The Anatomy of Community
Groups form around common passions: sports teams, religion, race, language, tradition, hobbies, etc. In these groups we find community and connection. We feel invited into something bigger than ourselves that we can belong to. We feel included and important. But the problem with groups is they can be exclusive to anyone who doesn’t share their passion. This creates a wall between one group and another. Just about everyone in the country knows about the enormous wall between Michigan fans and Ohio State fans. Although both groups are passionate about their University, the wall of rivalry stands tall between the schools. Sports are one thing, but what about other areas of life? What about people who belong to the same organization but still have walls between them? Those walls are harder to detect and even harder to define.
What exactly are the walls that divide? They are what keep you from saying hi to a stranger. They are the invisible rivalry between schools. They are gossip. They are popularity. They are negative thoughts you have about the person sitting next to you. They are skin color. They are groups of friends failing to invite someone to join them. They are what causes disunity in an organization.
Putting these thoughts to the test, we decided to investigate the wall of disunity in EPIC (the youth ministry I lead). We are currently digging into a series called Made to Make a Difference. It is an adventure into identity, helping students realize God made them specifically and uniquely to make a difference. It is part of their DNA to be world changers. Recently, we talked about blasting down the walls that separate us and prevent us from making a difference. As we studied this, we realized we had to look at the walls between us before we could look anywhere else. We brainstormed different bricks that make up the wall of disunity in EPIC. Here are the results…
40 Bricks of Disunity
Home School Vs. Public School
Athletes Vs. Non-Athletes
Not good at small talk
Christians Vs. Non-Christians
Leaders Vs. Students
Not friends outside of youth group
Not knowing someone
Pressure from others
Don’t know what to say
Afraid you have the wrong answer
In order to blast through the walls of disunity, we must tear them down brick by brick. We must tear out apathy and choose passion. We must get rid of judgment and offer grace. We must stop being exclusive and start being inclusive. Unity is fostered by blasting down the walls of disunity and creating cultures of inclusive community.
Groups themselves are incredible tools which foster community but they can also have the opposite effect. If groups aren’t aware of their need to be accepting of people from outside their circle, they can kill the community they intend to create. While maintaining their unity, groups must blast the walls that surround them by intentionally inviting others in. Instead of seeing others as a threat to the community and traditions the group has formed, groups must see outsiders as guests and invite them to experience the richness of their community.
I grew up in a home with five sisters and two incredible parents. We had a tight-knit, church-going, tradition-keeping, fun-loving community within our home. Instead of keeping this community in a vaccuum within the four walls of our home, my parents constantly invited people in. There were numerous times when they actually invited people to live with us. Two of these instances were my friends who needed a place to stay and my parents opened their doors. Generosity like this is simply staggering to me. It’s one thing to give money to the poor. It’s a whole different ballgame to let them come and live in your house. This is an incredible picture of community.
The anatomy of community is unity. And unity starts with an invitation to come and share the richness of a community with open doors.