What happened to communities? There is an abundance of online “communities” that are supposed to serve as a way to connect to those around us, but very little of it actually creates and nourishes real-life community. We are inundated with social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, and the list continues. All of these are acting as tools for the embetterment of our social lives. The result, however, is that we are trapped in our computers, smart-phones, and tablets while real life is happening around us.
Social media is not the Big Bad Wolf, nor it is the embodiment of evil. It is simply often misused. Imagine trying to serve soup with a slotted spoon. A trying task, indeed. But that doesn’t make the spoon bad. It just means that the spoon was used for the wrong purpose. Social media is meant to be an accent to our lives rather than the entirety. Complaints abound about people paying more attention to their “friends” on social media instead of the friends who are right next to them. Everyone is too busy with having things to share online to have an actual social life. It’s not healthy and it’s not community.
The Oxford dictionary has two basic definitions of community: 1) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2) A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
There are many places that fit the first definition. But what about the second? Where was the last place you felt “a feeling of fellowship with others”? If the answer to that is an online group or an instance from more than a month ago, it’s time to make some changes.
Churches used to be a place that fostered community. People would often have a potluck lunch after the teaching or invite someone to their house to share a meal. Now churchgoers tend to arrive just in time for the service to start and make a run for their cars immediately after with a few nods and waves to acquaintances.
Neighbours, too, were friendlier than now. It used to be that when a new family arrived several neighbours would introduce themselves and even bring food! Today, if a neighbour happens to be spotted in between bouts of busyness they are viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.
I won’t pretend to have mastered the now ancient art of community building, but I do have a few suggestions for anyone who is ready to change the way they view and live true community.
- Get to know your neighbours
- Make friends with people you can meet with – in person- who will share each other’s burdens
- That new person at church or work, reach out and make them feel welcome
- Host a game night
- If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, shovel their driveway or offer to mow the lawn
- Find a group a people that share an interest or hobby with you
*If you have more ideas of how to build community, please share in the comments. The more the merrier! And don’t forget to come back and tell us how implementing these ideas helped.*