"Why We're Failing At Community"
We speak so much about community and we know that we need it for our spiritual growth. Perhaps you feel a tinge of guilt every time this topic comes up and you resolve to join a care group regularly, only to struggle after just a month. Is the biblical picture of community only a wistful dream that cannot be attained in busy Singapore?
We chanced upon this article, which helpfully reminds us that what community looks like practically could change with our life stages and responsibilities. It helpfully points out the following:
As we continue growing up, many of us get married and move away from friends. We have kids who need naps and feedings. And we take on more at work. Of course, these things are not bad, but they certainly present obstacles to creating a thriving community. What we need to do is learn to adjust and develop new ideas of what community can and should be in our current stages of life.
Community is important at all stages of life. Yet, the church consists of individuals at different life stages with different responsibilities and needs. The question, then, is how we can all build community and relationships wherever God has placed us. The article goes on to give 4 "strategies for building thriving friendships right where you are", and we've extracted them below. There are also things that we can consider here at GBC:
1. Redefine What Community Means to You Now and Who Your Core Friends are
In college, it was perfectly normal to have a regular circle of 20, 30 or 40 friends. It was easy to gather people together regularly when everyone lived within a few hundred feet of one another. It’s OK if in this stage of life, you have a circle of three to five close friends. This doesn’t mean you don’t spend time with people outside this circle, but these might be one-off coffee dates or random lunches; the difference is the regular amount of time you spend and how deep you get when you’re together.
For us at GBC:
- Are there people that you meet regularly outside of Sunday service and care group session?
- Are there people that live or work near you that you can consider meeting regularly?
- Perhaps you could pray and ask God for someone that you can intentionally meet regularly?
2. Do What You Would Normally Do, but Do It With Other People
Friends aren’t knocking on your door asking you to play soccer at the rec field, but maybe your kids are playing soccer on the neighbor’s front lawn. Instead of seeing this as a time to get stuff done, walk across the street and strike up a conversation. If you have a full day of running errands, invite a friend to come along, because she could probably use a good Target run, too. Think about what you normally do in your day, and invite others into it.
For us at GBC:
- For those with children, could we consider scheduling "play dates" with other families in church, or even our neighbours? Could we even invite the singles to partcipate too?
- Could we buy our groceries at the nearest NTUC/Cold Storage together?
3. Set Up Structures to See People Regularly
It’s not feasible to do nightly dinners with five friends, but it is possible to have five close friends who meet for dinner once a month. Join a weekly small group, set aside one morning every other week to grab coffee with your sister, have an annual tradition with your closest friends to celebrate Christmas a few days early.
For us at GBC:
- There are many care groups in GBC, and these meet regularly, at least twice a month? Why not join one?
- Our Discipleship Seminars run regularly every Sunday. Perhaps we could commit to going with a group of friends and intentionally set aside time for lunch after that? (And even discuss the session over lunch?)
4. Stop Being Stingy with Your Time
Am I the kind of friend who would drop everything to bring dinner to a struggling friend? Am the kind of neighbor who would throw open the door at an unexpected knock? If it’s not in my plan, I have a hard time giving people my time, but Jesus calls us to be just as generous with our time as we are with our money, resources and gifts. Forget your plans to cook dinner, and instead, order takeout for the unexpected guests. Skip your workout and take your kids to the park with your next-door neighbor.
For us at GBC:
- How do you spend your time every day and week? Do people feature prominently in your schedule?
- Is there someone in church that you could commit to driving to church? Is there an elderly person that you could visit regularly to cheer up? Could a young mother benefit from you visiting once a month?
Community is not built in a day, and it certainly requires our intentional effort to sustain it. But it doesn't necessarily have to be an idealistic goal. These strategies help us see that we can build relationships and friendships everyday, and wherever we are. Why are we able to do so? Ephesians 2:13 reminds us that "now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ". We are all now fellow citizens (Eph 2:19) and are being "built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph 2:22)