In general, I tend to make things way too complicated. Maybe it’s all of those years studying Calculus and my subsequent overused logic? Maybe it’s just how my thinking naturally runs?
Whatever it is, one thing which really suffers if made too complex, is community.
Beyond the tumultuous years of high school, my most difficult time in experiencing real community came recently. After we moved overseas long-term and shortly after I had my third child, somehow, I became utterly lost in my basic need for healthy relationships with others.
There were many things that contributed to this. Not the least of which was what language do I speak? I was learning Hungarian and if I didn’t make the effort to practice, I would never learn to speak it. This is true, but, it is not more important than community. Our greatest need is for relationship, communion, with God. After this, our next greatest need is for community with others.
Here are three simple ways to cultivate true community.
1. Be Yourself – And, yes, this is simple. But, it is often the hardest way for us to be with others.
If you are anything like me, you have deep-seeded insecurities. Places where lies were sewn into you long ago. For me, this is that I am ‘too much.’ That paralyzes me and I think when I am myself, it is more than others can handle, so I spend so much time with others trying to re-define myself. Be someone that they will love and want to know.
This is both very sad and lands me very far from my greatest need, which is communion with God. If I am not embracing who he has created, formed, redeemed and called me to be, then I am living like I don’t belong to Him, and lead others to this too.
2. Encourage Others to Be Themselves – Here, is where it gets tricky. If you are more loud, like to crack jokes, and are very friendly (I *may* be like this ;), and there is someone in the group who is shy, quiet and reserved, then you need to learn to be yourself while encouraging them to be themselves.
So, if you are making everyone laugh except the woman in the corner feeling left out, find a way to draw her in. And yelling ‘Hey, join us!’ is probably not the best move.
It takes genuine love and patience to do this well and you must make a choice to put their needs above your own. You may need to tone down your vibrant personality to welcome them. And, if you are the one who is more shy or reserved, you have a choice too. Trust your new friend. Let her welcome you. Take a deep breath. You are loved.
3. Share Your Stories--This is the heart of community. Each person is a living story and yet our stories often become lost; forgotten. This causes us to forget and lose each other. This is why an active discipline of sharing story is essential to community.
If it is a formal group setting, this can happen in a structured way, where one person shares a ten minute story each session. Or, when your group first forms, you, as a leader, share your story.
And, if it is a simple conversation, you can ask questions as simple as ‘What’s your story?’ Take the time to listen. Know your own story, so you are ready to share encouragement at the right points. When you ask for another’s story, always be willing to share your own.
As someone who loves and serves God, you are a leader who draws others into community. Keep it simple. Be Yourself. Be Humble. Trust God. Trust Others. Cultivate Community.
I am wife to a wonderful man, mama to three precious now-little-but-soon-will-not-be loves. Each born in a different place--two states including 2 states and 2 countries. I am a farm girl who found her heart in the city. I can now claim fluency in 3 languages :: English, Spanish & Hungarian.This combined with the all-too-true 'mommy brain' explains much regarding my mental state most days;) I am a sojourner longing for Home. Yet, in my messy and broken, I embrace the moments given with all I have. I am seeking, praying, and learning again and again that it is for His Glory I live. My prayer is that my little life would make much of Him! I write regularly at Abigail Alleman.
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