My ebook The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities was recently released by Patheos Press, and in it, I argue that open conversation is essential for the health and flourishing of church communities and the places they inhabit.
Over the past week and the current week, I will be running a 10-part series that I am calling “Becoming Conversational” in which I offer suggestions for how churches might enrich the conversational life of their church communities. (Some of these ideas have been adapted from my earlier ebook, Growing Deeper in Our Church Communities, which is available for free download here.
#7) Connect Church Members who live in Close Proximity.
Many of our churches exist in places that are not places, such as many suburban areas. I think churches — and particularly churches that are learning to recover the practice of conversation — can play a key role helping to revitalizes places, but this process should begin in the life we share together. We cannot help our neighborhoods to be flourishing places, if we have not begun to share life and flourish together within our church communities.
If yours is a large church, it is particularly important that members be connected with others with whom they can share life on a daily basis, and to do so effectively members must live in close proximity (although, the definition of “close proximity” might vary depending on your context — from a matter of blocks for some urban churches to a matter of miles in some rural communities) Designate a time when members can gather in homes with other members who live close to them, perhaps canceling your church services on a Sunday evening. Find people who live near other church members and who would be willing to open their homes, and have people gather at the home closest to them. Have a conversation in each home about something that group of people could work on together that would help connect them to – and benefit – their neighbors. Find ways to encourage members to share life on a deeper level with others in your church who live close to them, perhaps even exploring the possibilities of moving to be closer to other sisters and brothers. These mini-communities of church members become new and vital places for conversation to unfold, as neighbors seek to discern what being faithful together looks like in their own ultra-local context.
Tomorrow: #8 Build Relationships with churches / missionaries around the globe.
Previous Post: #6 Spread the “Pastoral” Work of the Church Around.