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4 Ways to Make Relationships Matter

Circles Better Than Rows

Do you create a compelling place that people want to return to the next week?

If environments are the way we communicate atmosphere and expectations, then relationships are the words and voice that keep people from disconnecting from us. And the connected will return to our churches. In our efforts to create amazing environments we can’t forget that it’s the people connecting with people who communicate the Gospel. It’s people in the parking lot, people at the doors, people in the classrooms, people in the auditorium, people on the stage, and people sitting next to other people. (That there may be the most times I’ve used the word people in a sentence, let’s hope you get the point.)

Relationships matter now more than ever. Here are 4 ways to ensure that you are putting value in the people and not the things:

1. Encourage Conversation. I’m not saying we should make introverts stand up and talk to strangers, but we should be encouraging our leaders to connect. Teach and train leaders to recognize the ‘lost in the building’ person, to seek out the parent that could use a hand, and to make face-to-face interactions with those that visit our churches. Make the first-time count for something.

2. Lead Small through Small Groups. I’m 100% convinced that circles are better than rows, and if you’re not creating small spaces for preschoolers, children, students, and adults to connect in circles…then you don’t think relationships matter. Make relationships matter by making community in circles the most valuable resource in your church.

3. Equip Leaders. Have you reminded leaders in these all important groups to make eye contact, to lean in when talking, and to remember someones name? Do you evaluate how your leaders connect with parents? with children? with visitors? It’s our job as a leader to communicate the value of building relationships. As a parent of 3, I cannot overstate how important it is for me that the leaders of my children connect with my children.  

4. Respect the Journey. Surface level relationships are still relationships. All relationships begin awkward, simple, and sometimes frustratingly slow. The journey towards community is a long one, but when we value the story being written over the chapters we’re living in, then we have a God-shaped view of what real relationships and community could be.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Nathan Roten · February 13, 2013

    Great post! We have been making this a priority in our Church this year. I am not a pastor, but am very active in a small group. When you are a part of a large Church, these elements are so crucial to help others connect on a deep level. Thanks for sharing! – Nathan Roten

  2. Dawn Farris · February 15, 2013

    Really great post, and a great reminder when we are tempted to focus on the compelling place more than the Compelling One we want people to connect with. I especially loved the statement, “I cannot overstate how important it is for me that the leaders of my children connect with my children.”–will be passing that on to my leaders this week.

    • Jonathan Cliff · February 28, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Dawn. It’s about the people, not the place the people meet; but at the same time the place the people meet is important too. It’s a big cycle! :)