About 35 years ago, the Journal of Community Psychology featured a landmark article by David McMillan and David Chavis outlining four foundational factors contributing to a sense of community. Since then, numerous studies and researchers have largely affirmed their findings.
These four critical factors are: (1) Membership, (2) Influence, (3) Integration and Fulfillment of Needs, and (4) Shared Emotional Connections. But two of them have an overwhelming percentage of that four-piece pie: Membership and Shared Emotional Connections. In some studies, their combined percentage is as much as 80% of the equation. Stunning.
I would suggest leadership focus on those two by thinking circumspectly and strategically. And mostly because life as it is now isn’t going to change as quickly as we all hoped.
So let’s unpack these two factors.
First, Membership has to do with a sense of belonging. There’s clarity around what it takes to be a part of this community and the shared sense of sacrifice. It’s not just signing your name on a piece of paper or transferring your membership from some other church. There’s a deep identification with the group and a feeling of investment at a personal level.
The question here is: how are you instilling and encouraging “belonging” in your church? Do your people share a feeling of sacrifice? Have you given them real opportunities to invest in the mission of the church?
The second biggest factor was Shared Emotional Connections. This has to do with people feeling a sense of common history and experiences together. They have unique bonds based on goal-achievement, tasking together, and sharing risks as a community…all rooted in a deep spirituality.
So how would you rate your church—your leadership—in cultivating and emphasizing your people of that? Are you reminding your church of past wins…and building new ones?
As a simple example, that was one of the reasons humor was so important to us at the church I served at for nearly thirty years; it was intentionally incorporated. There’s something powerful about laughing together that lowered defenses for new people. It’s the reason why watching a comedy in crowded theater is much more fun than watching it alone. Or as C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
Real community doesn't just happen. It takes intentional and systematized effort.
And it may be the most important thing you focus on in these polarized times.
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES