In my previous blog, titled “What do you miss out on by missing out on community?” I talked about the WHY part of community. Specifically, why God uses community to grow us rather than letting us fumble through life on our own. In other words, what are the qualities that are brought out of you by being in a community?
In community, we learn:
- to love deeply
- to listen
- that it’s okay – no wait – it’s HEALTHY to need the right people
- how to use our God-given gifts
- our purpose in life
- that it’s okay to be our WEIRD selves 😛
- to yield our preferences for the greater good
- how to fully forgive
This blog post is the second in my 3-part series about community. If you haven’t yet read the first part, click here. Because unless you see the WHY of community, the WHAT won’t matter.
Good! Now that you’ve read Part I, here is Part II: “What is community?”
Being the word nerd that I am, I think it’s crucial to put a definitive definition on community, because it is often confused with a group, neighborhood, family, or friends. And this may be TMI about my OCD, but I actually cringe when people say community to describe an abstract group of people.
Community is “a society of people having common interests” (Noah Webster, 1828) … “who work together to promote those interests” (Priska Jordan, 2017)*.
*Dictionaries don’t keep up with the pace of how quickly word meanings change, so just go with me on this definition. 🙂
Community differs from a group, because a group is just a bunch of people with separate missions.
Community differs from a neighborhood, because most of us don’t even know our neighbors, and we certainly aren’t working toward a common mission.
Community differs from family, because you can easily leave a community, but you can’t walk away from family. By staying within a community, you have to repeatedly 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. By practicing patience, you become patient. By practicing forgiveness, you become forgiving. So on and so forth.
Community differs from friends, because you choose each of your friends. When you join a community, you more than likely don’t get to hand-select each member of the community. More than likely, you get on board with the mission, and the people are a part of your life by default. You can de-friend friends, but you can’t simply remove members from a community.
By defining what community is and how it differs from a group, neighborhood, family and friends, we can begin to see what kinds of expectations should be placed on a community. With a community, you can’t expect everyone to sacrifice for YOUR best interest, but you hope everyone will sacrifice for the best interests of the community. With a community, you look past people who irk you, because each person is essential to the growth of the community. With a community, you shouldn’t expect to be besties with each member, but you can expect to lay aside your personal preferences in order to progress the community.
A lot of times, I see people come in and out of communities like the waves of the ocean: quickly coming in, and just as quickly going out. The problem is often not the community; the problem is the expectations placed on that community.
By having realistic, healthy expectations, we can begin to value community for what it’s there for: to promote a shared cause.
So what interests do YOU want to promote? Are you a part of a community that helps to promote those interests? If you aren’t sure where to begin, I have a REALLY GOOD (#lit #fiya #bomb) blog post coming out later this week titled “How to create community”. It’s a simple, practical 3-step process that has worked for me during my entire life, having lived in 8 states, attended 9 schools, and now being deeply rooted in my local communities.
I can’t wait to share this with y’all, but first let’s grow in our understanding of community. I’d like you to take the next couple of days to ponder what communities you are currently in and if you might want to join a cause within another community.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below! PLEASE 🙂