Church as an Extended Family

by John Wohlgemuth October 13, 2017

Every 4th of July weekend, my extended family gathers at a pond and cabin on family land outside of my hometown in Oklahoma. My grandfather has three brothers, and each family line attempts to attend this sweet time. This summer we had around sixty people.

I understand our family's experience may differ from many other families. But as I read Carey Nieuwhof's article on how things get harder in a church as it grows, this family gathering came to mind. He said this: "Human reality dictates we can only truly know about 5 people deeply and about 20 people well." Regardless if a church is made up of 100 or 1,000 people, you will not know everyone well (this highlights the importance of smaller groups and serving teams).

In this illustration, then, those few I know well in the church are like my immediate family (parents, siblings, etc.). They become the ones with whom I primarily spend time and call first when I need something. I approximate the rest of the church, then, to my extended family (second cousins, great uncles, etc.). You probably don't see them as often, and you don't know the details of their lives as well, but you still have that family connection, still love and support one another, and have a great time together. I would wear myself out trying to keep up with every member of an extended family of 60+, but I know and love my smaller circle very well.

Nieuwhof closes with this nugget: "The point of church is not for everyone to know everyone. The point is for everyone to be known." As a church gets bigger, it must get smaller. Members can cling to the feel of a small, immediate-family-style church, hindering any potential growth, or they can embrace the change demanded by reaching more people for Jesus and they can intimately know a few as they live life together and serve together. The extended family is an incredible blessing that can do more as a whole than they can do apart, but to be truly known one must cultivate the immediate family within a local church.

How have you seen this illustration to be true in your own life? In your church experience?