Belonging coming before believing

Back when Chris and I were on campus we had students over for dinner periodically. These were great times building into their lives and giving them a bigger picture of what it meant to be a Christian family.

On one occasion we had Jack over. We had a great time and he enjoyed our boys. The next time I saw him on campus, I asked him what he thought of the time. He said he had a great time, then he said something that took me a bit by surprise.
“I watched you like a hawk.”
“Why, what do you mean?”
“I wanted to see how you treated your wife and your kids.”

Though he was involved in our movement, Jack considered himself an agnostic. I think some of the hard feelings he had toward his strict disciplinarian dad projected onto the Lord. Jack had two other friends in our movement, both believers. He appreciated those friendships, but remained spiritually distant.

Some time ago, I wrote a tip called “Belonging on the way to believing.” I talked about some observations that a guest speaker at a roundtable made about the students we minister to today.

  1. Most non-believing young people come from broken families.
  2. Some come from three generations of divorce.
  3. Most have never had any significant spiritual nurture and many cannot remember ever being to a church.
  4. In these young people there is a persistent aching void where belonging to a family should be.
  5. For these young people, their network of friendships take the place of family.
  6. For people like this, coming to faith requires time and relationship, and belonging comes before believing.

“Belonging comes before believing.” In the past few weeks, I have heard different MTL’s talk about their efforts to create a place where nonbelievers can belong.

Last year, I passed on a great resource that Dan Flynn, MTL, and the team at James Madison University developed called “BlessBelongBelieve“. Their “plays” help create a sense of belonging while students explore what Christianity is all about and whether they will embrace it.

Some other helpful resources.

  1. Changing Evangelism
  2. Asking questions.
  3. Invite into your community.
  4. Using socials.
  5. Social graces.
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