I’ve heard it said that one of the biggest frustrations with larger churches is the inability to keep up with one another. When there are multiple services and hundreds of people in and out of the building on a weekly basis, it is quite difficult. If you go to one service then you miss the people in the other service. There may be members of the church that you’ve never met or talked to. It becomes increasingly difficult for the pastors of the church to keep up with everyone. This type of church dynamic makes it easy for people to fall through the cracks.
This can be one of the most frustrating things for me as a pastor. There are some folks who are members of the church but don’t have family at the church. At some point they may get sick or have something happen, but given the fact that no one at the church had much connection to them, we might never hear about it. These people are eventually forgotten.
I got a call from a family wanting me to officiate the funeral of a man who was a member of our church. When I was a young minister, starting out in youth ministry at TBC, I began to walk around on Sunday mornings shaking peoples hands during the services. This man was one of those guys that I would always go talk to. I loved talking to him in the mornings, and he was always glad to greet me with a friendly handshake and talk about how things were going. He probably didn’t know how much that encouraged me. Along the way he became too sick to come to church and I’ll admit that it has been years since I’ve seen him. When he was sick and in the hospital, I was unaware. It wasn’t until his family called to ask me to do the funeral that I realized I’ve missed him. While I was happy to do the funeral, I was sad to know that I didn’t get to see him before he was gone.
So, what went wrong? I think the simple answer is he wasn’t connected. He came to the service, he was a member of the church, but he wasn’t connected to any group within the church that took care of him or knew where he was. In fact, I did the funeral and I was the only member of our church that showed up. He was a member here for nine years, yet without being connected to any other people he simply slipped through the cracks and was forgotten.
To be honest I hate this. I hate having someone who gets overlooked. This is why I believe that it is important for larger churches to have a small group ministry in place that exists as the arm of the church which reaches out to the members and connects them to the family.
Every member on the role of the church should be assigned to a small group. That small group should understand their purpose to be more than just meeting together for Bible study. That group should understand their purpose to be taking care of one another, both the physical and spiritual needs of the people who they are together with in their group. It’s far more practical for a small group to check on and know the whereabouts of 5 or 6 inactive people in their class than for one man (the pastor) to have to check on and know the whereabouts of 50 or 60.
It only makes sense that if this man had been connected to a group whose purpose was to reach out and take care of him, we would have known where he was, we would have known he was sick, and maybe we would have been there for him. Maybe some folks from the church would have attended his funeral. Maybe we could have reached out to some of his family. Maybe less people would fall through the cracks.
While I’m not angry at anyone, nor do I think we have any finger pointing to do in regards to the situation, I do believe this is just another sign of growing pains. The more we grow, the more we are going to have to adjust everything we do in order to meet the challenges that accompany growth. Our small groups have to become the means by which we stay connected. They have to be the way we keep others from getting lost in the crowd. They have to be our means of reaching out and building one another up in love.
It’s been said that “a problem well defined is a problem half solved.” Knowing our difficulties is only half the battle. The next step is dealing with them.