I believe God created humanity to function as a unit. The Bible refers to the church as a body with many parts. Humans were built with the insatiable need for community and healthy social relationships. Science supports this idea. Chronic, long-term loneliness increases your likelihood for early mortality by as much as 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).
While many of us long for community, connection, and deep relationships…we have very little idea of how to actually make that a reality in our lives
While many of us long for community, connection, and deep relationships, often people report those being much more difficult to find in the day to day. Compared to previous generations, we live further away from our immediate families and delay getting married and having children. Technology makes many jobs much less collaborative in a face to face way, not to mention the way social media has impacted our ability to relate to each other. Most of us would agree that while a sense of community might be something that motivates us or is something we long for, we have very little idea of how to actually make that a reality in our lives.
From living in a very close community setting, and from trying to create community in other places I’ve lived and worked, I would like to put forth some ideas on how to create a fulfilling community wherever you might be living.
Community requires something of us, and often the first thing it will require is action.
1. You read the above right: You have to create it yourself. Be proactive. If you are sitting around waiting to be invited in by a group of people, who are likely feeling the same way you are, I would hazard a guess that you might be waiting a very long time. Community requires something of us, and often the first thing it will require is action. I am always surprised at how rhetorical we are with our invitations. We will simply suggest that we “hang out sometime.” But what if we were a little more specific? Try saying, “Hey, there’s a new coffee place I found that I really like, would you want to go with me next week?” If they agree, set up a time right away. This feels awkward at first, but no more awkward than continuing to bump into the same person with an unspecified coffee date hanging between you.
2. Step out of your comfort zone. When my husband and I joined a new church, we were there for a year and still barely knew a soul. We realized that we always arrived just as church began and (because we didn’t know anybody) were the first ones out the door when it ended. To be more intentional, we made a pact to stand in the lobby for 15 minutes after church every week, whether anyone spoke to us or not. For the first few weeks, it was incredibly uncomfortable, but sure enough, people started to recognize us from week to week. It was not long before we found some really wonderful friends.
Whether it is volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a small group, or going to school in another state — give it time.
3. Join a group and be willing to feel out of place for a while. No relationship happens in an instant. When I started homeschooling my daughter, we joined a co-op of parents and other kids. I did not know a single soul and I hated the first few times I went. I felt obnoxious, like I was trying to insert myself into a pre-existing group of friends. However, we had something in common so we started there. We talked about our kids and I asked for book recommendations. Slowly but surely, we found out that we had more in common than just the educational choices we had made for our children. One of my most cherished friendships ended up coming from that group and my life has been so much richer for it. Whether it is volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a small group, or going to school in another state — give it time.
4. If at first you don’t succeed…you guessed it. Try again. I have not been successful every time I have put myself out there. I have had movie nights that nobody turned up to and I have sat alone with trays of appetizers. I joined a “mom’s of new babies” group that I absolutely hated and I quit after 6 months. It is fine to change direction or to realize that maybe something’s not right for you at that time. But give it a fair shot! Do not be so afraid of not liking something that you never start to begin with.
We really are not all that different from each other. We are all looking for the same things. A sense of home, of family, of community, and of belonging. Jesus created you to have that. I would venture to say that you may be pleasantly surprised by how many like minded people (and friends!) you find if you are willing to take the first step toward the community you are longing for.
Longing for a deeper connection with others? Want to see what healthy community can look like?
Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!
DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program. The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.