Community is a word that gets used a lot today. Perhaps it always has; which would make sense, because we are all born into some type of community. (Very few are left isolated immediately following birth, although sadly enough it does happen.) If we are born into a form of community, then why does there seem to be such a hunger for genuine community? Almost every time I speak to someone younger than 30, he or she explains that young adults are looking for real community.
But what is community? Is community a group of people? Yes. Is community a place? Yes.
How about a group of people leading a common life together? If yes, then living in community is the opposite of living an it’s-all-about-me lifestyle. There has to be more shared than there is keeping to oneself or going one’s own way. This all sounds easy enough, right? So why is it that there seems to be a void in our society that can only be filled by this type of relationship with people who live, work, and play around us? Sure, there is the friend or neighbor with whom we “hit it off,” but the relationships I’m describing are more substantial than (and sometimes not related to) mere chemistry.
Maybe genuine community is not something that just happens. Actually, it’s been my experience that deep community does not happen naturally or conveniently. (Probably because I’m too busy trying to build a particular reputation, being concerned with how others see me, and pursuing what I can get out of life for myself.) Instead, we have to be intentional to develop authentic community where a group of people decide to live with more in common than not. This concept is the motivation behind the small group format of 801South. 801South small groups are not just social (although there is a social element), nor are small groups just Bible studies that meet outside of the church building (although application of Biblical principles to our everyday lives is a part of small group time). Small groups are the model through which we will experience intentional community similar to the community experienced by the early church; of which we read in the book of Acts. (Although I don’t think that small groups of people selling everything they own and putting the money in a common account from which they draw as needed is the best model for church growth today—I just don’t see a lot of people flocking to participate there.) But perhaps small groups provide the best space for making disciples and meeting the needs of others.
Personally, I have come to understand that I need meaningful relationships with others who are able to speak into my life for me to thrive as a husband, a father, and in any other role I play. These meaningful relationships require intentional development. In 801South, we believe this development occurs from regularly meeting together, eating together, serving together, caring for one another’s needs, and learning from each other on a consistent basis. The classic Sunday School model does not fulfill this role, nor was it designed to. Short term Bible studies do not fulfill this role, nor are they designed to. Relationships drive this small group model—not structure, not curriculum—relationships. We believe this is the best arena for transformation in people’s lives—to grow into our best selves with the help of others. (Selves, not elves; which could work in this holiday season.) For 801South Launch Teammates, moving from the more traditional gatherings into these intentional communities of small groups may be difficult, but this type of relationship is what we value.
Do you find yourself yearning for these kinds of relationships? This kind of community?
How could you benefit in your life roles from being in a small group community?