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How Would You Rate Your Community?

January 21, 2009

As I continue to read on community in the US, I’m struck by the steady decline of genuine human interaction beyond superficial familial, vocational, and patron-client relationships. Robert Putnam notes the decline of community in the United States stating that over the past 25 years, attendance at club meetings has fallen 58 percent, family dinners are down 33 percent, and having friends visit has fallen 45 percent. The last two figures are most disconcerting. People just don’t share meals much anymore, especially in their homes, a place where community has often flourished.

In Urban Tribes, Ethan Watters confesses that the “never-marrieds” (singles in 20s-30s) abandoned community in pursuit of vocation and avocation. Many of them critique the superficiality of our culture, form bonds with a small group of like-minded people, bemoan the breakdown of community, but don’t really do anything about it. Their bonds tend to be negative and inward, not positive and outwardly focused. In short, a population defined by what we aren’t doing.”

Can you relate to any of this, positively or negatively? I’m curious what your experience of community is like? Where are you finding meaningful connections with other people? Are these relationships satisfying your hunger for community? What is lacking, if anything, and what is wonderful?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2009 7:55 pm

    I can absolutely relate to this, negatively. My wife and I moved to Florida in 2007 from up north after we got married (Michigan and Ontario, respectively), and we have yet to feel a sense of community here. We are smack dab in the middle of the Orlando suburbs, and it is lonely territory. We completely understand the 20-30s who “abandoned community in pursuit of vocation and avocation.” We are very intentional about opening our home and making it a community-building place but it has been difficult to actually get people to come in.

    I don’t know how much context has to do with it, but when I lived in Canada I was part of a small church plant group, and it seemed that Christians were much more intentional about community there. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that there were far less Christians in the city there, as where here there are lots of them, churches everywhere.

    Also, I have noticed how difficult it is to have a real and authentic conversation here, even with Christians. My age group seems to have turned in on itself so much that even general conversation becomes a chore.

    I don’t want to go off on a sort of rant here, but just point out that I have felt a distinct lack of community among my age group and think we need to seriously address it. So I thank you for raising the issue here. Humanity was made to live in community; living in isolation is unnatural. We need to reclaim what God intended.

  2. January 22, 2009 8:24 am

    This is a classic “Your Mileage May Vary” question. I was part of a singles/young adult ministry at a church in Virginia for almost my entire 20s and there was tons of community. People were often having others over for dinner, our small group was super tight and there was a deep and abiding concern for others. Some factors that I think influenced this were

    * Many of the people that attended the church and were involved lived geographically close to the church, which meant having people over for dinner after church or getting together before a meeting wasn’t a huge ordeal
    * Much of the leadership grew up in the area and really loved it as their hometown, where they came from.

    That is a huge contrast from my experience here in Michigan. We’ve been back here for two years, are back looking for a new church, and our entire small group disintegrated after five couples either moved or left the church. Our former church talks about community but doesn’t quite see that it’s more than just talk and hopes, it takes work. One of the real boundaries that we’ve found is people with friendships of many years naturally default to those friendships and it can be difficult to find your place where everyone already seems to know each other. Our former church was also unique in that most of the non-college students came to Christ as college students, so they have gone through amazing life transformation together. There’s just no replacement for that when everyone is “out in the real world”, when you have much less regular interaction with non family or co-workers. And, nowadays, there are fewer “big things” happening in the 20s and 30s as people move marriage and kids until later in life. My gut says that if people married and had families sooner, that community would more naturally occur.

    I continually look to the example of my parents, who have been in the same small group with 4 other couples for 20 years. There is a genuine love in that group that is quite attractive. They intentionally formed that group for discipleship and look for opportunities to interact with others. My hope is that my wife and I will have a similar desire to plant ourselves with others to grow together.

  3. January 23, 2009 9:20 am

    Thanks for sharing guys. It’s a shame that both of you are reporting a decline in Christian community, which has every reason to have community that his through the roof.

    One thing we have found helpful is to teach our people that community isn’t a) optional b) meetings c) efficient. Rather, it is a command, constant, and very inefficient. Sounds like a downer, but its not!

    We also teach that the gospel is a community-focused Gospel. The more our people get that the more they graps our vision for “steady state community” and live it! We’ve also found that community gels around a greater end that “community”. When we are on mission together, serving our neighbors, city, etc. we naturally bond over loving and serving others (very imperfectly).

    May God give you both a deeper experience of gospel-centered, missional community in Jesus.

  4. Foxy permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:25 am

    I totally believe that community is on a decline. Facebook, mobile internet, iphones, wii, xbox, blahalahalah…who’s got time for people? If we are goin to break out of this HUGE problem, it has to come from believers. We have to quit jackin around w/out toys and start getting involved in our NEIGHBORS lives! Do we know our neighbours names? do we have them over for dinner? are we there for them when they hurt? what is there full name? do we know their family? No I think the name of the article is wrong I think it should be “, how would your Community rate you?” We have to take the inituative and ACT. the pressure is on us.


  1. How Would you Rate Your Community? « Church Planting Novice
  2. More Input on Community « Life Together

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