.
- Mentoring relationships — Frequently good parents with good kids complain that the other only listens to those outside the family, even though the same suggestions/observations may be made within the family. Mentoring is one way for connecting children or teens with mature adults.
CONGREGATIONAL PARTICIPATION — I’m not a fan of committees. I do, however, see the value of involving church members in the processes of church because it allows them to develop a sense of ownership of the church. It becomes “my” church.
- Involvement in church politics and polity — When members become part of the development of how the church functions and what the policies are, it becomes their church. Resentment at being ignored is averted when the next factor is addressed.
- Assurance of being heard — Knowing that you’re being heard is often more important than securing agreement. Getting the brush off by another person implies a lack of importance, and no one likes the resulting feeling.
CONFRONTING DISABLING SITUATIONS — Confrontation does not have to mean arguing to prove the other person/group wrong. It simply means pointing out the discrepancy between what is and what should be, or what was promised and what was delivered. For the health and harmony of the church there are a few issues that need to be addressed. These include, but are not limited to . . .
- Gossip — Although frequently dismissed as insignificant, gossip is a killer for church harmony. Whether a specific incident or gossip in general, it needs to be addressed with firm love.
- Exclusion — Failing to include individuals or groups is harmful. Jesus did not exclude anyone, even though those around Him did.
- Pre-judging others — Sometimes the problem of prejudice is not as obvious as what we’re used to. Gender inclusion, worship style preferences, musical tastes, previously mentioned intergenerational issues, and on and on it might go. Reasonable efforts to include others should be considered and addressed whenever possible.
Can all of these issues be addressed perfectly? Of course not. Our goal as Christians and in churches is to work constantly toward displaying God’s love in Church Harmony.