Next to Jesus, God and relevant, “community” is the most popular Christian word. The challenge though is it’s a lot easier to say than it is to build. If creating one was as easy as renting a blow up jumping toy for kids and offering a financial planning class for parents, then 50 churches wouldn’t close permanently every week. But it’s a challenge and here’s why:
People can tell when you’re trying to force a community to develop. Our radar to marketing is so sharp these days. One of the stats I wrote about recently is that the average person is exposed to up to 10,000 marketing messages a day. That means in an average year, you experience more than 3.6 million advertisements. So your ability to filter them out and tune them off or spot them from afar is amazing. And if you, as a church, simply add the word “community” as a garnish to your events or activities, people can tell.
My favorite example of doing this the wrong way is actually from Wal-Mart. One of the ways stores try to make you feel involved in a community is by using the word “your.” Whether you’ve ever participated in something or not, it’s called “your _____. For instance, the sign on the Blimpie sub shop at my Wal-Mart says, “Welcome to Your Blimpie.” That’s not my Blimpie. I’ve never eaten there and if my life works out according to plan, I never will. It reads fake, it feels fake, it is fake.
I think building a community is like trying to hold sand in your hand. If you squeeze it too tightly, it all slips out. You have to be willing to open your hand out flat, realizing some might fall off the side, resisting the urge to force it or secure it, and simply create a place for it to happen. You have to plan activities and reach out to the people in your area, but at the same time you have to know when to let go and let God develop it outside of your efforts.
(Thanks to Hoosier Reborn for suggesting this topic.)