Fighting the Weirdness with Normalness
“Oh, you’re a pastor, huh?”
The dreaded moment in the process of meeting a neighbor had arrived. Historically, this is the moment when he’ll start acting weird; the moment when he’ll start being very fake careful with his language and the moment when the opportunity for building a real friendship evaporates.
“Yeah. And me and some friends get up at the Kraken on Monday nights. Would you want to join us sometime?”
“You do?” (…awkward pause because a pastor just invited him to a bar…)
“…Yeah man, I’d be into that.”
Thank Jesus for rhythms. Especially the rhythm of going together. For me as a pastor, the way that our LifeGroup goes together is very helpful in letting people know “yeah, no, it’s ok. We’re normal.” We love Jesus, we’d like to get to know you, but no you don’t need to be freaked out.
The Value of a "Third Place"
Going together is a practical way of being church family in the midst of the city outside of our homes and Gatherings. We enjoy restaurants, bars, food and drink as well as each other in a visible setting. In these relaxed environments we both get to know each other in regular normal life and we also get to invite others in to a community environment with a very low energy barrier. Our conversation is peppered with Jesus as we cover a range of topics from our marriages and relationships to our jobs to parenting to sports to local news and movies.
For our LifeGroup, we’ve had two primary rhythms that have worked well in going together. For about a year and a half we’ve had some number of guys who meet together on Monday nights at a bar to enjoy each other, enjoy a beer and as a welcome place to invite friends in. Through this rhythm we’ve seen a number of guys who have hopped in and stayed for a while only to bounce out after a time. We’ve also seen a few guys move from Monday night at the bar into a growing relationship with Jesus and involvement in all aspects of our LifeGroup.
A number of months back, we started a new go together rhythm where one couple in our LifeGroup has opened their home to have backyard movie nights every other Friday when the weather is nice. This has been a super hospitable environment to invite in friends who don’t know about Jesus at all and start building relationship with them.
When it Doesn't Work...
I want to mention that we’ve tried a number of other go together rhythms that have not worked or lasted. Don’t feel tons of pressure that you have to nail it on the first try. My biggest encouragement would be pray, find something that works and is sustainable for at least a couple folks in your group and just get after it until it catches on. It’ll probably take a while. It almost definitely won’t work for everyone in the group. And in the long run Jesus will use it to help your group experience more shared life as family and give your group an easy on ramp for mission and inviting in new folks.