Many Christians grow up in the same church from childhood to maturity and beyond. Having a “home church” can be great for a child, offering a place to return to as an adult and a place to call home when school, work, or their own family is unfriendly and maybe even ungodly.

As a young adult of 33 years I’ve had the great opportunity to land my church membership in many congregations both small and large—all of which have been different. What I’ve noticed, looking back, is that those churches that fellowshipped together are the ones that had the most impact on me spiritually, socially and interpersonally.

This makes sense to me because our relationship with others models a relationship with Christ and is a direct result of God’s need for relationships among us. We were created for this purpose! Fellowshipping together and with God is very important for Christians. It was for the new-church apostles (Acts 2:42), and it remains so in God’s church today.

Fellowship defined

Modern churches tend to define fellowship in one way: whatever happens in the fellowship hall! Potlucks, baby showers, wedding receptions, mid-week prayer meetings, and youth groups. So if your church doesn’t have a fellowship hall, does fellowship happen?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fellowship as many things, including companionship, company, and community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience.

Based on these definitions, are our churches truly fellowshipping together? Are we keeping companionable company with others in our church? Are they our friends? Do we share interests, activities, feelings and experiences—or do we hide our true interests, our past, our feelings? Are we maintaining equality in our fellowship? It seems fellowship is more complicated than planning a potluck.

Everyone’s a friend

When we arrived in Casper, Wyoming, in the summer of 2013, my husband and I were utterly alone. We were broke, we had no friends, and we had never been to a church with more than 10 pews. We were spiritually floundering when we made the 1,200-mile drive, and God knew exactly what we needed when we arrived.

Within a few days of our first Sabbath at the Casper Adventist Church, I was invited to meet with another mom at a local park for an afternoon picnic. When I arrived she was there early with about 10 other people, all with a potluck style picnic in mind. I made my first friends that day and our time living there was filled with events just like it. Some things were planned weeks in advance like Wyoming Winter Retreat and the annual barbecue and hayride at Mills Spring Ranch. Other things, like sledding parties and game nights, were thrown together on a Sabbath afternoon. You never knew what to expect or who would be attending, but it was always a great time and always rooted in friendly fellowship.

We moved away from Casper about three years later, but a friend tells me their annual events are still going strong. Some programs have gone by the wayside and new ones have begun and grown into something beautiful, forging bonds between members, reaching out to the community, and even forming mentorships among generations. The youth are mentored through boys and girls groups headed up by men and women in the congregation. These groups meet every few weeks for an activity or event.

The congregation also moves house to house for vespers each week. My friend Jesse calls this the most community-building event the church does because it allows members to open their homes to others, and those in attendance can bring any videos, studies or books they wish to discuss. It is an open format of sharing, learning and fellowship—and, of course, food.

Family fellowship

Is Casper Church’s recipe book of fellowship activities a one-size-fits-all solution for your church’s challenges? No. As Jesse says, the people and how they make you feel will determine the spiritual impact of the fellowship.

Some churches will break into families or factions, leaving outsiders to fend for themselves. This can be a problem in all sizes of congregations. Even our largest college and university churches have difficulty facilitating fellowship on a person-to-person level, despite having ample money for planning events. People can feel like they have no place at all, and if they don’t find community in a smaller group, they may never experience the type of spiritual growth biblical fellowship can create.

A small, tight-knit congregation is not without its issues either. My home church in Sikeston, Missouri, tries in vain to plan fellowship activities that make an impact on its members. The challenge is that the majority of the attending members are family—immediate or extended. Since we already spend time together, we often don’t go the extra mile to spend time in focused fellowship with other members.

However, I believe it’s my responsibility to include others in focused fellowship. Some ways I do that are inviting someone from church to a family birthday party and befriending the “new” person at church. There can be a lot of planning or a level of spontaneity that pulls off the usual layers of apprehension.


The more you invite others into your home, the less you will care that the furniture isn’t dusted or the floor isn’t mopped. When it comes to biblical fellowship, L-O-V-E is the trend. It’s not the hottest coffee shop, the newest Bible study guide, or a themed potluck. Just eating with other people creates bonds and helps us understand each other.

A small church means little money, so expensive events are out of the question. What we have tried to do is create experiences that will reach the needs of our own congregation while also serving the community. In our small church, this seems to work.

In simple terms, fellowship is showing love to one another, growing closer to God, and learning to love the way He loves.

If you’re unsure how to move forward with fellowship in your church, big or small, look at how you love your closest friends and family and ask yourself how you can replicate that with other church and community members.

Rachel Ashworth is a member of the Peace Point Chapel in Sikeston, Missouri, and a blogger for OUTLOOK magazine.

We dig deeper into church culture and creating healthy church communities in this month’s podcast with Pastor Tim Floyd and Rachel Ashworth.