When our Bible Study group cracked Acts 2 last Tuesday, it didn’t take us long to dive deep into conversation about “community” – what is it? How do we cultivate it? What does it look like at this stage of life?
Acts 2:42-47 paints a beautiful picture of community that the early church modeled. They were devoted to one another; committed to learning and praying and breaking bread together. They “shared everything they had.”
It’s no secret that cultural and technological changes have drastically changed the way we interact with one another. Moreover, my husband and I just moved to a new city where it takes around 30 minutes to get anywhere – double that with rush hour traffic. This alone makes it difficult to have commitments on weeknights, and when you add in work and travel schedules, it becomes clear that having good community is not a passive process.
Keys Ideas to Cultivate Community
Here are six simple ideas we try to embrace:
1. Think about your geographic area.
One of the adjustments of moving to a new city has been realizing that the majority of my closest friends are far, far away. You can’t make old friends, and many of the people on my mind as I write this are people who know me deeply and have walked alongside me through many of life’s joys and challenges. Although I’ll always work hard to keep up with these cherished friends, I’ve had to admit something to myself – if I want the kind of community that Acts 2 describes, I have to take the time to invest in people I see regularly. As much as I want it to, a phone call can’t replace an afternoon on the back porch together or a walk in the park.
2. Invite people over. All the time.
We have a 1,000 square foot house, and we’re always cramming people into it. When we first moved in, I wanted to have Pinterest-worthy dinner parties and impress everyone with our décor. Those dreams quickly died when our white comforter was stained by red clay that somehow appeared in our washing machine and I gave myself a second degree burn trying to make a complicated asparagus recipe. Now when we gather people, we try our hardest to make it about laughter and good conversation, not about impressing our guests. Keep it simple. Play games. Eat pizza. Celebrate everything. Make room for everyone.
3. Show up.
There is much to be said for people who keep their word. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, try your best to be there. When I’m feeling “off”, I usually have the urge to cancel plans and seclude myself. Unless I’m really in need of a mental health night, I usually drag myself out of the house – only to be surprised later at how life-giving it was to be with other people. Be a friend that others can count on.
4. Inconvenience your friends.
This one may sound strange out of hand, but stick with me! As a people-pleaser, I sometimes find myself hesitating to reach out when I need help bearing burdens. I don’t want to seem needy or, well…like a burden. I’m learning to be less apologetic about asking friends to help me with things, and I’d like to think I’m becoming more gracious about making space in my life for others to interrupt as well.
5. Be a cheerleader for your people.
Celebrate what’s important to those around you. If someone lands a big client at work, celebrate it. When a friend accomplishes something, recognize them publicly on social media. Write hand-written notes when you recognize a quality in someone. When you think something nice, say it. Encouragement that’s timely can keep someone moving forward. Honor your friends by standing beside them in their victories – rejoice with those who rejoice.
6. Commit yourself to groups.
I meet five women at the crack of dawn on Thursday mornings for book club. The first book we tried to go through was a bit of a letdown, but the comradery we’ve built is priceless. For the most part, it’s less about what we’re “studying” and more about our commitment to one another. If you haven’t already, find a local church and join a small group. Do what works for you – become a regular at a gym, tutor/mentor kids, take a painting class – just be willing to put yourself out there. When joining these different groups, it’s important to give them time. Just like we we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a group by your first meeting, or even your first month of meetings. It takes time for rhythms and relationships to develop.
Building community takes time and commitment, and is certainly not a passive process. We need each other, so come to the table with something to share, don’t just wait to be served.
About the Author:
Madisson Rogers is a newlywed, a wannabe-writer, and a Tennessee girl building a life in Charlotte. She has a heart in pursuit of our Heavenly Father and is learning to find adventure and joy in the ordinary. Connect with her online at madissonrogers.com