How to Build Community: What the Real Cost Is

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you. -Romans 15:7 
Building community is hard work.
It takes intentionality and risk; requires energy and planning. And there is always the possibility of rejection as we put ourselves out there. However, making room for others in our lives is an essential practice for those in the community of faith.

A Difference Between Simple and Easy

We all long for community.
People are hungry for welcome. When we open up our homes to others so much more happens than simply adding to the number of bodies in our home. There is incredible power in simply welcoming people because in this simple act we are welcoming others as Christ has welcomed us. It is one way we join him in his work in the world. When we do this, Jesus is present with us.
This is easier said than done, though! Here are some of the reasons I’ve come up with to not make space for people in my home:

  • It takes so much work to get things ready.
  • I feel like I have to entertain when I have people over and it’s exhausting.
  • I’m not good at decorating.
  • No one wants to help get things ready, so I end up doing it all.
    (The struggle is real, folks.)
  • The pressure to have the perfect home.
  • The stress of making sure everyone is doing okay.
  • The anxiety due to the lack of decorating skills.
  • The drain that comes with hosting.
  • The busyness that leaves little energy left.
  • The struggle with boundaries and wearing ourselves out.
  • The need to control, to plan and make every thing flow nicely.

Any of that sound familiar?
It’s easy to believe that if the circumstances changed then it would be easier and possible. Many times I’ve wished that a professional decorator could just tell me what will make my home look like the Pottery Barn store.
As an introvert, energized by being alone, I’ve thought if I can just muster up enough energy then I could have others over. I’ve been frustrated at the work of getting things ready, thinking if others could just pitch in a little more then it would be sustainable.
The struggle with finding freedom in this has often left me wondering if it’s worth it. Just ask my family, as they usually bore the brunt of my stress.

The Art of Being Present

One thing that can really derail building community is the pressure to be perfect. Have a perfect home, be the perfect host and do everything perfectly. This belief causes us to feel like it’s all up to us. It’s all on our shoulders.
[Tweet “One thing that can really derail building community is the pressure to be perfect.”] The good news is it is not a weight that Jesus wants us to carry. He wants to lift that weight from us and show us a different way.
For me, there needed to be a reshaping and rethinking about how to build community. What does it look like to recapture the art of not entertaining or being entertained, but simply being present with someone?
In her book, Making Room, Christine Pohl shares that building this kind of community requires: Attentive listening, mutual sharing of lives and life stories, openness of heart, willingness to make one’s life visible to others and generosity of time and resources.
This is what it means to truly be present with others. All of this is a journey and a process of our hearts. It is a surrendering to sharing our lives and giving of ourselves. It is a pilgrimage that takes intentionality and specific wrestling with the pressures that we feel.
Jean Vanier said, “Community is the work of love.”
This is what it means to be the church. We are a covenant community given the mission of extending the kingdom of our Father. And just think about what is possible when we join Jesus in extending the kingdom of our Father, all the unexpected blessings, the friendships, the sense of belonging, the support, being able to share our lives, our stories, struggles and breakthroughs.
Church means feeling known, seen, heard and valued.
Christine Pohl again writes in her book Making Room, “Hospitality is a lens through which we can read and understand much of the gospel, and a practice by which we can welcome Jesus himself.” It is a fundamental expression of the gospel. This practice enables us to see Jesus in others. And what an amazing thing it is to see him in others!
[Tweet “Church means feeling known, seen, heard and valued.”]

From Hard Work to Soft Hearts

Thinking back on all the moments of struggle with building community, I find myself thankful for the work and reshaping that has been done and is being done in my heart.
It has been difficult and rewarding. This journey has brought me to a place where it has become a gift to welcome people into our home. Sharing our lives and giving of ourselves is no longer such a burden or a drain. It has become a life giving practice that is deeply enriching.
Christine concludes in her book Making Room by saying, “Hospitality is simultaneously costly and wonderfully rewarding, it often involves small deaths and little resurrections. By God’s grace we can grow more willing, more eager, to open the door to a needy neighbor, a weary sister or brother, a stranger in distress.”
Hospitality that builds community is something that is cultivated over time. We need to reclaim the household as a key site for ministry. To do this takes some wrestling and risking – but is amazingly rewarding! May we become the kinds of people who can one step at a time welcome others as Jesus has welcomed us!
[Tweet “”We need to reclaim the household as a key site for ministry.” ~Deb Sternke”]

Your Next Step in Building Community

What is one small step you can take in the direction of building community into your life? Perhaps it is giving someone a call to let them know you’re thinking of them. Maybe it’s meeting someone for coffee. Perhaps it is having someone over for supper this week. Whatever you sense that God tells you is your next step, take it!
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About the Author

Deb Sternke

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