Three Reasons Why Restorative Practices Unifies a Church

Churches are described in many ways:  hospital for the soul, shelter for those in need, and bedrock for spiritual advice.  In addition to these, I’d like to add community.
From my experiences as a church administrator, consultant, and licensed trainer of restorative practices, I suggest three reasons why restorative practices unifies a church:  building community, restoring community, and sustaining community.

What is Restorative Practices?

Restorative Practices is the science of building and maintaining relationships and community while also restoring them when harm occurs.  This harm can be physical and emotional. For churches, I believe this even extends to spiritual harm.

Reason #1:  Building Community

Jesus’ declaration of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) establishes implications of how communities exist within churches. Churches are a community because of the peoples and cultures represented as well as the sense of coming together for common reasons and goals.  As with any community, churches include imperfect people, regardless of their best intentions and religious convictions. So while the Word of God is perfect and pure, we strive for perfection in Christ. As Christians, we are free from the penalty of sin through salvation (John 3:14-16), from the power of sin through ongoing sanctification (1 John 1:6-10), and will be free from the presence of sin through glorification (1 Peter 1:3–5).  This doesn’t mean we’re a perfect community.
How, then, does restorative practices help build community within churches?
Restorative practices unifies a church when people create a safe environment involving intentional and authentic relationships.  People don’t attend church to be verbally abused and talked down at. To be clear, the declaration of the Gospel through preaching and teaching isn’t always pleasant to hear but motives do matter.  After all, the Gospel means “good news,” not “feel-good news.”  Nevertheless, church attendees shouldn’t need spiritual boxing gloves to defend themselves from or to inflict hurt.

Reason #2:  Restoring Community

Church hurt is real. Both visitors and parishioners can easily describe times when they have felt uncomfortable or dismissed due to someone’s actions or tone of voice.  These experiences can forever scar personal relationships or views about how “the church” mistreated them.
Restorative practices speaks to the nature of brokenness based on the concept of shame which refers to the interruption of positive experiences.  In churches, the shame may be subtle. It looks and sounds like visitors being asked to stand during worship service (imagine if you’re an introvert) while hundreds of eyes gaze look at you.  Shame can also involve telling people “It’s been awhile since you’ve been here. Where have you been?” The person all ready knows about their inconsistent attendance: your comments, even if well-meaning, are yet another reminder.
Restorative practices also helps restore relationships in churches when people are encouraged to provide and respond to affective statements when harm occurs.  These statements often include the word “I” when describing their hurt, i.e. “I feel that you didn’t take my ministry seriously when you continually texted during the workshop rather than actively participating.”

Reason #3:  Sustaining Community

A unified church also benefits from restorative practices’ commitment to having on-going community-building.  When church leadership maximizes opportunities that promote high expectations and high support, members can enjoy the benefits of living its vision and mission statements. It’s an environment that fairly and consistently balances top-down and bottom-up initiatives and consistently includes fair process.  Clear expectations and accountability lead to productive and measurable Kingdom work. 

What Now? 

Restorative practices provides a framework for unifying a church through building, restoring, and sustaining community.  It’s not easy but those committed to it will realize the wisdom and application that can truly help transform a congregation.

For me, restorative practices isn’t a theory but a way of life that has tremendously transformed my understanding of and interactions with church members.  To learn more about restorative practices in churches, please review a more detailed description about my services hereI’m more than happy to share more about this transformative approach for churches.

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