(Un)Intentional Community

by lizdances on November 13, 2012

in Church, InnerCHANGE, Life, Tuesday Tidbit

Community’s a pretty hot buzzword these days: here in Britain they discuss “community cohesion” when charities apply for grants; in Christian circles  “intentional communities” are a hot topic.

The idea of “intentional” community is fascinating to me, because it implies that there are communities you don’t necessarily get to choose. As a very wise person who’s part of Reba Place Fellowship once told me, “You know, if you buy a condo, you’ve just landed yourself in an unintentional community. And then you’re pretty tied up with those folks and may have to make big financial decisions with them, whether you like them or not….”

So what does it mean to choose and commit to a community? How should this affect how we do life together? Our team is currently exploring this over several weeks in our post-Tuesday-prayer discussion group (called, appropriately enough, “Learning Community.” Better to learn and explore and journey with others…)

Some things area already built into our framework, because we think it’s really important to do ministry in teams: we deliberately choose to live as close together as possible, so we see each other when out and about in the community (or, as a teammate recently tweeted, close enough to carry over a casserole in your pajamas!). We build time into our meetings to catch up on daily life and how the kids are doing before we launch into the business stuff. We get all the families together once a month just for the sake of hanging out and doing something fun.

But I’ve realized as we’ve been talking that there’s more to being community than this. The analogy that’s come up most recently in our discussions is that of marriage; like two people who’ve chosen to do life together, our team has chosen to covenant with each other for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This means committing to work through our inevitable differences and disagreements. It means knowing and trusting each other enough to challenge each other to change and to grow. It means deliberately looking for ways to support and love and encourage one another, building each other up just as you would a spouse. And it means our team is striving to model reconciling, forgiving, love-filled relationships to those around us.

Our founder John Hayes often says, “It takes a community to reach a community.” The more we live into this, the more I can see that truth playing out around us.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janelle November 15, 2012 at 9:21 am

I really resonate with this Liz. In some ways, a lot of the staff in the IJM office where I’m working is both an intentional and unintentional community. We’ve all chosen to work for this mission, and the nature of the work is such that we also often see our coworkers outside of working hours…especially the other ex-pats. Some of us work together (which includes fellowship at work together), share meals together, go to church together, hang out together and one of them even lives with us. It’s been a challenge sometimes for Miguel and I too as we’re together a lot! There are definite challenges to work through as you’re around the same people so much, but have committed to doing life and work with them. A growing experience for sure!

Josh November 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Your comment about intentional community and marriage has me thinking about a conversation I had last night.

Last night C and I shared a meal with new pastor friends who spent a couple years of their ministry living far apart in different cities. One way they chose to maintain their commitment to the community of their marriage was to limit their relational networks to those they held in common. Neither partner would develop a new set of friendships or connections on their own.

Looking back, they voiced doubts about whether this was a good choice.

I wonder how commitments to community both limit and also free us to expand the breadth and number of our personal networks. In our new setting, with C and I working in separate spheres, I wonder what this means for our marriage. I also wonder what it might mean for the community of our church here.

Good thoughts. Thanks, Liz.

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