There are countless books, videos, courses and step by step guides out there on community. It’s one of the things which most churches aspire to, and arguably one of the ingredients of a happy and rounded life.
But it seems in our busy, 21st century culture, community is becoming more and more relegated to being online when we can fit it in and contain it. For instance, I have 422 friends on Facebook, of which probably 22 I see regularly. I am connected on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (yes, I am a man with a Pinterest account). I probably still have a MySpace profile somewhere, I’ve dabbled in FourSquare and I set up a TuneTeams account recently. And that doesn’t include old school emails and texts. So I am incredibly overconnected in my digital realm.
But the reality is, most evenings (when I don’t have rehearsals, meetings or are carrying out “dad taxi” duties, I am at home…with my family, enjoying catching up on the events of the day and unwinding from a days work. Which is not a bad thing. But it’s not community.
I was in London today for a meeting about a couple of upcoming audits which I am doing. Now I could have emailed it in, we could have exchanged data, maybe even Skyped if it came to it. It would have saved me the commute, and the train fare. But putting in the “face time” as we call it develops my relationship further with the client, it shows I want to make the effort, and we talk far more about work and not about work than we would have done in a brief email or a focused phone conversation. It takes time and effort, but it builds community.
This coming weekend we are having our church weekend, something we try to do every year. This year we have taken the step to share it with another church in our area, FBC. We’re camping at Wellington Country Park, we’ve hired in huge marquees, generators, toilets and showers for the 200 or more who will be sharing the weekend. It’s almost a mini festival! We are running events on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we have a visiting speaker, children’s and youth work. There are leisure activities being planned, movies, a very silly quiz night and much much more (did I mention the buffet, hog roast and barbecue?). We’ve been planning it for probably the best part of a year, it’s taken a huge amount of planning and logistics, and I will be on site from Thursday to Monday, when the inevitable big clear up has to happen. And I don’t even want to thing about Tuesday evening yet (when I’m going to have to reinstall our sound and lights ready for next Sunday).
Is it worth the effort?
It’s taken a massive amount of effort to put on; time, money and heavy lifting! But we will have a whole weekend together without the distractions of work, TV, cooking and general day to day. We can do what we do on a Sunday without the need to rush onto the next service, or to get home to put on lunch. There is a program so there are things to occupy us through the days, but there will also be plenty of time to be together, to share, to chat, to eat, to just be. And although I know it’s going to be a great weekend with fantastic content, the opportunity to spend time with friends, make new ones, and just grow our community together is going to be the most important part of the whole weekend.
The only way to build community is to be one. The only way to cultivate relationships is to invest in them. Which takes time, lots of time, spent together. So instead of reading the books, working through the programs or “liking” your friend’s status, why don’t you spend some time, quality time with your community this weekend.