[For years now at SSU we’ve met with graduating students to talk about ideas for creating community after leaving school. We continued this tradition last night and I updated these ideas after our discussion:]
Creating Community (Suggestions for life after SSU)
1. Find some (imperfectly) kindred spirits and commit to some regular social event with them, preferably based on good food.
2. Start thinking of community with a core of one or two friends who want to do this with you.
3. Prioritize and be intentional about seeking and growing relationships. Encourage the development of some kind of group identity – so that some cluster of relationships becomes a “thing” to which people belong. Make sure that at least one of these clusters in your life is broad and diverse, including the marginalized. (Having a cause or purpose – like loving God and people – helps because it will require commitment and sacrifice.)
4. Be attracted especially to three kinds of people: a) people who embody (or show signs of) the kind of whole life and wisdom that you would like to see more of in your life, b) people who are in need and open to relational helping, c) others, like yourself, who are wanting more community in their life.
5. Create patterns and structures that involve common life (regular time together with others – don’t count on spontaneity).
6. Invite people to your place often and freely – for supper, for coffee, for games, for movies….
7. Create patterns of interdependence (like tool-sharing or even car-sharing).
8. Takes risks of pushing past “normal socializing” – conventional won’t lead to unconventional results
9. Communicate vulnerability (ask for help).
10. Create or get involved in projects where you need to work alongside of others.
11. Ask for others to join you when making changes to live more justly with others and with the environment (or at least ask for their support, even if they don’t agree with how radical your steps are).
12. Confront conflict in ways that show you care about the relationship and are confident the relationship will survive the conflict. Guard against letting relationships slip away because some conflict made it uncomfortable.
13. Consider the value of geographic proximity and stability – be willing to commit to places and relationships with people.
14. Ask questions that invite creative responses from your friends, especially about what it means to seek and love God in today’s world.
15. Create community in more than one direction (example – one community focused on common Christian values, one community focused on your geographic community or local need)
16. Avoid excuses like these:
– we’re too busy
– I don’t want to be intrusive, others might not want to spend time with me
– there’s nobody around who cares about what I care about
– virtual community is enough (being an introvert doesn’t excuse wasted hours with a screen)
17. From alumna and 2011 convocation speaker, Joanne Stassen: Share where you are at spiritually, your questions, concerns, fears, joys—the whole gamut—with people. Not just believers…but also and especially with non-Christians. Share it even if you think it shows weakness, a lack of faith or if it raises questions about God that you can’t answer. I can’t say it’s brought people closer to God…but I can say it has deepened those relationships.
I believe that these practices are also associated with community: Walk and cycle as much as you can; grow something; cook often with good, real food; love where you live [Teneo’s slogan]; pay attention & contemplate: life, meaning, relationships, God; seek good art [read good books, listen to good music, etc.]; make some art too; as much as you can, be in solidarity with the poor and weak.
– Walter Thiessen