What is Community?
When I say community and you say community, one would assume we’re talking about the same thing. One would usually be wrong. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? (Wait while I look up “brass tacks” and make sure it’s an appropriate term to use. From Wiktionary.org:
- get down to business
- get down to the nitty-gritty
- get down to nuts and bolts
- roll up one’s sleeves)
Okay, brass tacks it is! Now, let’s talk about what community is by first clarifying what community is not.
What Community Is Not
It’s not a group of people who work together. A group of people who work together is a group of people who work together. You can work side by side with people for years and never become a community. Assuming that a group of people who work together is a community is the same as assuming that all acquaintances are friends. Your acquaintances may be friends if your definition of friendship is, well, very loose. When we talk about a community we need to know that what we are talking about is a real community, not just a group of people.
The words “group” and “community” have become interchangeable today but there is a world of difference. It is like the difference between house and home. They may look the same from the outside, but they are not the same on the inside and it’s the inside that counts: It’s what happens within the building that makes a house a home. It is the same with our groups.
Every group can become a community but not every group is a community. Propinquity alone does not a community make.
What about groups of people who worship together, socialize together, work on social projects together, study together or live together? They must be communities, right? Wrong. Again, we’re talking about the appearance, not the substance. Families, for instance, are the clearest example of groups who live together but are not necessarily communities. In fact, families are often as far from real communities as you can get, which is a shame because community should start in the family.
If we live in the same city or town, does that mean we are a community? If we live in the same neighbourhood, are we automatically a community? No and no! A community is much richer and deeper than that.
What Community Is
Real community is a committed body of people who have evolved and grown together in their relationships to one another. They have become a truly authentic group of people who are committed to the group, who identify with it, care about, celebrate and support the people in it. Real community is a place of collaboration where the leadership is shared among the members. It is an inclusive group of people without borders to keep others out, nor lines within to divide people. A community is a place of great camaraderie.
Why Should We Want to Build Community?
…with the people with whom we live, work, study, worship and meet in our everyday lives? Finally, we arrive at why. Let’s explore it.
- Why would we want to live in a neighbourhood where people care about one another?
- Why would we want to work at a place where we were happy to show up every day and the people there were happy to see us?
- Why would we want to gather on the weekend with people who share our faith, but also know our children, our stories – and care about them?
- Why would we want to work on a project with a group of people who can use consensus to make decisions, who collaborate authentically and effectively?
- Why would we want to be in a place where we could be ourselves and our uniqueness is recognized and celebrated by all the people whose uniqueness we also recognize and celebrate?
- Why would we want to associate with people who would be there for us if we needed them, who see us as a valuable part of the team, just as we see them?
Why wouldn’t we?
So, again; why wouldn’t we want to build community? Because we can and it’s a lot of fun! It starts with you and I and the people in our lives!
Never before has this statement been so true: The world needs community.
That’s why I wrote a book about it.
Are you a community builder? Do you want to be one?
Photo Credit: MicroAssist