Connecting the Gap Between Community and Congregation

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If you’ve been along for any length of time, you know that I love a good diagram.  Give me a whiteboard or a flipchart…or the back of a napkin…and I am right at home.  And one of the diagrams I frequently draw to explain various aspects of small group strategy is Saddleback’s concentric circles (if you’re not familiar with them, you can check out my article right here).

Today, though, I want to take just a moment and tease out an important but often overlooked aspect of the circles.  I call it the gap between community and congregation.  Very, very important stuff.  And it has everything to do with whether your design has a chance of connecting beyond the usual suspects.  Let me start with a very brief overview.

Concentric Circle Overview

The outermost circle is commonly labeled community.  You can think of it as people who’ve never been to your church.  It’s normally drawn as a circle.  In the drawing to the left, I’ve simply labeled everything outside of the crowd circle as community.

Just inside it is the circle labeled crowd.  Think of the crowd as those folks who consider your church to be their church, but they don’t come very often and they’re not very involved.  With me so far?  Finally, for the purpose of this illustration, there are three inner circles that are labeled congregation, committed and core.

The Gap Between Community and Congregation

What I want you to see today (and think about from now on) is the gap between the community and the congregation.  Specifically, I want you to begin to recognize the size of the gap.

A few ideas should help you see it the way I do.  For example, churches whose average adult attendance isn’t significantly different than their Easter or Christmas Eve attendance have a smaller gap between community and congregation.  The crowd is smaller.  Contrast that with churches like Woodlands Church or Parkview and note that Easter attendance is almost double the average attendance and you have a large gap between community and congregation.

What is the significance?  Why does it matter from a small group ministry standpoint?  The size of the gap between community and congregation has a lot to do with the importance of paying attention to the difference between what will connect an insider and what might interest an outsider or a new attendee.  You need to see that their interests will be different.  You need to see that it will take different strategies and different topics to connect them.  What works for the congregation might not work for the crowd.  And depending on the kind of church you’re in…the size of the crowd might actually rival the size of the congregation.

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