Part 3: How to create community
Hey! I'm thrilled you're here! Since you're reading this, you must be interested in community! Hopefully by this point, you've read the first two parts in this 3-part series on community, but if you haven't, here are the links to each of the previous posts:
In community, we learn:
to love deeply
how to use our God-given gifts to fulfill our purpose in life
to yield our preferences for the greater good
Now that you know the WHY and the WHAT, it's time for the practical stuff: How to create community. Enjoy!
So community is great and all. We know it's necessary for a full life, yada yada...so why isn't everyone deeply rooted in it?
The problem I see in my generation is that most people I have known post-college have no idea how to CREATE COMMUNITY. Growing up in school and extracurricular activities, community was always MADE for us. So of course, there was no need to learn how to create community. And how embarrassing would it be to admit "I need help making friends"?! #totesem ...except everyone needs help! Nobody is just plain good at it. Trust me - as someone who's known for being a social butterfly, it's something I work at every day. I value community, so I put myself out there to get rejected or laughed at (well, that's never happened, but you know fear ain't logical).
There's also nobody who's talking about "needing people" because that looks...well...needy. Lucky for you...
My name is Priska, and I am needy. I've been told that a hundred gazillion times, and I'm not ashamed. Although I may be needy, at least I'm needy for the right people. I NEED my husband to be my partner in this life thing, to converse and encourage. I NEED my friends to encourage me. I NEED my brother to engage in deep spiritual conversations that inspire my writing. I NEED my Mamak (nickname, not a typo) to pray fiercely for me. Yes, I need people. Because I recognize that I did not get here by my own merit. I got to be who I am by God's grace, and His grace is transferred through His people.
Oh yeah, I should also point out that I've lived in 8 states and attended 9 schools. Growing up, I was the perpetual new kid. So creating community was a survival mechanism for me...one I learned well.
Friend, if we're going to move forward, I need to practice some tough love...brace yourself.
MOST of the people I meet who are not in community have been lazy about connecting with people. If community doesn't smack them upside the head everyday, they're going to miss it. And I've never known community to be so fiesty, so... we need to get off the couch and go meet people!! *end rant*
However, for a small batch of people reading this post, you've been damaged by a poor example of community. I get it...I have been, too. But the walls I was building around me were only further suffocating me. You were designed to be in community with people for all of the reasons in my first post, so I pray you will have the courage to get up and get back to life.
I know you're ready, so here it is!!
How to CREATE COMMUNITY:
First, join a group that has a similar interest as you.
Here are my communities:
BridgePoint Church - a community dedicated to the mission of helping all people get closer to God. I personally want to help people get closer to God, so putting my full support behind this mission was a no-brainer! I get to use my gifts to help people, and I find fulfillment in serving at Church.
Toastmasters - a community dedicated to growing in public speaking and leadership skills. We support each other's growth in these two areas by offering encouragement and speech evaluations.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead
Second, converse & converse often.
We all go to community meet-ups, whether they're called meetings, mixers, life groups, etc. and have the opportunity to CONNECT with like-minded people. But how often do we actually connect with anyone? To connect, you have to move beyond, "How are you?" and "What do you do for work?" to something more substantial. If you attended an event, you can begin a conversation by pointing out something that you thought was interesting, and ask what the other person thought was interesting. This is beyond a surface level "that was good" and requires you to be engaged in the event. As a bonus, you'll quickly learn who is at these meet-ups to make friends, and who merely wants to "expand their network". Connection happens with the former, so seek out those people who engage in real conversation.
“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Third, stick to it.
With every single community I've ever been apart of, there's always a plethora of people who attend events but never get connected, people who "date" the community but never get engaged, people who never allow themselves to take their walls down and get plugged in. They judge others' intentions, evaluating whether the group is the right fit for them, never using their personal gifts to promote the group, never letting themselves truly be apart of the progress taking place. And that saddens me. They're completely missing out. Here are some common excuses I hear for why people don't stay in a community:
"The people aren't like me." But that's exactly why you are needed! To bring a new perspective to the group. To bring your unique gifts that the group is lacking.
"It's too costly to stay connected." Anything worthwhile takes much effort, energy and time. But what it costs you to stay connected you will make up by gaining new perspectives from other people around you. #symbiotic
"I don't like the way..." Good! Don't like everything about the community the way it is right now. Be the change. The community will evolve as new people come in and bring new ideas...and then execute the new ideas. If you just throw a new idea out there and then walk away without DOING IT, it's as if you threw a grenade and ran away. If you don't like the way something is done, change it. And if you can't change it, decide if that one little thing is more important than you being connected to a community of growing, like-minded, mission-oriented people.
Community is about committing to people and sticking to it. It's a spiritual discipline. -Tim Whipple
Communities are never perfect, because people are imperfect. Regardless of imperfections, you get to choose to put the communities' priorities above your preferences. In doing so, you learn to PRACTICE patience, forgiveness, love, and focusing on the bigger picture. Sure, you could leave. But what does that show? It shows that you're petty. Sorry...that's harsh. It is. But leaving a community because you didn't like a single decision or you feel like it isn't about you (BTW it isn't!) shows that you aren't focused on the greater good.
When your feelings are hurt, address the hurt feelings, forgive and move on. You need to stay engaged and connected. When you don't get your way, evaluate what's more important: your way or the progress of the community, and then move on. When you're discussing how to move forward on a project or idea and the other person is being completely inflexible, determine whether there is still good progress even if you have to compromise more than the other person. Then, move on. Throw your full support behind the other person's ideas so the community can progress.
My communities add such depth and richness to my life. They give me an outlet for using and refining my talent, which gives me a deep sense of purpose. They believe the best in me, hope for the best for me, and love me constantly. And in that place of being loved, I get to believe in, hope for, and love them right back.
I hope the same for you, that you would find your community and stick to it!