Community. The buzz word in not only the Christian context but in the world at large. Articles about creating a healthy community are in the latest business magazines to facilitate top-level team dynamics while at the same time it is the sermon series on Sunday morning. If community is so important for one’s well being, how do we go about defining what it means for us as individuals and identifying how to develop a healthy community in a world today where connecting seems as simple as clicking “like” on social media?
With the connectedness of the online world, we can use social media as a platform for community, not as our only source, but as a support mechanism to be a catalyst for new friendships and connections.
One can not negate the importance of social media but still must acknowledge the fact that it is not a mere one-for-one substitute for face-to-face community. With a large amount of basic communication being formed from non-verbal communication, it is unimaginable only living a life online and not striving for in-person interactions. While there are many stats and percentages breaking down a conversation, the agreed upon fact is that most of communication is nonverbal and it is the most crucial part of communication.
In a study named “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives” conducted by the Pew Research Center, they found that “the average user of a social networking site had more close ties than and was half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.” (The New York Times) Due to its instant connectivity and accessibility it allows friendships to interact from thousands of miles away thus discouraging isolation even during transitional seasons or new phases of life.
For me, I try to not overcomplicate the process and so let it form through natural interactions and intentional follow up. The goal is not to fill a roster or check mark a task off the list, but this can be tough due to the fact that there is so much pressure for our attention on a daily basis. Be patient, but there must be a level of effort to cultivate relationship.
Your community may look different depending on the season you are in and the season of those around you.
What does “community” look like for you?
Community is something you have to define exactly and it could start with your social media platforms. However, community building must not stop here. You have to ask yourself, “who else in my life do I have that encourages me, walks with me through difficult times, laughs with me and helps develop me?” This has to be something each of us develops in our lives and carries on throughout our lifetime. Quality over quantity when it comes to your community. Don’t feel the need to have a large group of people or a certain number of friends to consider your community healthy.
I believe the best picture of community is represented in Acts 2:42-47. In this picture, it is both tangible and authentic.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
How do you find the balance between your community online and your community in day-to-day life? Do they have much cross over or do they remain fairly separated?
There are practical steps that you can take to grow and develop your community. First and foremost you have to be willing to try. You are going to have awkward conversations and many of the people you meet and interact with will not become your best friend for life, but they may play a role in your life for a certain season. Be proactive and give yourself opportunities to spend time with others in spaces where people have a similar mindset. Church is a great place to find belonging and a community through volunteer opportunities and small groups. At work, spend time having lunch with your co-workers and get to know their story. You may be surprised who begins to make up your community when you step out, listen and interact with those around you.