How do you really build relationships? Even harder, how do you keep them? And what about a relationship to an institution, to a whole community?
I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions as we continue to work to integrate newer members to WES while deepening relationships with long-time members…not always the easiest balancing act! In fact, it can be pretty difficult for long-time folks to feel as though they don’t recognize everyone anymore, and just as difficult for newer folks to find their “way in” to a community where so many people already have deep bonds. And in a lot of ways, my job is to try to track how all of those members are doing.
Some of our “systems” are really ways for people to connect. Deepening Circles (our small groups that meet once or twice a month for a year together) and Affinity Groups (more casual groups that meet because of some shared identity, like Young@WES or People of Color or Aging with Intention) help people to build relationships, and they also help me to know how those people are doing. If I know someone is part of a Deepening Circle, or regularly attends an Affinity Group, I know that they have at least some connection within the community. And if they’re having a hard time in life, others in that Circle or Group might connect them to me for pastoral counseling if they’d like that, or encourage them to ask for support like casseroles or rides to the hospital. Neighborhoods sometimes act like that too, or even teams or committees.
But what about members whose main engagement at WES is attending platform? How can I tell if they are connecting–or for that matter, if they’re even coming to platform? We take attendance in our Sunday School, but not upstairs…so although we know how many people are there on a Sunday, we have no real way to know who is there.
Sometimes, that means that someone who regularly attends platform misses for many weeks in a row–and there’s nothing that triggers me to check in with them, to ask them if they’re doing okay or if they need anything.
So we’re trying a new system.
You may have noticed brightly colored plastic folders on the doors at WES, as you exit on Sunday morning. We’d love for you to drop your nametags in those folders as you leave, instead of replacing them on the nametag rack. That way, we know you’ve been to WES that day–we know you connected in with the community. And, we’ll be able to know if you suddenly stop coming, so that we can follow up and see if you’re okay, or if there’s anything you want to talk about. Of course, we’ll have the nametags backs on the nametag rack for you to pick up the next Sunday, thanks to an awesome volunteer.
I really hope you’ll participate with our nametag collection (it’s actually the exact system we use with visitors to WES, which is why we know it can be helpful!). And of course, you can also always just reach out to me–let me know how you’re doing, whether you’re feeling connected at WES or looking for more connection. It truly is one of the great pleasures of my job to get to talk with YOU, and it’s never a bother.
After all, relationships are at the heart of who we are. Thanks for helping us to tend to them ever more thoughtfully.