Summary: There are 4 spaces through which all relationships ebb and flow. A small group, church or other group’s ability to live out healthy community is directly tied to their ability to achieve harmony within these relational spaces. When too much belonging is dominated by one space, or people are forced into spaces they aren’t ready for, it creates problems that typically do damage. The key to building relationship harmony and growth in a group of people is to allow them to dance among the spaces together; allowing relationships to form and grow naturally.
Learn about relational spaces
The first simple step to experiencing healthy community in a church, small group or other type of group is to learn how to create healthy belonging among the members (see last post). Unfortunately, most groups of people simply don’t know how to do this very well. This is because they typically don’t understand or practice the use of the four relational spaces in healthy ways.
Let’s try and avoid this by learning about these four spaces. We’ll start with a quick overview here.
Mac or PC? Yankees or Red Sox? Although it’s at the most shallow of levels, people make connections over these things. People don’t high five other people they’ve never met before. But if they’re at a sporting event their team makes an amazing play, you see high fives everywhere between people that have never before spoken a word to each other.
Ever go on vacation somewhere and get asked where you’re from? Then when you respond with your location of residence, you find the person you’re talking to has lived in the same state before? If you didn’t first establish the commonality of geographic location, you wouldn’t have a conversation. But once the commonality is established, conversation ensues because you feel like you’ve established public belonging to each other.
You’ll never invite these people to a party. You’ll only see them at very specific events or never again. But, you feel like you belong to a community on a public level because you share a common experience or interest. This is a natural and good thing when experienced in harmony with the other spaces. When this space occupies too much of a person’s life, you can tell because they invest more time, money and energy in public interests than they deserve to have.
Since I love sports, I think about the fan who goes overboard. Maybe they decorate their house with their team’s gear. Or better yet, maybe they even include their team’s identity in significant life events like their wedding. Whatever the expression, there’s extreme behavior because too much of their belonging comes from this space.