Lego’s And the People Connection

You and I are kind of like a Lego. That’s right, the little toys that we all played with when we were kids. I sort of ‘borrowed’ this concept from Larry Osborne’s book, “Sticky Church“.

So we all have some of those little connectors. Some of us have a whole bunch of them and others have just a few. The connectors are there for a purpose. They represent the number of PEOPLE with whom we have the time, energy, and emotional bandwidth to connect with outside our immediate family. They represent friendships. Not the superficial kind. The friends that you have or are growing to trust. You spend time with them and communicate regularly. If you’re going through a tough time, they will likely be the ones you talk to for encouragement and support.

As Larry has so aptly pointed out in ‘Sticky Church‘, there are several problems with this scenario, especially as it relates to the church world. I’d like to explore some of them with you here. First, let’s define the most common types of ‘Lego’s’ in our church:

  • The Lonely Lego.
    I am pretty confident that most churches have more Lonely Lego’s than they realize. The Lonely Lego doesn’t have anyone connected to his connectors. He {or she} probably looks like he has friends, but the reality is that all of his friendships are superficial for one reason or another. If you were able to get him to honestly assess his friendship status, he would confess that he is genuinely lonely. Let me reiterate this one point about MOST Lonely Lego’s – they are usually NOT obvious. I’ve heard many stories about longstanding members who outwardly seem connected, but actually are not. I suspect a lot of Lonely Lego’s have unknowingly built emotional or physical barriers around themselves that greatly hinder the development of meaningful relationships. For example, he may be trying to find the ‘perfect’ friend, he may be too busy, or he may have convinced himself that nobody wants to be his friend.
  • The Full Lego.
    The Full Lego usually has the opposite problem. All of her connectors are full. She has developed several friendships either within or outside the church and she doesn’t have any remaining emotional or physical capacity to develop any others. Often, these people are quite content with their relationships and have no interest or desire in pursuing others. Several years ago an old friend of mine moved back into the area. I had been connected to this friend when he lived in the area more than a decade earlier. Upon his return I discovered my ‘connectors’ were already full. This created some tension between us since he assumed we would continue our friendship as it had left off.
  • The Open Lego.
    On occasion you’ll have people in your church who have been around for a while and who, for one reason or another, have a couple of connectors available. Perhaps one of her friends has recently moved away or maybe she has just entered a new phase of life allowing her more emotional bandwidth for relationships than in the past. Sometimes it can be obvious to an observer when someone has transitioned from a Full Lego to an Open Lego.
  • The New Lego.
    The New Lego represents the individual in your church who has only recently begun attending. He is often a guest or someone who has chosen to make your church his place of worship within the past year. Usually, the New Lego has a few available connectors and are hopeful that he will discover new friendships at church. Often, he is sorely disappointed. Nearly everyone he meets either SEEMS connected (Lonely Lego’s) or literally ARE connected (Full Lego’s). So he sticks around for a while until he finally decides to try filling his connectors elsewhere. ‘Elsewhere’ often ends up being among his unchurched relationships or at another church entirely.
I’m not going to attempt to postulate what percentage of each Lego type you have in your church; however, I am fairly confident that this “Lego” illustration clearly defines a genuine problem for you. The lonely aren’t getting any less lonely and your guests eventually walk out the back door looking for friends they couldn’t find at your church. I’m not going to offer solutions here, but I WOULD like to take the Lego analogy a little farther to see where it might lead in your thinking.
So, Your Options May Include:
  • Connect New Lego’s with other New Lego’s.
    This is probably the most obvious solution, but one which we often don’t think to do. If you can find ways to help your guests and newer attendees to connect with others who are also in that scenario, then it seems more likely they’ll find someone who has open ‘connectors’. EXAMPLE: Offer a Welcome Lunch & an eight week Small Group for Guests.
  • Connect Open or Lonely Lego’s with New Lego’s.
    If it becomes clear that a member has open connectors, consider finding ways to encourage relationships with newer attendees as well. EXAMPLE: Ask the member to lead/host a small group which includes several guests.
  • Connect Full Lego’s with New Lego’s.
    This can be a more difficult option, but is still worth considering. Often your Full Lego’s are some of your best leaders and most friendly people in the church. Usually, many of them possess a high loyalty to the church and are firmly rooted in the church’s DNA. Might there be a way to help New Lego’s build connections by utilizing Full Lego’s? EXAMPLE: Ask your members to consider leading a small group for guests once a year. Ensure that they understand that you aren’t expecting them to fill their already full Lego, but to step away from some of their longstanding relationships for a season in order to serve others in the church body.
Your turn. What do you think? How else might this analogy help us re-think relationships and community in the local church?
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