Learn the Secrets of Building Community

Here you will find resources of knowledge to help direct you in the desire for community in your life.  The focus of this blog is to concentrate on practical advice that reveals insights into how human beings were designed to live and function together.  When applied correctly, this information should bring forth a rich and effective experience of community in your life.

A Huge Little-Known Mistake That Stifles Small Groups & Churches

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.

Public Space

Fans High Fiving

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.

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The Simple First Step To Experiencing Healthy Community

Summary:  For a group of people to accomplish the monumental task of growing into a Kingdom community, the first step is understanding and correctly practicing the use of the relational spaces in which people belong to each other.  One of the biggest downfalls of typical church programs that attempt to build community is they don’t understand or correctly practice the use of relational spaces; resulting in the forcing (programmatically) of relationships into spaces they aren’t meant for or ready for.  This not only limits their success, but many times results in negative consequences.

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Create belonging

Many of the major problems the church faces today really boil down to it’s inherent inability to do one thing – practice community. Why is attendance falling so rapidly?  As some popular books on the subject might claim, it’s not because the music is bad.  It’s not because the sermons are bad.  When people feel like they belong, they sit through bad music and sermons and then complain about it :).

Why is financial giving so poor that church administrators have to constantly ask for money from the pulpit?  It’s not because people do or don’t have the money.  When people feel like they belong, they tend to give generously.

Why are an increasing number of people unconvinced of the validity of the Gospel?  It’s not because of a lack of rational evidence.  When people see Christians belonging to each other in Kingdom community, they tend to become Christians.

Yet, church administrators keep scratching their heads trying to figure out the next best church growth strategy to get people in the doors and filling the offering plates (house church, small groups, singles ministry, whatever’s new nowadays).  The answer?  Create belonging.

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Why Most Small Groups Never Grow Into Kingdom Communities

One of the church’s common answers these days to how someone can grow in Christ is “get into a small group.”  Finally, we’ve admitted the church service is of little value.  In fact, many churches have so totally given up on the church service model that a buzz-phrase that has gone around for a while now among administrators in these types of churches is “We’re not a church with small groups, we’re a church of small groups.”  Basically, people are so totally over church as they know it, even the language that is being used is trying to escape it!

But, is a small group really the answer to growing in Christ?  Or is it just the latest fad soon to die out like the rest?

The typical small group meeting

In the typical small group meeting, you’re likely to find some or all of the following parts:

  • members that typically see each other the most in weekly or bi-weekly meetings.
  • a small group leader who controls leads the group in discussion about a spiritual topic.
  • a pre-planned spiritual agenda or a curriculum for spiritual guidance.
  • the eating of (usually unhealthy) food together.
  • icebreaker games to encourage people to get to know each other.
  • an expectation of commitment
  • common beliefs about life

Small GroupIf and when people dig deep enough, they find that the real reason they attend churches isn’t to sing songs and listen to sermons (although this is what churches are built around).  The real reason they attend is because they’re searching to belong to close-knit-organic-body life-Kingdom community. This search is in every Christian’s spiritual DNA.  When they aren’t in it, they feel (even unknowingly) that they’re in a wilderness.  This is because Kingdom community is a Christian’s home.

The small group is the church’s latest answer to manufacture it.  The problem is…community can’t be manufactured.  This is because authentic community contains life, and life can’t be manufactured.  You can’t build a living thing on an assembly line.

But this is the way it’s attempted in small group programs.  The thought is that if all of the parts above are “put together” by following the instructions, then Kingdom community will “be built.”  But, it’s being learned the hard way that this just isn’t the case.

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Blog Update

Hi readers!

Just a quick note to address the reason for my absence in recent weeks.  It’s because I’m working on a new e-book tentatively titled “X Tips for Building Healthier Small Groups and Communities.”  There’s an X because I don’t know exactly how many tips there will be yet.  Also, the title is just tentative as mentioned.  After I finish it, I will be working on finalizing the title so it’s more “market-y.”

I’m not exactly sure how long it will take me because I’ve been backing off a bit on writing and working on the blog a bit lately.  A recent book I read (Making Room For Life) encouraged me to adjust my lifestyle out of a workaholic-type structure to a healthier structure.  More specifically, I’ve started to try and follow the Hebrew day schedule.  Without getting too specific, it basically relegates productivity time to the day time and relaxing and relationships to dinner time and beyond.  Of course, it also employs a Sabbath day rest as well.

Needless to say, if you’re not working all the time, you get less work done.  But, you’re healthier, which is the point.  I’ve been doing it for a couple months now and I can say that it definitely works better.  I don’t get burnt out as much and I think I actually achieve more productivity per minute of working than I used to.  I even heard my wife say recently – “You’ve been getting a lot of stuff done.”  Weird how things work better when we do them God’s way :).

Anyhow…I just wanted to let you all know that I didn’t disappear and hope that you’ll find the current work I’m doing valuable when it’s finished.  Blessings to you!

You’re Not the Head of Your Neighborhood

Attempting to love your neighbor as yourself can be discouraging.  There are times when you can feel alone in your endeavors.  You might feel like you’re the one who always has to do the initiating.  You might feel like your effort is disproportionate to the effort of those around you.

It’s at these times when the temptation to retreat into an individualistic lifestyle will feel quite strong.  You’ll start to think thoughts like “I can survive just fine on my own.  Why should I put all this effort into these relationships when there’s not much reciprocation?

Control breeds loneliness

If you feel alone, your problem may be the one I’ve dealt with along the way…you’re trying to do it ALONE.  And if you’re trying to do it alone, it’s likely that you’re doing so because you want to be in control.  You want the activities to be what YOU plan.  You want them to be when YOU want them to be.  Because you think you know what needs to happen.  If this is the case, you can bet you won’t have much success with experiencing something organic and healthy.

One of two things are bound to happen.  1) You turn into an institution with top-down control or 2) you disintegrate.  I can testify of personal experience with both.  I’ll share just one of them now.

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