I love fall. Yes, I realize that I live in San Diego and we don’t really have seasons. But I still love this time of year when everything is trying to get a bit cozier.
Enjoying fall is challenging in Southern California, where temperatures are still running high. No matter how much I want to wear scarves, every morning I’m still destined to put on my summer clothes. So for now, I just have to be satisfied by duplicating the appearance of Autumn in and around my house by scattering lots of pumpkins, warm colored leaves, and fall scented candles everywhere.
Most of us have a strong desire to duplicate the things that we admire and find beautiful. And while satisfaction can be found by producing something that is similar, our copy cannot fully display all the wonder of the original.
The same principal applies to creating community.
We cannot copy and paste a thriving community – and then force it to fit the personality, lifestyle, resources, and vibe our home. Absentmindedly duplicating what someone else is doing in their home does not automatically create something beautiful and lasting in ours.
Developing a thriving community marked by meaningful relationships takes time, practice, and our unique personalization.
There is value in sharing our experiences with one another, because the ideas of others often give us a starting point. We try various suggestions from people and communities that we respect or admire. We glean inspiration and learn new ideas.
But then we do the hard work of modifying examples or letting go of suggestions that just don’t fit with the rhythms and resources of our homes, or the people we are developing community with.
Ryan and I decided very early in our marriage that we wanted our home to be a place of gathering. I love to share about the beloved community in our home that has grown from that desire. But it is also important to tell you that Ryan and I tried replicating several groups that were modeled to us by people whom we greatly admire that did not blossom under our stewardship or in our home: a Sunday afternoon lunch group, family bible studies, mom’s book clubs, youth group hangouts, to name just a few.
All of these groups had a genuine need for community. They all began with a ton of energy, and all of them eventually fizzled. It took several attempts, and some trial and error, before Ryan and I figured out what we are best at, what group we are most passionate to serve, what populations fit well in our home, and what needs within our community line up with our resources.
I am eternally grateful that we never gave up on our desire to nourish community and build meaningful relationships in our home just because someone else’s version of community wasn’t quite the right fit.
Because eventually we did find our people.
Once our connections with young adults started developing in our home, something lasting and beautiful began to make root right through the middle of my dining room table. What we get to enjoy now – every week – was worth all the effort of trying and failing. We just had to know what didn’t work for us before we realized what does.
Even though all our previous groups were short lived, the investment of trying them has never been wasted. Significant relationships and practical knowledge grew from each of those valuable experiences.
It is by this process of trial and error – not a momentary decision – that I discovered my community niche. The place where a people’s need for community intersects with my resources, abilities, and interests.
I believe strongly that we all have a community niche that we can serve beautifully AND that they are not all the same. That’s the brilliance of God’s unique design for each of us. So that only as a collective group, are we able to offer an invitation to every type of person and need.