My husband and I have almost always attended a large church but have been able to find our people and make it feel like home. Our first church home was Oasis LA which at the time had an average service size of about 6000. Then we moved abroad and attended Hillsong in London which had a whopping 10k attendees per weekend across all campuses. We currently go to Hillsong Church in Phoenix which hosts just over 8k each week. It’s easy to get lost when there are so many faces in the crowd. In every church we were able to find friends and feel connected to what was happening. We learned a few tips that help to make a big church feel small.
What to do when you feel like a number at church.
Arrive Early, Stay Late.
It can be really tempting to sneak in after the first worship song and leave before the service ends. Afterall, you want to beat the brunch crowd right? If you want brunch...eat brunch. If you want a community in a huge mega church...hang around. The more you loiter in the lobby the more likely you are to make a connection. Hosts are typically your best bet to find out what’s happening in the life of the church. They are most available before the rush to get through the doors or after the mass exodus once service is dismissed. Try to have a meaningful conversation for three straight weeks before you decide if this is a place you can get plugged in or not.
Sit in the same spot each week.
How do you become a “regular” at a restaurant or bar? You go to the same place on the same day at nearly the same time consistently. Over time the hostesses, bartenders, and servers will start to recognize you and call you by name. The same is true in church. When you sit in the same spot you will begin to notice some similar faces week after week. This is a chance to get to know them. If you really want to up the game, after a few weeks invite some church “neighbors” to lunch!
Take a class.
If there is a new-to-church class or a bible study that sounds interesting, sign up! Even if you have already gone over similar material. Classes are perfect environments to find like minded individuals that are seeking the same thing or in the same seasons of life. Alex and I have found some of our greatest friends in life from our pre-marriage course we took. Over 14 years later and we are still regularly interacting.
Join a small group.
Most large churches have some version of a small group. We call ours “Connect Groups,” because that is what they are intended to do is to connect people. Find out how you can get in touch with a small group that sounds interesting. For example, if you are a new parent find out if there is a young families connect group? This is one of the best ways to help you not feel like a number at church. Eventually, you will know people, sit with them, go to lunch after service, celebrate with them etc.
If you want the quickest and probably the best thing to do when you feel like a number at church. Offer to volunteer on a team. Alex and I make a habit of serving in our church in whatever area there is a need. When we moved to each new church we introduced ourselves to hosts and asked how we can get involved serving. As soon as we got plugged into a team we were put in touch with leaders of the church. When you know the leaders of a church you no longer feel like a number. In addition to this benefit we also were some of the first to know when new events and opportunities were coming up in church life. When you serve you become an “insider”!
Big churches are intimidating. However, if you are willing to put yourself out there and get to know a few people a big church can begin to feel like your home. The beauty of a large church is that they have big numbers of people! It’s easier to find your tribe when there are more folks to choose from. Start by hanging out before and after service and sit in the same area for a few weeks. Try and find a small group or class to meet people in a similar season or geographic location to you. Lastly, and most importantly consider serving on a team. If you take these steps I am confident you will stop feeling like a number at church. How have you found your place in a a large church? What was the thing that helped you get plugged in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.