The buzz-word today for young professionals is “Community.” They’ve finally realized that all the online connections on the smart phone are nothing more than veneer that leads to more loneliness. They’re surrounded by lots of people, but the level of actual connection in life is dramatically diminished due to several variables in our culture.

Work is too fast.
Silence is considered boredom.
Taking time to give without the expectation of some Return on Your Investment seems worthless.

But spend some time with young adults today and you’ll hear the battle cry – “I’m just looking for a community of people to belong to.” And with sadness in their voice, they walk back to an apartment or a home filled with people who don’t know each other.

They laugh.
They do stuff.
They even try to forge adventure together.
But in the end, the realness of knowing is replaced by protectionism, self-gratification, and a longing to know and be known.

So for those of you who are longing to be a part of a community, may I just offer a few insights into really belonging? You may find out  you really don’t want community because being a part of a group of people who will love and accept you unconditionally is…well…HARD!

1. Community isn’t something that you can just make happen.

This may come as a surprise to a generation attached to instant gratification, but community doesn’t just happen overnight. You can’t just push your local “community app” and order in the people you think will work good for you.

There’s no “drive in” community fast food type of process.
There’s no 2 Min. YouTube clip that will help you achieve togetherness
You can’t build it by meeting an hour a week and talking about a book where you fill in the blanks and everyone smiles at each other.
And it isn’t something that will happen if you don’t think about it pro-actively.

The beauty of living in a community is that it takes work, it takes time, and it demands that you are present.

The problem with our current way of thinking in the west is, we want what we want and we want it now.

Well, community just doesn’t work that way.

Living with…
Experiencing with…
Struggling with…
Celebrating with..

These things all take time.

Community is all about building a past of trust, and living in the moment.  The past is as important as the present.  We can all live in the nostalgia of our high school days, our college days, or our work place days; but in reality, if you’re not present in the lives with others you’re just living old stories.

Don’t get me wrong, story is an important foundation of building a strong community, but if the end game of community rests on the laurels of the past you’ll inevitable come to a place where stories lose their luster.  The fun that once was goes away, and a need for new life emerges.

In order to develop a strong community, you must be present.  And that means, sometimes when that “thing” that seems more enticing needs to give way to the commitment you make to the people you live life with.  It’s not always the most fun thing that takes precedent, but the beauty of committing to one another.  That’s the first step in knowing you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.

2. Community is about GIVING not Receiving

Many young people think if they were a part of a community then they would find meaning in life.  They would have friends to mourn with them.  They’d have fans to celebrate with them.  They wouldn’t have those lonely times in their apartment longing to be “with” someone else because they would be a part of a community of people.  But that idea is centrally focused on what YOU can get rather than what You can give.

Vibrant communities grow and foster when people GIVE.

When you give your time, you develop community.
When you sacrifice your agenda for the agenda of another, you develop community.
When you show someone else they are important, people are attracted to that thing.

But when you’re always trying to focus all the attention on you and your issues, community unravels.

People want to be in a group of people they know are ALL IN.  And if there’s a whiff of taking, the community gets tired.

It doesn’t mean that community won’t provide support when you’re in need, but if you’re focus is on “What’s in this for me?” instead of “What can I give to someone else to make their life better?” you’re going to find a lonely community frazzled.

It’s amazing that the heart of Jesus’ message through the Bible is one of ultimate Giving.  He raises the importance of giving so much that He says, “No greater love does a man have than he lay down his life for his friends.”

Even when we lay down our lives for the good of another, we find life.

I know that sound counter intuitive to our culture, but it’s true.  When we lay down our agenda for another something magical happens, and The Other begins to lay down their life and agenda for us.  Try it.  I think you’ll be surprised at how strong a community can be when we look out for the needs of another.

3. Community is the Most Fulfilling life

Here in the west we’re taught from an early age that no one cares for you, and you’re going to have to go out and make it on your own.  Even the way we consume the super hero culture by buying more Batman, Superman, or whatever the latest comic book movie that’s the summer blockbuster shows how much emphasis we place on those who can do extraordinary things by themselves.

But in the heart of every man lies the need to “know” and “be known” by another.

Community is hard and full of commitment.  It may seem like you’re sacrificing too much from time to time, but the paradox is; the more we sacrifice for another, the more fulfilling life can be.

Community is when we get that promotion, and our friends take us out to party.
Community is when tragedy strikes, and our friends are there to carry our burdens.
Community is a guys trip to the mountains, or a girls trip to a spa filled with laughter and joy.

If you’re interested in developing a community in your world, take heed…

It’s hard.
It’s takes work.
It takes sacrifice.
It requires you to give yourself
And in the end, you’ll grow old with people instead of winding up all alone in the world.

So go and start today.

Identify those people in your life you’re ready to grow old with, and start GIVING.  You’ll be surprised at how fast it happens.


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