Monday, October 6, 2014

Building Genuine Community

Until my recent adult years, I was a girl with a lot of acquaintances and not that many true friends. My childhood was spent with separate church and school friends-both of which felt equally important, but neither were lifelong.

 My family moved to Williamston in the middle of my freshman year of high school. So, I had friends from my first high school and people who were nice to me from my new church/school, but no true friendships. I quickly began dating a guy who was a year older than me and most of my high school years were spent following him and his group of friends from event to event, trying to fit in with them. My classroom "friends" were nothing more than acquaintances who had common interests as me. We did things together, but our conversations were mostly about school and homework.

It wasn't until the boyfriend of many years broke up with me that I began to look around and realize that I had no true friendships. Luckily, my brother who was two years younger had a great friend group and they adopted me for a year. However, I soon left them and my "hometown" for college. In college, I began to experience true community for the first time.​ Community. Hmm..doing life together. That works beautifully for college. I was in a small group of girls; we were all the same age. We lived in one of two buildings, and took the same types of classes. We were able to literally do life together. I led a small group as well. These girls became incredibly special to me; we did life together. Some of these girls became more dear to me than others, and I struggled with this.

 But, I read Dennis Swanburg's The Man Code recently and from it realized that this is just a normal progression of life. Jesus Himself had multitudes, he had a large group, he had a small group, and he had an inner circle of friends. I have since realized how true that was for my life. My inner circle consisted of a few women who I still keep up with to this day. They are incredibly special to me. The others were my community for a season and have moved on, as I have to a new season.

Marriage came and we moved back to my hometown. My husband was new and I felt new, since my friends were all actually friends of my high school boyfriend. We started over. It was difficult for us because we were the youngest married couple at our church and in a different stage of life from a lot of our contemporaries. The first year was difficult. It was a series of inviting people for dinner or cards, deciding they may or may not be the right friends for us. We had to be very intentional about creating community. We had to find others to do life with, as we walked toward being stronger Christians. 

Fast forward to today...we have a fantastic group of friends, but how did we get here?

My brother and his wife got married and bought a house on our block. I know it sounds crazy, but they found the house online and didn't even know it was less that a minute from Moose and me until they had already fallen in love. Then, our church hired a youth minister. He was engaged, but his fiance was in TN. We started doing things as a party of five. A friend-couple of my brother's from high school moved back to town. We became 7. Our youth minister's now-wife arrived-we became a party of 8. We have insanely precious community with these couples. We do Sunday School together, small groups are separate-but some of us are at each one, we hang out on the weekends, and we are in constant contact. I'm so grateful. We have two friends who are getting married in May and they are quickly becoming a part of our community. We've celebrated marriages, moves, a birth, another pregnancy; we've mourned loss, sickness, difficulty getting pregnant. We've done it together. 

I could not be more grateful for the community we have been able to develop together, but my husband posed the question to me this weekend, "how do we make sure we don't become a clique." What is the difference between this community I am speaking of and a clique? How do we protect ourselves from becoming "that group" that people would like to be a part of and yet is not open to others? First, I think we need to define clique and community. Cliques are full of the same people, thinking and believing the same things, not allowing for differences in opinion. Community happens when there is true discussion, difference of opinion expressed in love, and lack of judgement. Community ceases to be a community when it becomes closed; when membership is essentially an audition. Cliques do not allow for real community. ​

Some would say that the 12 disciples were a clique. They hung out with only each other, right? Well, the mix-and-match band of brothers was a true hodge podge of interests, personalities, styles, and opinions.  They didn't make sense. However, this is why they are a true community. Community is made up of a group of people trying to do life well, and follow after the same invitation to do life with Christ. Community takes a chance on people-inviting them in to do life together, not because they fit a set of criteria. Community loves; cliques judge. It is crucial that no one is left out of the community of believers. If others desire to fellowship in our community, they should always be loved and accepted. We should be seeking to bring those who may not be living their life to the full and walk with them toward a stronger relationship with Christ. There will always be the inner circle, the small community, the large community, and the multitude, but we must ensure that each of these allows for new and fluid relationships that will spur us on toward Christ.

I'm constantly learning how to be a better friend; my husband and I are constantly learning how to develop community and spur on the friends around us. There is never a point when we stop growing and learning, never a point to become judgmental. True community is always changing, growing, and developing. I hope you have found it where you are! If not-pull up a chair and join us!

1 comment:

  1. Such a good post Megan. Good to be reminded during this changing of seasons for me that there are closer friends you stick with and keep up with but also some that were just there for a season. Also that community takes intentionality.