Fueling a Warm Community with Young People

This is an excerpt from an article by Jennifer A. Guerra Aldan. Originally posted here by the Fuller Youth Institute. 


Young people are looking for churches that do not just declare that they are “like family,” but those who put family into action. As you take a look at the ways people relate to one another here at Tallmadge Lutheran Church and in your own lives, pause and think about the rhythms and practices that fill your agenda. The first temptation will be to make warmth a program. It cannot be. This is good news, because it means we can begin to foster warmth in our congregation and in our lives today—no board meetings required. You have a part to play.  We are stronger together!


Below are four steps we can all take to foster warmth and nurture relationships:


1) Make a list of people to whom you can reach out across generations and differences.

Allow yourself to ponder these questions: 

  • Who can you ask to a meal? 
  • Who can you invite to go on a walk? 
  • Who can you be more intentional to connect with? 
  • Who would you like to learn from? 
  • Who have you always thought you would have so much in common with? 
  • Who lives a totally different reality than you do? 
  • Who looks like they might struggle to connect in your church?


As you think of who you can reach out to, pay attention to how many of those on your list are most like you. The invitation is not to form more touchpoints with more people who are like you, but to extend invitations to those who can both encourage and challenge you. 


2) Begin with extending an invitation. 

An invitation can be met with enthusiasm or rejection. If we are honest, it is the fear of rejection that keeps us from extending invitations over and over again. If that is your case, name that fear and extend when appropriate. If met with enthusiasm, follow through. If met with rejection, assess a better way to invite or think of others you can engage with. People probably do not reject invitations simply because they do not like you; the reasons are often more complex. It may not be the best season for them to engage in what you are asking for. 


3) Commit to fostering warmth. 

This will take a long time. Brace yourself for miscommunication, long games of phone tag, and last-minute cancelations. It is the commitment to this process that makes it worth it. Even when it is frustrating. 


It is so important to name that the people to whom we have an easier time committing are those who are most like us. As you continue to extend invitations, pay attention to the ones that feel most frustrating and complicated. Ask deeper questions as to why this may be happening, but do not abandon the posture and commitment. 


4) Celebrate the small wins.

When we are in the minutia of daily life, the small wins can pass us by too quickly without our recognition. Name milestones in vulnerability. Celebrate as trust is being built. Rejoice on the day you realize that you know how they take their coffee. 


I am excited to see what God can do through your involvement in creating a warm and welcoming family at Tallmadge Lutheran Church.  I am excited to build on the foundation of those who have welcomed you into our church family as we each do the same for the next round of individuals and families.

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