Every so often I get a cockamamie idea. Well, that’s what my husband would tell you anyway. They always seem like good ideas to me. And ever since God placed in my heart a desire to foster community, my unsuspecting friends and church family make fine (and forgiving) subjects for some of my schemes.
Earlier this summer I got a little dreamy and mentioned to my husband that we should have a barn dance. Or maybe a hymn sing. Or maybe a chili cook-off with and old fashioned pie auction. He reminded me we have a pole barn full of random junk and toys that hadn’t been touched since the day we moved in. Hardly a setting for an idyllic night on the farm. I figured he just lacked creative vision for our barn.
I put the possible ideas to my pastor and he liked all three. So with nothing more than an idea we went ahead and invited our whole church.
This is how I roll. Invite everyone first and worry about silly little things like details and planning second. I have written about two other times when I did this. (See Here and Here). Both times things worked out better than expected and I hoped this would be no different.
And it was … better than I expected. The church came together. We ate chili and sang hymns then finished off the night learning line dance moves from a ballroom dancer who also happens to be an attorney. It was awesome. And since a picture is worth a million words I will share a few. Ok I’ll share a lot because Alison Lea Photography took fabulous pictures and it was hard to choose. (Its my blog and I can post too many pictures if I want to.)
This much I know … community doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes we hesitate to even invite people over because our house isn’t flawless. Or we aren’t sure what to serve. Or we think it will take too much effort to plan. Don’t let some false expectation of perfection stop you from building community into your life. I realize that some people have the gift of hospitality and really enjoy making everything perfect. If that’s you then go for it. But lacking that gift is no excuse. My grandma served countless chipped mugs of Foldgers coffee to person after person in her messy kitchen. People coming together is the key – and that’s all it takes for relationships to be built.
Anyone can take the initiative to create community. You don’t have to invite the whole church over for a barn dance. You can invite someone you don’t know well over for coffee. Offer to bring a plate of cookies to a widow. Have another family over for dinner. Go to a sports event of a young person in your life. Be present in the lives of others.
There are endless ways to develop relationships in your life. Empty nesters can build into young parents. Couples with years of experience can mentor young couples. Parents with experience can befriend younger parents. Join or offer to host a small group or Bible study. Introduce yourself to someone sitting alone at church. Organize a running club. Start a book club.Whatever.
I often dream about how much richer our lives would be if we made more space for authentic, face to face community. People are craving real relationships. And even though we ALL know its false, we still let online community suffice far too often. And it won’t change unless we change it. So put yourself out there. Go out on a limb. Just do it. You won’t regret it.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” ~ Romans 15:5-7