–noun, plural -ties.
a social group of any size whose members reside in aspecific locality, share government, and often have acommon cultural and historical heritage.
a locality inhabited by such a group.
a group of associated nations sharing common interests or acommon heritage: the community of Western europe.
Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a commonlife according to a rule.
Ecology . an assemblage of interacting populations occupyinga given area.
joint possession, enjoyment, liability, etc.: community ofproperty.
similar character; agreement; identity: community ofinterests.
the community, the public; society: the needs of thecommunity.
As you can see above, there are a few ways we can approach community and most often our vision of community revolves around people who have similar characteristics as ourselves. We want to share life with people who are like us.
For example, we grow up in a community of family and friends we have no choice over. We assume the social life our parents choose for us, attend organizations our parents choose for us and relate to a religion our parents choose for us. Therefore, we have no choice on community.
As we grow into young adults we begin to define our own sense of community; often choosing people, places and organizations that are in opposition to our roots. We try new friends, clubs and activities... therefore belonging to communities that are foreign to us.
Some of us go to college. I believe this is a time in life when many kids choose a community they are familiar with. They choose college based on friendships or religion or family history. I feel it is rare for a student to choose a college based on the perceived challenges or the social odds against themselves. They choose familiarity.
These kiddos graduate and seek ways to earn income. They seek a field they're educated in, or have knowledge of. Typically this income is earned in a city the individuals are familiar with. And these individuals create relationships with other people in the same economic bracket. Most often, people do not seek any type of community outside of what they already know.
Okay... so all of this being said, what is my point?!
So many of us only try new communities once in our lifetime. During the "rebellious" years... and even then, so many parents try and prevent this from happening by immersing their kids in private schools or home-schooling (not that private or home schooling is always a result of fear... it is often result of proper education). But how many of us grew up hearing our parents say, "I'm just afraid they'll get mixed up in the wrong crowd."?
Matt and I have moved a couple times and I have had the opportunity to reevaluate the term community as it applies to us. I have heard time and time again the following statement:
"We just need to find a community we fit into."
First and foremost a community is people you live amongst. Whether we like it or not, these are people who share the same water source, food source, electricity, gas and the air you breath. It's high time we accepted that we all live together... as a community. Our neighbors are our community.
Secondly, you can be friends with the people in your community. God calls us to love our neighbors. Let's put it in terms that are a bit more basic: God calls us to be kind, outgoing, social, warm, inclusive and tender with our neighbors. These people don't have to be like us. They can be a different religion or color. They can mow their lawn once a summer or every week... whatever. That doesn't mean we can't be in relationship with them.
Thirdly, it pains me that people search and high and low to find friendships with people who are like themselves. Does God not place us exactly where he wants us? And therefore, wouldn't he want us to be in relation with those directly around us? I am just as guilty as the next for trying to find friends who make me feel safe with myself. Most often you'll find that friendship right down the street. Or maybe, just maybe God will use a friendship to to develop parts of ourselves that do not feel safe.
Think about that!
Summary.... community is literally right in your lap. For the churches who try and "create community"... get out on the street and serve, relate and love the people who live there. Don't be a club. Start groups with your neighbors and encourage your members to stop patting each other on the back. Offer meals and supplies to neighbors who need them. Provide a warming shelter in your facilities for the cold winter months. Be a neighborhood refuge. This is what Christ would want.
To the women at home who are lonely... bake cookies once a week and take a walk around your neighborhood. Knock on doors (don't be shy!) and introduce yourself. Invite women into your home or families over for dinner. You'll find that you won't have one night that doesn't include a social event.
*I would be tickled pink if a lady came to my door bearing cookies and wanting to chit chat for a minute!
To the men who work hard and come home to find that they don't have any solid male friendships... invite your coworkers out for a beer after work. Or on Saturday ask a few neighbors to come over and help with projects... and promise pizza and soda! Organize a work party at another dudes' house in the neighborhood for next week. Shoot!... start up a morning Men's group for all of you to get together over coffee and doughnuts.
We live together... regardless if we want to admit it or not. This is our community. These are our neighbors. These are the people we should be sharing life with! Stop searching and go next door!
*I would love to hear your feedback regarding my thoughts. Please leave a comment and share with all of us your feelings regarding community.
When have you struggled with community? What tactics to you use to keep your neighbors connected? Do you disagree with what I've shared?