When I was in high school, I spent the majority of my time in one of three houses outside of my own. It was safe to say that any day out of the week I was either at the school house, the Lord’s house, or Mama Kara’s house. My focus here is on the latter two.
In high school, I didn’t own a car. I became accustomed to spending the entire Sunday with my good friend Coby and his family, both in and out of church. My friend’s mother, Mama Kara, would pick me up early in the morning, rehearse for our worship set, go to Sunday school then the service, have lunch (sometimes at an Italian restaurant but usually at their house), maybe take an afternoon nap or play games, then end the day with Sunday night service and dinner. During my junior and senior years of high school, this was the normal rhythm.
But why were these days so special? Was it because Mama Kara welcomed me into her home? Was it because I got to spend all day with a close friend? Was it because we spent a lot of time together surrounded around food? Certainly, all of these things made these days special. However, what made these days special was that, as Christians, we practiced deep community.
In Life Together in Christ, author Ruth Haley Barton says this:
Transforming community begins as we choose to walk together, trusting that Jesus is in our midst as we talk and share about “all these things that had happened.” But it doesn’t end there. Transforming community continues to unfold and deepen among us as we ask good questions and learn how to stand still and wait with one another in the midst of shattered hopes and dreams and the great unfixables of life. There is a quality of listening and being together with Jesus in the stuff of our lives that can open us to fresh perspectives and true spiritual insight, or at the very least an ability to let go and lean in to the situation just as it is.
And ‘ask good questions’ and ‘remain still’ we did. These were years during which I asked many hard questions about life, purpose, and God’s plan. I would have had difficulty discerning how the Lord wanted to use me if I had not been surrounded by a deeply rooted Christian community at this time.
But this desire for community is not original to my story. In fact, it is universal. The Bible makes it clear that we are all meant to live in community. Indeed, our very God that we are modeled after exists in community. Prior to creating the first marriage, he said that it wasn’t good for us to be alone. God chose to redeem the world through a family, the people of Israel. Jesus himself had the disciples and his inner circle to live life and do ministry with. To think we can live our lives differently would be unwise.
Our well-being is also impacted by a sense of community. Improved physical health, increased resilience to stress, a sense of security, and more are among the benefits of social support. Therefore, a lack of community could lead to opposite outcomes. Again, it would be unwise to think one can live outside a community. Attached here, you will find a worksheet to assist you in learning more about your social support system. This first part further explains how social support can improve one’s life, what types of support are available, and how to build social support. The next part provides a space for you to assess your own support system.
Keep in mind the structures that we have set up at Vintage. We have vGroups, vTeams, Formation Groups, vWomen and vMen.
I was greatly impacted by the community that I experienced with Mama Kara in high school. Nowadays, I place a high value on community. Whether it is hosting friends for dinner or tea, teaching bible studies, discipling others, or making my church and vGroup attendance a priority, I cannot imagine living my life without deep community with other believers.
What are your next steps to a deep community?
- Make connections
Maybe you have met some people that you click with. That puts you in a great position to get started. Or maybe you are having trouble. If so, put yourself out there. Go to different vGroups, meet new people, ask people you have met who they think you would get along with. Networking isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely not for me, and meeting new people can sometimes be intimidating. So making one decision to do one of these things, no matter how small, is a great start. Continue to be patient with yourself and intentional with others.
2. Prioritize your time
Be realistic about how much time you can spend with others. Of course we should prioritize community. Please do. But don’t fall for the myth that in a single week you can go to church, go to vGroup, meet with a Formation group, hang out on the weekend, disciple a younger believer, be mentored by an older believer, date your spouse, and work full time. It’s unsustainable and you may burn out if this is a routine for you. Instead prioritize the type of community that is most needed and achievable right now for you.
3. Choose your people
Since we are made for community, it goes without saying that once we select the appropriate group of people, everything should go smoothly, right? Absolutely not. Having a deep community is not as easy as pressing the “Follow” button on Instagram. While choosing a community is the first step, choosing is in fact a rinse-and-repeat step. We have to choose to commit to those people. We have to choose to be vulnerable with them. We have to choose to sit in their hard truths with them. We have to choose to point them back to Jesus with our words and actions.