My favourite thing about Church is leaving Church.
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My favourite thing about Church was leaving Church so that I could go to Denny’s with all the people from Church. It was our tradition. I would look forward to that Slam, built thoughtfully and carefully by myself with bacon AND sausage, because I can, and 2 soft poached eggs broken over shredded hashbrowns; blending the beauty of runny yoke and crispy potatoes together to create an experience so beautiful it could bring you to tears. And it was good.
As amazing as my “Build Your Own Slam” was, it was only a complimentary piece to my Sunday night Denny’s experience. I genuinely loved my Denny’s community and the people within it, and that’s truly what I looked forward to all week.
I think we have all had a Denny’s community in our lives at some point; a group of people you love being around so much, that the activity is really secondary. Perhaps it is a sports team, a class cohort, a life group, crossfit, a book club, a missions team, coworkers, your neighbours, the people on the bus, an adult acting class, a group of 50 year-old women you work out with as a part of a study.
Are those last couple common? I can’t be the only one who engulfed myself in a community as a test rat, right?
Often times people say they love a group or activity because of the community, but we aren’t really sure what that means. What is it specifically about a group that we can label as having “great community?” If you have experienced great community it can be tough to put words to why it was a great community, but we know that it was a fulfilling and enjoyable experience with others. We all know we want more of it.
So, how do we intentionally make community more than just a catchphrase?
Through much conversation and research, I noticed 3 themes when it comes to great community experiences:
Woody Allen has a famous quote saying, “80% of success is showing up.” Showing up seems simple, but it should not be overlooked. Like anything, forming relationships with a group of people takes time. My “Denny’s” group started when I was 12 years old, meeting every Wednesday throughout high school, and yes this meant I had to tape Lost (remember taping things?) for 4 years, but we all showed up. As we initially started meeting, I vividly remember thinking to myself, “man I have nothing in common with these nerds and I’m done with Halo.” However, over time, simply showing up led to this amazing growth to the point where this group became my closest friends. They became the community I could depend on for anything. I wouldn’t want to whipped in Halo by anyone else.
In the busyness of life, where we can choose so many different ways to spend our time, simply showing up is the first, and most important step.
2. Bring Food
Have you ever been with a group of people and the vibe seems kind of icy and tense until… food. Kim Samuel is a leader in the field of social connectedness and isolation, and she has a great quote about what sharing a meal does for people:
“But something amazing happens when we sit down together to share a meal. Gathered around a table, we are all equals. Through the ingredients on our plates, we share a common connection to the Earth and to each other. Breaking bread together breaks down barriers and builds connection.
It’s one unifying event we share regardless of social class, race, age, gender or any type of barrier that may attempt to divide, and is key to building great community. ( https://youtu.be/vDuA9OPyp6I )
3. Be You
Have you ever found yourself looking around a room and wondering, how did this odd and diverse collection of people come together? How can people so dissimilar form such a bond?
I was fortunate enough to be a part of a cohort in University that was such a diverse group of personalities that came together so quickly it was shocking. One of my classmates would do these quirky “this day in history” announcements; another drove across the city to fix someone’s washing machine; another hosted all the parties and dinners; one would create the most ridiculous and hilarious memes involving covert pics taken during class; others would randomly bring incredible baking for everybody because “it’s Wednesday”. One would do entire presentations in character (accent and all); another would take time every day to meaningfully build somebody up with encouragement; one was so tall; another brought a bold honesty to every conversation; one provided this incredibly calming presence to every situation that was always appreciated in the grind of school; another had no shame sharing vulnerable and embarrassing stories that seemed to push morning conversations from small talk to a special moments where we could laugh together.
At the end of our brief time together, we shared an incredible morning of goodbyes and tears. It was an eclectic group of people that bonded so quickly it was astonishing. However, in hindsight, I don’t think we bonded in spite of our differences, but rather because of them.
I would argue that our diverse and unique qualities are exactly what allows us to create great community. When we can bring something to a group that no one else can, we not only provide value to the community, but we also feel valued by the community. To be both valued and valuable is what I think defines great community.
Our hope for City Collective is to be a community of diverse individuals that bring value and feel valued by each other as we journey through the mess of life, coming together to create space for people to discover life in Jesus.