7 ways to tell if your church is more about community than judgment

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There’s a distinct line between a church focused on community and one centered on judgment.

The key lies in the atmosphere. A judgmental church is more about rules and standards, while a community-focused church promotes love, acceptance, and togetherness.

Knowing the difference can help you find a place where you feel at home, rather than scrutinized.

So, how can you tell if your church is more about community than judgment? I’ve got seven tell-tale signs for you to look out for. Here’s a sneak peek into what you’ll be learning in this article.

1) Inclusivity is key

A significant sign that your church values community more than judgment lies in its approach to inclusivity.

Churches invested in building a community create an environment where everyone is welcomed, regardless of their backgrounds, life choices, or personal beliefs.

These churches understand the essence of the famous quote “Come as you are.” They extend open invitations to everyone, embracing diversity, and promoting a sense of belonging among their members.

A judgmental church, on the other hand, might make you feel like you have to attain a certain level of ‘righteousness’ or ‘holiness’ before you can truly belong. This can create an atmosphere of exclusion rather than inclusion.

So, if your church embraces everyone with open arms, chances are it’s more about fostering community than passing judgment.

Remember, genuine inclusivity is a hallmark of a community-oriented church. It means they value people for who they are and not what they should be.

2) Authentic relationships are nurtured

From my personal experience, a church that prioritizes community over judgment fosters genuine relationships among its members.

I remember when I first joined my current church. It was the warm, personal connections that made me feel immediately at home. From the moment I walked through the door, I was welcomed with open arms.

The church members didn’t just shake my hand and move on; they took the time to know me, not just my name but also my story. They showed genuine interest in my life and ensured I felt part of the community.

And this wasn’t a one-time thing. Over time, these relationships deepened and became a significant part of my life. There were numerous opportunities for fellowship, where we shared meals, swapped stories, and supported each other through life’s ups and downs.

In contrast, in previous churches I attended, there was a sense of superficiality to the relationships. They felt more like social obligations rather than genuine connections.

So if your church encourages authentic relationships, it’s a good sign it values community more than judgment.

3) There’s a focus on community outreach

Community-focused churches typically keep their doors open not just for their members, but also for those in the broader community. They actively engage in community outreach programs, providing support and resources to those in need.

Did you know that according to a study by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, nearly 80% of churches in America are involved in some form of community service? This could be anything from running a food bank, providing shelter for the homeless or organizing literacy classes.

Your church’s involvement in community outreach is a great way to determine its focus. If your church is more about helping others and making a difference in the local community, chances are it’s centered around community rather than judgment.

4) Open discussions are encouraged

Another indicator of a community-focused church is the openness to discussions. Churches that prioritize community understand the importance of dialogue, diverse perspectives, and respectful debates.

They provide platforms for members to voice their opinions, ask questions, and even express doubts. This could be in the form of Bible study groups, town hall meetings, or online forums.

In these spaces, no question is considered silly, and no opinion is dismissed outright. Instead, they are treated as opportunities to learn, grow and understand each other better.

On the contrary, judgmental churches might discourage open discussions and dissenting views. They might promote a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of approach.

So if your church encourages open discussions and values diverse opinions, it’s likely more about community than judgment.

5) The message is love, not fear

I recall a period in my life when I was struggling with personal issues. I felt lost, scared, and burdened by the weight of guilt. During this time, the message from my church was pivotal in shaping my outlook.

My church emphasized God’s love and grace, assuring me that I was loved unconditionally, despite my flaws and mistakes. This message of love was a beacon of hope that guided me through my darkest days.

Some churches, however, use fear and guilt to control their congregation. They focus on sin and punishment rather than forgiveness and redemption.

If your church’s messages leave you feeling loved and accepted rather than guilty and fearful, it is a strong indicator that your church prioritizes community over judgment.

6) The leadership is approachable

One key sign that a church values community is the approachability of its leaders. In a community-focused church, leaders are seen as guides and mentors, not distant figures on a pedestal.

They are open and accessible, ready to listen to the concerns of the members, and always willing to offer guidance and support. They understand that leadership is more about serving than ruling.

In contrast, in judgmental churches, leaders might be distant and unapproachable. They might create an atmosphere of hierarchy and authority that can alienate members.

So if your church leaders are approachable and humble, it’s a good sign your church is more about community than judgment.

7) Everyone has a place

The most telling sign of a community-focused church is that everyone has a place. There are no insiders or outsiders, only members of one big family.

Every individual, regardless of their age, race, profession, or social status, has a role to play in the church community. Whether it’s in the choir, the children’s ministry, the hospitality team, or simply being a supportive friend to others, everyone’s contribution is valued and appreciated.

This sense of belonging and unity is what truly sets a community-focused church apart from a judgmental one. If your church makes everyone feel like they belong and have a role to play, it’s undeniably more about community than judgment.

Final reflection: It’s about love

At the core of the Christian faith is a central commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34

This ethos of love and acceptance is the heartbeat of a community-focused church. It’s this love that breaks down walls, fosters inclusivity, nurtures relationships, encourages dialogue, and makes everyone feel valued.

When a church truly embodies this principle, it becomes more than just a place of worship; it transforms into a vibrant community where everyone is valued, loved, and accepted for who they are.

In essence, a community-oriented church mirrors the heart of its founder – Jesus Christ who was all about love, acceptance, and grace.

As you reflect on these seven signs, consider your own church community. Does it reflect this ethos of love? Is it more about community than judgment? The answers might just help you find your spiritual home.

Graeme Richards

Graeme Richards

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