6 Tips on Joining a Church Community
Getting involved in a solid church is critical for a married couple.
God did not intend for marriage to be painfully endured. He intended it to be wonderfully enjoyed. It was not His plan that it would be a burden. He wants it to be a blessing. In order for us to experience maximum marriage satisfaction, it is essential that we grow to know each other.
Men and women are different in many ways. One area in particular is in the area of needs. Women have needs that are significantly different than those of men. How has God put a woman together? What does she need from a man?
In marriage, a man shows love to his wife by learning to meet seven basic needs that are the essence of who his wife is.
1) She needs a spiritual leader. A woman longs to follow a man of courage, conviction, commitment, compassion, and character. She wants a man who can be both steel and velvet. He can be a man’s man, and at the same time he can be gentle, tender, and approachable. Such a man will be a spiritual leader in the home. He will take the initiative in cultivating a spiritual environment for the family. He will be a capable and competent student of the Word of God, and he will live out a life founded on the Word of God. He’ll encourage and enable his wife to become a woman of God, to become more like Jesus, and he will take the lead in training their children in the things of the Lord.
2) She needs personal affirmation and appreciation. A man who loves a woman will praise her for personal attributes and qualities. He will extol her virtues as a wife, mother, and homemaker. He will also openly commend her in the presence of others as a marvelous mate, friend, lover, and companion. She will feel that to him, no one is more important in this world.
I remember telling men in a conference that one of the ways they show their wife appreciation is by picking up the phone and calling her during the day to see how she is doing. He is not to call to ask what came in the mail or what’s for supper! The following night a sweet young lady came up to me to tell me that her husband had obviously listened to what I had said the night before. She informed me that they had been married for a number of years and that her husband had never called her during the workday until that day. On this day he called her five times!
At first I was proud of the impression I had made on the man, but then a frightening thought entered my mind. I asked the lady, “Well, what did he say in each of those conversations?” She informed me that he said not much at all and that each conversation lasted no more than a minute. I began to apologize to her for the fact that things had not worked out so well. She quickly interrupted me, “Oh no, Dr. Akin, it was wonderful. Just the fact that he thought to call means everything. We can work on the words later! However, if he doesn’t call, we have nothing to work on.”
3) She needs personal affection and romance. Romance for a man means sex. He cannot imagine romance without having sex. Romance for a woman can mean lots of things, and sex may or may not be a part of it.
Romance is basically a game. It is a specific game. It is a game of “hide-and-go-seek.” She hides it and you seek it. If you find it, you will indeed agree that it’s good! On the other hand, if you don’t find it, you have one of two options. First, you can get nasty, mean, and bent out of shape and just be a miserable old grouch for the rest of your life. I have met a number of men just like that. Or second, you can remind yourself, it’s a game. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. But that’s the fun of playing the game.
But there’s a second part to this game, and this is not fair. However, we dealt long ago with the fact that some things aren’t fair; it’s just the way they are. Guys, you must understand. What is romantic to your wife, say, on Monday, may not necessarily be romantic on Tuesday. Indeed, women are adept at moving the romance on a regular basis, sometimes even hiding it in places where they can’t even find it. When you go searching for romance in the place where it used to be, but now you discover that it is no longer there, don’t be surprised if looking over your shoulder is the woman that God gave you, and with her eyes she says something like this, “Yes, my darling. I moved the romance. It’s somewhere else now. And I’m going to wait to see if you love me enough to look for it all over again.”
Now again, guys, you can get angry, mean, and bent out of shape, or you can remember, it’s a game. And games can be fun. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But it’s all a great game. Men, if you will approach romance in this way, not only will you find it fun, but you will also get better at it along the way.
4) She needs intimate conversation. A woman needs a husband who will talk with her at the feeling level (heart to heart). She needs a man who will listen to her thoughts about the events of her day with sensitivity, interest, and concern. Daily conversation with her conveys her husband’s desire to understand her. Wise men learn soon after marriage that women are masters of code language. They say what they mean and expect you to know what they mean, and the particular words really don’t matter. Unfortunately some men are simply ill prepared and a little dense at this point, and it often gets them into serious trouble.
5) She needs honesty and openness. A woman needs a man who will look into her eyes and, in love, tell her what he is really thinking. He will explain his plans and actions clearly and completely to her because he regards himself as responsible for her. He wants her to trust him and feel secure. He wants her to know how precious she is to him. Growing openness and honesty will always mark a marriage when a man loves a woman.
6) She needs stability and security. A man who loves a woman will firmly shoulder the responsibilities to house, feed, and clothe the family. He will provide and he will protect. He will never forget that he is the security hub of the family for both his wife and his children. She will be aware of his dependability, and as our text indicates, so will others. There will be no doubt as to where his devotion and commitments lie. They are with his wife and his children.
7) She needs family commitment. A woman longs to know that her man puts the family first. Such a man will commit his time and energy to the spiritual, moral, and intellectual development of the entire family, especially the children. For example, he will play with them, he will read the Bible to them, he will engage in sports with them, and he will take them on exciting and fun-filled outings. Such a man will not play the fool’s game of working long hours, trying to get ahead, while his spouse and children languish in neglect. No, a woman needs a man who is committed to the family. She needs a man who puts his wife and children right behind his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a man loves a woman, he makes it a life goal to meet seven basic needs of his wife. When a husband is committed in this way, and when a wife has the same commitment, it is not surprising that both husband and wife have a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts. This is the way God intended it from the beginning. As persons committed to God’s plan for marriage, we should settle for and expect nothing less.
Two years ago I moved to Denver. I was pursuing the woman who is now my wife. She was starting at Denver Seminary, pursuing a master's degree in counseling. I was working from home at the time, so finding work wouldn't be an issue.
I arrived in town on a Sunday, and that night EA and I took off to try the first church on our list. Being new to town, we ended up driving around for 30 minutes without any luck in finding it. We threw up our hands and gave up.
The next week I think we ended up perusing websites, and eventually decided not to go anywhere. We were 0-2.
The following Sunday we were determined. We drove downtown, and after finally finding a parking spot we showed up for our first Sunday morning service.
This particular church was celebrating its fifth birthday, and—this being our first visit—we sort of felt like we'd shown up in a living room with a bunch of people we didn't know as they reminisced over the past five years.
The next week we showed up at our current church—Park Church. About 30 minutes into the service, I leaned over to EA and said, "I think this is the one." She nodded her head in agreement.
After the service, we went to the quick “Introductions Meeting” and learned more about the church.
That Thursday night, we showed up at one of the many small groups happening around the city.
The next Sunday, I played bass guitar with the worship band.
The Sunday after that, we greeted folks as they walked in the door and we administered the elements during Communion.
And we haven't looked back.
I'm now a music deacon at Park Church, and EA is heavily involved with all things aesthetic … so when we want things to look dark and heavy on Good Friday, or full of life and light on Easter Sunday, EA is a
big part of making that happen.
Two years ago, we had no idea that we would end up buying a condo in Denver—that we would love this place and feel so committed to it. And joining a church community has been the driving force in that, without a doubt.
A church community is important
For some couples, especially when they show up in a new city, it's easy to go into isolation mode and not meet any new people. I want to strongly encourage you to avoid that temptation; getting involved in a solid church community is critical for any married couple.
Just last night, we had about 20 people over to our house for our small group meeting. After discussing the sermon, we broke into a guys' group and a girls' group. We talked about what's going on in our lives and prayed for each other.
One of the guys who has been showing up for about a month spoke up. "Last year was one of the darkest years of our lives," he said. "I was working nearly 80 hours a week, and my wife started having serious panic attacks. We've grown a lot, but I would never wish the year we had upon anyone."
But then he said that the past month had been one of the best months of their lives. "Since we started showing up here, my wife hasn't had a panic attack. And as I enter another year of teaching, I'm determined not to let it take me over like it did last year. And I need you guys to call me out if I stop showing up here."
Now you might be thinking, That would never happen to me! And you might be right. But I hope that story highlights the importance of having others around you who know and love you—who will keep you accountable and seek your best.
Here are a few tips on getting established in a new church, based on our experience:
1. Dive in and serve. There's a tendency among church-goers to consume and complain. Meaning, they sit in the pews and listen to the music and the preacher and then find things to nitpick about.
This is my charge to you: Don’t fall into that trap. Get involved. Serve. If you don't like something, find a way to respectfully bring it up with the leadership. And come to the meeting with a solution (that you can implement) in mind.
2. Show up consistently. Film director Woody Allen once said, "Seventy percent of success in life is showing up." The same could be said about building community at your church.
Make church a priority. If you have to schedule a flight home a little earlier to make it to church, do it. If you have to come home early from camping, do it. If you're tired and overwhelmed, go to church anyway. In fact, go because you're tired and overwhelmed. And if you go to a church where you can't show up tired and overwhelmed … it might be time to switch churches.
Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who
promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It's important that we are reminded of the gospel on a consistent basis—in the songs that we sing, the messages we hear, and the elements we consume.
So show up. On Sundays. To other events, too. It's important. So act like it!
3. Invite people into your home (even if you only have 600 square feet). Our first apartment was tiny—only 600 square feet. But definitely enough room to have a couple over for dinner.
Often, we'd have 10-20 folks over on the weekend, too. We found a way to make it work. And we all grew closer together because of it.
There are conversations that will happen in your home that will never occur at church. Inviting people over provides a context for them to open up and share their lives with you … and for you to do the same. It provides a context for you to not only get to know each other better, but also to speak truth to each other.
Having people over gives us the opportunity to live out the things we hear taught at church on Sunday. It gives us the opportunity to help each other transform into the type of people God wants us to be.
4. Invite friends to join you. Not long after moving to Denver, I started recruiting my friends from Arkansas to come join me. About nine months later, one of them came. Three months after that, two more moved.
And I'm working on another two.
If you have close friends who are able to relocate, ask them to come join your community. It's important to have close friends around, and it often makes building that community that much easier.
5. Do it even when you don’t want to. We host a small group on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. And without fail, every Tuesday at 4 p.m. I I start thinking, Man, I really don't want to have people over tonight. Maybe we should cancel.
And then, every Tuesday night at about 8:30, I start thinking, I'm so glad we did that. My soul is refreshed.
There will be days when you want to quit. To burrow into a hole and isolate yourself.
Resist the urge. Realize that community is hard, but community is good. As Hebrews 13:1-2 says,
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
6. Do it with others in mind. We have a newly-married couple in our small group. They first came to our group about a month before getting married. I still remember their first week back after the honeymoon.
When we split into groups of guys and girls for personal discussion and prayer, I asked this new husband how married life was treating him. He answered, "Not great. We had a huge fight yesterday. We're almost back to normal, but not quite there yet."
All the married guys in the group smiled knowingly, and I told him, "I'm really glad you're here, man." We did our best to speak truth into his life and pray for him. I think he left feeling encouraged.
Philippians 2:4 reminds us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Keep this in mind: If you're hosting a small group at your house, it's not primarily about you. It's about the folks showing up every week and what they're struggling with. It's about listening to them and praying with them.
It's not easy, but it's good.
Copyright © 2013 by James Lepine. Used with permission.