Many, if not most, churches employ something I call a "funnel strategy" for building community. The funnel strategy focuses on moving people from a large group (e.g. a weekend service) to small groups and is based on the premise that people will experience more community as they get "closer" to others.
It makes sense and is a critical part of a successful plan for building community. The problem comes when it becomes THE plan. If a funnel strategy constitutes the whole of a church's approach for creating community there can be some unhealthy side effects. Examples include: people feeling they are being pressured to get into a small group and/or people hearing the message that they are not really experiencing community in the church they have decided to call home, or that they are not considered an active member because they have not 'connected' in a small group.
The reality is that life-giving, biblical community is built from a strong sense of belonging. Meeting with a small group of people in close social proximity can be a first step to developing a greater sense of belonging for some, but it can be as inviting as medieval torture for others. That means our strategy for building community has to be more comprehensive. A healthy small group environment represents a laudable end goal and an enabling vehicle for some, but the master strategy needs to also identify alternative ways for others to take that first step to belonging and discover a greater sense of community.
Fortunately, God has graced some of our leading thinkers with fresh ideas on how to make that happen. For example, a book that has stirred up a lot of conversation in the small group community is The Search to Belong, by Joseph Myers, particularly chapter one. ...