Monday, November 30, 2009

Failing at Community

Community seems to be such a buzzword. As a church we talk about getting people plugged into community, about creating community, fostering it, nourishing it, etc etc.

But we don't really know what it is.

We know that people should be a part of it. And that it's a "good" thing. But we (and sociology for that matter) can't define it. It's a vague concept.

The thing about community, to me, is that even if you can't really define it you will know it when you see it.

And you'll really notice the lack of community where it isn't.

In the contrived and forced environments. Where we get people to meet together who normally would not in an effort to foster relationships between them. People who have little in common, who don't really want to find things in common or share experiences. Who are focused on themselves and what they should be getting out of the experience, as opposed to what they're giving of themselves to others.

This sort of thing rarely develops into a healthy community.

What you get instead is a group of people who end up feeling frustrated at the lack of positive movement. People who wanted to gain friendships, to gain trusted people in their lives, who were made a promise and feel it hasn't been met. You get inorganic, stagnant meetings--instead of vibrant, natural friendships and sharing of life together.

The thing is, if you're going to attempt getting into community with other people--then give it all you've got.

  • Don't expect to put an hour or two into it weekly and get great results
  • Don't expect to sit back and be mentally "checked out" and have people respond differently to you than they would a plant
  • Don't think you can hold back from investing yourself and getting personal with others--without them doing the same
  • Don't think that "whatever will happen, will happen." That's a great way of making sure that nothing will.
  • Don't focus on what YOU will be getting out of it. Focus on what you can give.

Really, community (like a great many things) is what you make of it. And if you want to be a part of it, you'll have to put forth the lion's share of the work. And if for some reason you're not as "plugged in" with a community as you'd like, I don't think there are a great many places outside of yourself to point the blame.