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August 02nd, 2013

Plywood People’s friday five: questions for cultivating community

By KIND Editor

We believe strong communities accomplish more. When a community is actively engaged in one another’s lives and projects, there is a commitment to help accomplish one another’s goals. Think back on something you’re really proud of having accomplished. Were you able to do it completely on your own?

If you were able to accomplish the goal on your own, do you think the impact could have been greater if you’d have had help in the process?

If you weren’t able to accomplish your goals on your own, what was most valuable about what your community added to the process?

When cultivating a strong and engaged community, it’s important to consider a few things. As always, our list is not exhaustive. There are lots of other tips we could include, but these might be a few helpful things to think about as you’re building an engaged community around you.

1. How am I serving the people I’m hoping to cultivate community with?
The times I’ve found to be most successful in working with my community and relationships are the times I’ve been most willing to serve them. My goal in serving is not to get something back. It can’t be, or my expectations will go through the roof. Serving gives opportunities to show those around me that we need each other. There’s a humility involved in serving that changes me and changes those I’m serving.

2. What are my expectations?
In relationships, I get to control one part of the process: Myself. Community consists of me and a whole bunch of other people, but I only get to manage my own expectations. I don’t get to place expectations on my community for how they will engage with me. If I have high expectations of those around me, chances are I’m going to be disappointed when they can’t live up to them. However, if I keep myself in check by constantly asking, “What are my expectations?” I’ll be able to more realistically understand how the community can engage with me.

3. Am I seeing the good?
I’ve been harping on this a lot lately. For some reason, it is too easy to focus on the faults of those around me. What if I begin flipping that on its’ head and start looking for and mentioning the good I see instead? If instead of reinforcing the bad, I begin calling out the good in others they MIGHT start living up to the good.

4. Am I listening AND talking?
Sometimes we tend toward one extreme or the other. Sometimes I’m so wrapped up in what’s going on with myself that I forget to listen. This potentially leads to selfishness and to insensitivity towards those around me. Other times I am so busy taking in what those around me are going through that I forget to be vulnerable and honest with what is going on in my own life. We HAVE to do both. It might not be perfectly balanced. What matters is that there is time and space for both talking and listening.

5. Who’s missing?
We need a variety of people in our lives to help us grow. We need those who are easy to be with, we need people who challenge us, we need those a few steps ahead who can share their wisdom, people we can serve, people we can have fun with, people who we can be vulnerable with and people we can just BE with. Think about your community. Who is missing? Do you have only people who say YES to you? People who only say NO to you? Are you serving anyone? Are you being served by anyone? Make sure you have people in your life who both challenge and encourage you. What does your community look like?

Our friend Aaron Fortner shares that you can’t BUILD community— community is living and breathing. Just like a tree, things that are living and breathing can’t be built, they must be cultivated. How are you cultivating your community?

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