10/29/2005

IT'S ABOUT THE COMMUNITY, STUPID!

I've recently been charged with jumping the shark (an unforgivable sin), even though I was just having some search-engine generated fun. This shall not stand. I've had a lot of bloggable ideas floating around my head, so let's put a real meat-and-potatoes posting out there. Something anyone can use - at work, at home, or even at church.

Question: What is the #1 human need?

Answer: Love.

It's a four-letter word, and for some, an overly simplistic answer. But love here is not a couple on a park bench with a heart shape floating above. We use this word to define CONNECTION. Even the most solitary hermit needs to find a connection with Nature, while most of us greatly prefer to find that in the company of other humans. It is central to the human condition to need, search and find that connection. Once we do, we label it many different things (for example, if you're at Harding, you might call it camaraderie, even if you didn't know how to spell it), but I think the best word to use is community.

All of us need to be a part of a community, and all of us seek to find that community. A community is any entity with which you find a connection. This connection can be positive or negative, conscious or unconscious. We'll talk in a moment about the types of communities and what binds them together, but what you need to make clear is that all humans are in at least one community.

The communities you are a part of have a radical effect on your life, and are therefore well worth our study. After all, how many of us have heard of someone that just "fell in with the wrong kind of people?" Or think about it this way: why would we have the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" if the Joneses weren't a part of a community we desparately wanted to stay in? Here's just a few things that the community (or communities) you're in can affect in your life:


  • Purchases - Peer pressure is always a strong motivator in spending, especially discretionary (see "Joneses" example above). However, the communities you are in can influence the advice you receieve, the products you hear about, and even the brands you prefer. After all, you're likely using the same toothpaste as your parents...

  • Worldview - As 1984 as it may sound, there is some validity to groupthink. Take a look at what happens to people within a racist organization, for example. That's an extreme result, but the people you are around will definitely serve to maintain or subvert certain beliefs and perspectives you have.

  • Mental Topics - If you listen to sports radio all the time like me, you know about Terrell Owens' latest media lash-out, or if you watch Jim Cramer's Mad Money, you'd know he's bullish on video game stocks right now. The connections you make with others determine the information you receive, and therefore, what you're thinking about right now.


Here's the payoff: you can use this Power of Community to your advantage! Here's some ideas I had, but I'm sure you can think of others:

  • Your Church - involvement is always a problem at even the largest of churches, so you can use this built-in environment for fostering community to lead to involvment, and by that, stronger relationships with God through His people. Communities build on share of information between people, so take every chance to make that possible between as many members as you can. One person speaking to many from a pulpit does create connection, but not near as much as a small group all sharing with each other. Seat your classes in circles or around tables, all facing each other. Involve the entire church in shared experiences, even small ones like everyone singing a kids song, WITH motions. Create chances for new shared experiences, like retreats, teambuilding exercises, socials and meals. If you're at the pulpit, recognize others in the congregation, as that creates another point of connection for everyone other than yourself. Actively encourage everyone to share their ideologies without fear of having the "right" answer.

  • Your Company - We call ourselves "team members" and "team leaders", but pehaps the right term is a Community Of Workers. Many companies harp on the shared experience of driving business for the company as a whole, but that's not enough. Teambuilding exercises create shared experiences out of work - new connection points for the community that build its strength. More importantly, at the workplace, you can take the time to GET UP and go talk to someone face-to-face instead of emailing them - this creates a much stronger shared experience for both of you, and it strengthens that relationship within the company. "Higher-ups" actually talking to "lower-downs" is INVALUABLE as a way of building vertical strength within a company. Many teams have community relationships within themselves, but not with the company as a whole. The result is a silo effect, where everyone's focused on thier own little realm without having a mind for the big picture. Don't create meetings, create relationships.

  • Your Family - Eating around the table is often seen as a way to build your family, because it creates equal points of connection within that community over one of the best shared experiences out there: FOOD. It's also important to seek out new ways to create connections within the family, things out of the norm. Baseball games, family game night, working out together, family bike rides, notes, cards, text messages during the day - any new way you can create a connection is valuable, because it develops the strength of your community.


I really think this concept of community has some legs, because it applies to practically anything involving people. I may even post some more applications of this concept later for you. In the mean time, what do you think? Tell me what's on your mind, and let's build a new online community.

2 comments:

Kent said...

Man, Eric, sorry I told you that your post jumped the shark. Sorry to give you so much bulletin-board material. This post was good. I retract my previous comment of you jumping the shark.

And I do agree on the need for community. Right on.

The Swan said...

Kent, it's all good. Sometimes I need the intellectual kick in the pants. Thanks for reading.