Are you a healthy member of your community (family, church, business, not for profit)?

by Rod Smith

Community is costly - if it is to be authentic - it's more than sharing a few meals and tea!

Community life, as in “we are starting an ‘Acts 2 thing’ at our church” tends to be is idealized. I wonder how long the Acts community lasted without severe conflict? We tend to hear about intentional communities when they are doing really well, or when they break up, or break away or split from the founding organization.

Have you noticed stories about communities always seem to portray groups that are be better, stronger, and wiser, or more blessed than the one you are in? Either that, or you read the account of what has occurred in some Christian community and fall on your knees with thanksgiving that whatever happened occurred somewhere else.

Leadership: It is not the leader’s (or group of leaders’) responsibility to make community more real, stronger, more fun, or more authentic, although the community will naturally place pressure on the leaders to do so. More Scrabble, more Pictionary, pitch-in dinners, and more communication will not do it. There is this

Lead.... and follow....

Take full responsibility only for your own life.....

tenaciously held belief that if leaders would just make it possible for people to “hang out” more, share more meals, play more games, and do more work projects then “more” community would result. A leader’s fundamental responsibility is to take care of his / her own growth and maturity – and try to lessen his or her focus on the people or the team or the “thing” he or she is trying to grow. It’s got to grow on its own or it won’t grow at all.

Community emerges when individuals authentically invest in diverse relationships, enjoy healthy personal boundaries, discuss (over an extended time) what they want as individuals and as a group, and mutually invest in the process of achieving what it is they say they want. There are no perfect communities. There are growing people in places where people are learning together about and growing into supportive and vibrant community.

Twelve signs of a healthy community

1. There is focused chaos. The organism is filled with activity as all pursue shared and individual goals with varying degrees of interest and intensity.
2. There are regular, often intense, conflicts over resources like rooms, cars, busses, schedules, and washing machines, washing powder, driers, refrigerators, kitchens, and copy machines.
3. There are frequent tussles over new vs. old, loud vs. soft, younger vs. older, traditional vs. contemporary, “experienced” vs. “inexperienced” and over what does or does not constitute healthy, respectful fun.
4. There are leaders, but it can be hard to tell exactly who they are. Leadership in a healthy community is not about age, experience or hierarchy, but about who understands what is needed of a particular leadership role, and at a particular time. In other words, the recognized leaders may “disappear” when person better equipped at a particular task steps up. Real leaders, also being good followers, can be led when necessary and so the community might sometimes forget whom the appointed leaders are. The same applies to teachers and teaching.
5. There are regular, natural celebrations that occur in spite of a leader’s desires to inspire such celebrations. In a healthy community a leader will often feel out of control, especially when it comes to celebrations.
6. There are times when it seems impossible to get all the key people together at one time, and so the persons in leadership of different groups and projects continually embrace compromise and approximation. People are not punished for their unavailability but supported for their continued work toward the greater goals of the community. In healthy communities there is on focus on punishment or banishment.
7. The weak members of a healthy community are embraced, accepted and challenged, but they do not set (or sabotage) the agenda even though they will quite naturally attempt to do so. Strength and vision set the agenda and the weak are challenged to grow and mature and heal and become strong rather than they are encouraged to hold back the communities natural growth.
8. Like faith, hope and love, negotiation, conflict and competition are always with us, and the greatest of these is approximation.
9. Flexibility is highly valued internal quality in all the members of the community. Flexibility comes from within and cannot be forced upon another.
10. Empathy and consensus are nice ideals, and they are encouraged, but they do not “carry the day.” Empathy has it legitimate place but tends, in my opinion, to be over-rated. I believe challenge is more useful than is empathy, and while healthy communities are also to be empathic communities, empathy is not the reason for its existence. Consensus is often the cop-out (“we just couldn’t come to a reasonable consensus – so we tabled the decision again”) when leaders lack nerve.
11. In healthy communities, all people’s views and voices are valued, but of course, not all are given equal power or weight. Weight (power) to an idea or a decision is given by how much responsibility a person holds and what their investment is in the organization.
12. In a healthy community, responsibility and authority go hand-in-hand.

Community killers

1. Gossip.
2. Dark alliances (hurtful inside jokes, negative labeling, boo-hoo-ing, mumble-mumbling).
3. Random (and specific) acts resulting from minimal or chronic anxiety.
4. Specific (and random) acts of sabotage.
5. Rigid rules about amoral issues, rituals, or programs.
6. Being “nicer than God” by accepting damaging or malicious behavior because we want to be
nice or inclusive.
7. Triangle-ing (cornering, trapping, coercing).
8. Speaking out of two sides of the same mouth.
9. Confusing worry with love and love with worry.
10. Confusing tolerance (putting up with someone) with love.
11. Under-functioning (by abdicating your role so someone else fulfills it) or by over-functioning (by doing someone’s job or occupying someone’s role to be sure it gets done).
12. Interfering in the relationships of others.
13. Insisting others embrace you point of view.
14. Being unwilling or unable to relate to people who do not agree with you.

Pseudo-community is exhausting. Authentic community is hard work can be very rewarding, even exhilarating. Do your part in being a healthy member of your community – or move on to a place where you can. This does not necessarily mean leaving. Reassessing your role and function in your community will bring you greater health.

Community Enhancers

1. Focus on your own growth and maturity.
2. Get out of the way of others and their conflicts – get out of the crossfire and give them
the joy of dealing with their own stuff.
3. For the INTIMATES – increase your AUTONOMY.
4. For the AUTONOMOUS – increase your INTIMACY.
5. Become the most GENEROUS person you know.
6. Say “yes” more than “no”.
7. Create a blueprint for your life.

3 Responses to “Are you a healthy member of your community (family, church, business, not for profit)?”

  1. To answer your first question, it lasted until Acts 6. Great article-lots of food for thought.

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