Today we’re participating in BlogSwap2010, which is a fancy sounding event name that I totally just made up.  Today’s post is courtesy of Mike Waddey, the creator of Tennessee Rural Church blog and the former college roommate of yours truly.  (If you give him five bucks, he’ll tell you great stories.  If I give him twenty, he’ll keep his fat mouth shut.)

Mike and I live in different worlds: I’m on staff at a church of 4,000 and he’s at a church of not quite that much.  We’re in a metroplex, he’s in a town with no stoplight.  I have three kids.  He has sixteen or so.  So we thought it would be fun to swap blogs for a day and give our readers a glimpse of the “other side.”

As you might guess, BlogSwap2010 involves a little ol’ post from little ol’ me on Mike’s blog.  Go over there to check it out.  Take it away, Waddster…

Small rural churches are heavy with the concept of family.   We still call people “Brother” and “Sister”.  We love singing hymns like “The Family of God” and “We are One in the Bond of Love”.  Sunday mornings sometimes even have a family reunion feel about them.  The process of moving from visitor to family member must be intentional and easy to follow.  We want them to become part of God’s family.  The concept of family in a small rural church is either a strong draw for Jesus or something that repulses people.  There are some families that you just don’t want to be a part of or imitate.  Conversely, there are families that inspire, encourage, and produce hope.   Is your church family repulsive, or does it point people to the Father?

I have been in mega churches, medium size churches, and very small churches, and have seen the family dynamic at work in each.  Some were creepy like The Addams Family.  Some were just a little too much like The Beverly Hillbillies and some were very Brady Bunch.   I was in one situation where the family resembled the mafia.  You were scared to join for fear that you might find out where the bodies were buried.  Do you guys remember the prime time drama Dallas?  Some church families thrive on drama.  Business meetings at these churches revolve around “who shot J.R.?”.  What is the first impression people have of your family?

When the family of God functions correctly people are drawn to the Father without being repulsed by the kids.  This is true in mega churches and small rural churches.  Just because a church has grown large doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a biblical family dynamic.  We constantly have to evaluate and tweak to make sure that we are healthy.  Small churches have to work especially hard at making sure the perception of ourselves matches God’s expectation of our church family.  Here are some questions you might want to ask:

1.  Does our family have a good reputation in the community? (be honest)  Ask someone outside your church what they think of your family.  Bring in an objective third party to evaluate your family.  You must be willing to take some honest and constructive criticism in order to foster health within your church.

2.  Does our family have a clear plan to welcome newcomers? Most small churches just assume that people feel welcome.  This assumption has left many visitors to your church without a handshake, without their questions being answered, and without a second visit to your church.

3.  Does our family have a plan to help new members utilize their gifts and reach their full potential within the community of believers? Every family needs to have a plan for their members advancement.  Every member needs to be taught, encouraged, and then sent.

4.  Does our family adequately care for its members? This concept has really begun to fall through the cracks.  Today churches are so outwardly focused that we have forgotten to love, encourage, and minister to one another.

The question is this:  Does my church family inspire others to love God, or does my church family bring reproach on the Father?  Small churches and mega churches are not really all that different.  We are all trying to love God and love others.  We are all, I pray, trying to do both of those things better today than we did yesterday.   Well, go be the family of God.  I have a sudden urge to watch The Addams Family.