I recently took part in a leadership retreat with other directors from my company. During our time together, Chuck Peters, the director of kids’ ministry at Lifeway, said something I took note of. Afterwards, I approached Chuck and told him, “What you just said would make a great blog post!” With his permission and blessing, I’d like to share “3 N’s” that he spoke about. These 3 “N’s” are kinds of people we must always look to serve through our group ministries.
#1: The New
Every church has them – people who are new. My wife and I have been in this category. After serving three consecutive local churches as a consultant/part-time staff member, we have now visited churches in our area in search of a new church home. It’s a process that takes a lot of time (at least it has for us), and it’s not easy being “the new guy” or “the new couple.”
The one thing that new people need is for people in the church to show them biblical hospitality. What is that? Biblical hospitality can be defined as “treating strangers like they are friends.” We’ve been guests in groups that did a phenomenal job at showing biblical hospitality. You just can’t imagine how that makes a new person feel when people who have a longer-term relationship with the church reach out and make you feel welcomed and wanted.
The one thing I’ve learned about “the New” is that they typically don’t assimilate themselves. The New need church members to be proactively friendly and include them in conversations, fellowships, and other opportunities to connect relationally.
#2: The Needy
The church will always have needy people in it and around it – that’s a fact. The Needy are hoping that someone notices them and takes action to help. I love what took place in the early days of the church. Acts 2:42-47 gives us a glimpse of church and group life among the earliest believers. Zooming in on verse 45, it says, “They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Christians were so overjoyed at having their need for forgiveness met through a relationship with Christ that it spilled over into their daily lives. They held onto their possessions with a loose grip and met the physical needs of others. As they interacted with people who had needs, they no doubt shared why they were meeting their needs, and Jesus became the center of their conversations. “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (v.47). Gospel conversations took place as people’s physical needs were met. Conversations naturally turned to Jesus and how He could meet people’s greater needs – spiritual ones.
Today we must do two things to meet the needs of The Needy around us. First, a catalyst must arise. Needs won’t be met unless one of us sees a need and mobilizes others to meet it. Second, we cannot assume that others will help the person in need. Let’s assume that if we see the need, God intends for us to be the one to make sure that the need is met. We take on the role of catalyst.
#3: The Not-Connected
Similar to The New, the Not-Connected among us need friends. It’s great when they are guided to a friendly group, but what the Not-Connected really want to know is, “Can I find a new friend (or friends) in this group?” On our journey to find a new church home, Tammy and I visited a friendly Bible study group for over 2 months. We finally realized that although the group was friendly enough, we weren’t going to find new friends in it. It was a sad realization, but after months of trying to connect, we gave up. There were no invitations to have lunch, there were no fellowships to attend, and there were no day trips or movie nights, either. This reminded me of a truism in group ministry: “Programs don’t connect people. People connect people.”
The one thing that The Not-Connected need is invitations – they need invitations to connect relationally. That’s the journey that many people are on today, especially in a post-COVID world. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that man is alone…” God created us with a deep-seated need for each other, and this is something to remember, especially if you are a group leader or a group member. Assimilating people is everyone’s job.
I am thankful to my friend Chuck Peters for his wisdom and insight in kids’ ministry. Much of what he tells kids’ ministry leaders translates well into other areas of the church. I hope that you might see “the 3 N’s” more in the days ahead. The New, the Needy, and the Not-Connected are everywhere. Let’s make sure they know we see them, value them, and want them to connect with us in Jesus’ church.