Thursday, April 3, 2014

Start by creating community

By Anne Horton, Director of Camp & Retreat Ministry

Since January, I have been to numerous churches and events.  I have heard similar questions being asked, whether it’s related to children, youth or adults.

  • “How do you begin to meet the needs of people?” 
  • “How do you get people involved?”  
  • “How do you get new people and current members to agree on anything?” 
  • “What can we do…?”

You can probably add your own questions! These may be questions you have heard within your own church.  Many times, what I hear is more of the divide that churches are experiencing of we/they, us/them mentality, than of creating a culture of community.

My feeling from all these questions is why are we not spending time getting to know people? Why are we not creating community?  Whether they are in the church, in the community, at work, or in the neighborhood, why are we not reaching out to get to know people? We say we want to be in community, yet we do not take the time to listen, to get to know the people that cross our path on a daily basis.  I believe we are too afraid to open ourselves to let the walls come down that we have spent so much time building, so that we as individuals can remain on the edge when Christ is calling us to get into the game of life.

Many times I feel we have lost the art of communicating with each another.  So how do we engage conversation with people who say they know each other but it’s evident that they do not?

The next time you have a church meal, for everyone who attends, give them a nametag.  Each nametag needs to have a symbol on it (star, flower, sun, cross,…).  If you think 50 people will be present, create 10 different symbols.  As you start your meal, have the people find the others with the same symbols to sit together. Have a designated leader who will guide the conversations for all the different tables by asking any of the following questions:
  • Share your name and does it have a special meaning or were you named for someone?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • What is one interesting fact about the town you grew up in?
  • Who was God to you when you were a child?
  • What has been one of the best compliments you have received as an adult/youth/child?
  • What is one thing you are really good at doing?
  • If you had the opportunity to meet someone from history, who would it be and why?
  • Who or what makes you laugh?
  • What gives you the greatest satisfaction and what gives you the greatest concern?
  • Tell about a time when someone was generous to you?
  • If you had your own talk show, who would your first 2 guests be and why?
From these questions and others like them, we begin to find commonalities.  We discover we are more alike than we thought.  The cultural barriers start to come down as we see we are both striving for similar things; to be heard and recognized as a human being. We’re striving for the love and grace of God.  Oh, we may not say it that way, but we are all seeking recognition and affirmation.  “Thank you for a job well done.” “We appreciate what you are doing.” “Thank you for caring, listening, giving of yourself.”

May this be a starting place for the church, the small group, the new members, the current members, the youth, or whomever.  It will begin the process of creating community and hospitality.

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