Celebrate returning to faith, hope, culture and life with community.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Number One Secret to a Long-Lasting Community

Several weeks ago, my husband and I swarmed the kitchen together preparing snacks for our small group.

A scratchy and hallowed-out Bruce Springstein turned round and round over on our new record player. Our living room was vacuumed and even dusted over with the glow of twinkle lights.

Then at seven, promptly, our friends arrived to watch the Princess Bride. The movie was a given when we learned that a few people in our group had never seen it. And really, that's what small group is about. Holding each other up and helping them through dark, tragic times. (Because, what is life without that movie, really?)

Cards on the table, it wasn't always like this at our church.

In fact, my husband and I met there under vastly different circumstances.

There was no community at all. Not for people like us. Not for the singles or the newly marrieds without kids. Not for the people who were confused or nervous about their job path. Who were discerning if they were in the right relationships, friendly or romantic.

Not for those wrestling with breaking out of political or cultural traditions from which they were raised.

Not for the people who'd had their hearts broken. Not for the people who make blatant mistakes. Sometimes even on purpose. Not even for the people who were vaguely unsure of faith all together and needed a place to explore what life with Christ is really like.

I dedicated the better part of this blog complaining about the lack of groups for women like me: Single. Wine-enthusiast. And navigating Christianity through the workweek. Trying to be kind and helpful to others, while I, honestly, had difficulty paying bills and getting my oil changed myself.

I felt incredibly alone. And not just for my lack of romantic prospects. But for my lack of live-and-in-glorious-technicolor friendships. People to go grocery shopping and binge-watch Parenthood with. People to toss around the idea of what it means to be a Christian when we've grown up being connected to so many thoughts and ideas that seem to collide with the whole enterprise.

When our friends came to our house that night, we realized we had that. We had those people. We had the beginnings of those people, at least. And it wasn't by an accident or a random collection of personalities that just happened to get along.
It came about because of good, hard work.

Community is a discipline.

No one ever wants to say this, of course. It makes our relationships sound like chores. But, like a garden, it requires some upkeep.

It means saying "yes," even when it's inconvenient or stands in the way of self-care. It means powering through our tired, our cranky, our busy.

It means driving (or in our case, walking) across town when you've had a rough week. When you have to do a load of laundry. And grocery shopping. And budgeting. And a paper-writing. And bill-paying.

Because time isn't any easier to manage at any stage.
In the past, I haven't always wanted to go to a Bible study. To me, it felt like exercising. I was always glad I had gone, but working up the motivation to read, get out the door and travel to an acquaintance's house didn't always feel good -- but it always felt better.

For us, for our group, we're realizing that community is 99 percent showing up. Seeing the same faces week after week. Adopting other people's character traits and isms, be it manners of speaking or attitudes and perspectives you admire. It's about wading deeper and deeper into friendship. Bringing meals. Accepting forgiveness. Offering prayer.

Because with them, you can do so much more than you could on your own.

Speaking of things you can't do on your own: I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite people, Christen Allocco designed the lovely artwork above. Give her a follow on Instagram, she's super friendly and fun!  Plus, if you'd like to share the value of togetherness in your community, you can download the iPhone wallpaper she designed for FREE!

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