Community the key to connection
I grew up in a very strong community. No, not church. My family didn't go to church much more than Christmas and Easter. It was a local farming community. There was not much to it visibly " just a tiny weatherboard school, a corrugated iron CWA* hall and a tennis court. But that was the hub of a thriving and caring community where everybody knew everybody. We helped one another out. We pitched in at working-bees. We gathered for tennis, P&C meetings, dances, cake stalls and end-of-year concerts. We cared. We belonged.
Some Christian ladies held Sunday School classes in that CWA hall every week and over half the kids at school came along. A few from committed Christian families, some from occasional church-going families (like me). But all the mums pitched-in and took their turn picking up a car-load of kids from farms around. It was just what happened. Sunday School in the hall was part and parcel of our community. So every Sunday morning, I and all the other kids sang songs about Jesus, learned Bible stories and took what we had made home to show our parents.
I spoke to a man the other day who does market research (focus groups and interviews) with a wide range of people: what they like and don't like; what they think and feel about various things. He said that overwhelmingly what people want more than anything else is belonging: to fit in and be accepted; to have a role; to matter to other people. A place where they belong. Yet, he said, paradoxically, the places in society where people can find belonging " like tennis clubs, service clubs, churches, boy scouts and girl guides " are all in massive decline. It seems odd, but he swears it is true. We have bigger BBQs and TVs than ever before, and as we huddle round them we yearn for community; we yearn to belong.
If what this man says is true, our suburbs are full of people who long deep down to have what we have. We belong to Christ our maker and we belong to one another as members of his body. By God's grace we have ultimate belonging; the ultimate experience of community.
It got me thinking: surely from those who are given much, much will be expected? How can we build that community beyond the doors of church and let it overflow into our streets and suburbs where it is so desperately needed?
Andrew Nixon is the Executive Director of Connect09 as well as a member of the Evangelism Ministries team and a minister with many years of parish-based ministry.
* Country Women's Association