10 Ways to Build Community You Can Touch

Community SupportThis post is a Tuesday Tip. 

Related Post: The Reason We All Need Community

Hardship and pain cannot be avoided.

But we do not have to endure them alone.

We must be intentional now about forging community. Because when the trials of life arrive—and they will—we will need to lean on the strength and patience and peace and hope of the people we cherish.

In our age of social media, community is a term with a quickly expanding definition: our communities are increasingly composed of people from all over the globe. And this is a beautiful thing. Yet we are physical creatures in material bodies, and thus we also require a community of people we can see and touch and smell. And the closer the better, because when trouble comes calling, we need to know help is on the way. And the sooner the better.

Building community in the places we live will require work and dedication. But it can happen. And it can begin with an idea. Or ten.

  1. Have a yard sale, but only “sell” hospitality. Earlier this summer, we had a yard sale. In one day, we talked to more neighbors than we typically talk to in an entire summer. But why do we have to sell stuff in order to put out chairs in the front yard and socialize for a Saturday? We should do this several times every summer.
  2. Play catch with the kids. In the front yard. Most new construction is designed to emphasize family gatherings in the back yard, which prevents the formation of relationships within a neighborhood. Move your family time to the front yard, and watch your neighborhood connections grow.
  3. Borrow with impunity. Ask neighbors to borrow eggs and sugar and gardening tools and yard machines. Ask different neighbors until you find several neighbors who seem genuinely excited to share with you and to know you better. Offer to reciprocate.
  4. Pick a church based on proximity. Churches are still the most reliable communities we have, but we undermine their communal value by shopping for a certain product and then driving many miles to consume it. Instead, find a church you can walk to, and spend Sundays with your neighbors.
  5. Serve. One reader pointed out that serving together forms strong bonds. Find service opportunities in your area. Invite a friend along. Another reader noted that life presents us with many opportunities to serve right in our own neighborhood. Take advantage of them.
  6. Trade square footage for location. Yep, I’m suggesting you might actually want to think about moving. If you can’t develop community in your current neighborhood, do whatever you can to get into a neighborhood where you will have community. Instead of defining the “best” neighborhood by property value, define it by how many of your best friends live nearby. Just be sure to check with them first!
  7. Make a list. Of five people within ten miles who you would like to know better. Call every one of them and ask them to get together. If you form a lasting relationship with one, you have created community.
  8. Use the internet in order to quit using the internet. Go to meetup.com. Find a group of people in your area with similar interests, and then take the plunge and go to their next scheduled meeting.
  9. Post a community request on Facebook. Put up a “classified ad” on Facebook. Something like, “Inviting a friend to have coffee one time per week, at the same time every week, for the indefinite future.” You might be surprised how many “buyers” you end up with.
  10. Believe. In yourself. Believe you are worthy of community and closeness. Believe in the goodness of others. And have faith that, as you embrace the idea of community, you will be received in a loving embrace.

Comments? Have you discovered other methods for building community near your home? We need your creative ideas! Please feel free to share in the comments. 

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Tuesday Tip Disclaimer: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.

Photo Credit: Photo taken from this website. 

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Deborah Suess Weaver

    I like the idea of placing an “ad” on Facebook for a regular date with a friend. It helped me remember when my personal community was bursting over with small children and the moms would often serve a dish her family didn’t like, and the leftovers would go to someone else in the group.l Now, many of us are empty-nesters and seem unable (guilty as charged) to cook for less than 8 or 10 or 12 (I’m just sure some of those boys will stop by unexpectedly). But another way to form community is a cooking co-op–perhaps now, we cook what we always did, knowing there will be intentional left overs for our friends. I gave away tons of home-made grape roll-ups from my concord grapes this year . . . because there is no one here to eat it anymore. So maybe this tip might be: #16 Give generously of your abundance.

    • Dr. Kelly Flanagan

      Love this, Deborah, thank you.

  • D Bene

    There are over 100 scripture verses encouraging one-an-other-ing (even if they don’t use “one another” in their text).

    I maintain that more than 50% of a society’s ills would be eradicated by adherence to these 100+ desires of God.
    –And, there are 5 these 100+ which are bedrock one-an-other-ings…without them, in the long run, the others are mere chaff

    • Dr. Kelly Flanagan

      Please feel free to share specifics of the five if you would like!

  • Pingback: Building Community Around the Neighbourhood | .: words candy :.()

  • jlanewell

    Okay I give you credit I had not thought of all of these 10 ways to connect. I am currently making some changes in my life. As a reforming workaholic I am actually working on rebuilding my relationships with my friends and family. I have made a list of friends I would like to know better. It is fun to get together with a few girlfriends and go to the movies or out to get coffee. But more importantly this can grow to be couples going out together next.

    I think by adding community building in our lives and working towards finding balance we can be re-energized, feel less alone, and less depressed. But for me I find myself happier when I help out others.

    • Dr. Kelly Flanagan

      Glad I could add a few new ideas, Jennifer. I admire the intentionality you are giving to this!

  • Maria

    My parents are involved in marketing for the remodeling industry so I get to learn a lot about housing trends from them. My mom forwarded me an interesting speech from a recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show by Sphere Trending on the differing tastes and culture of the 4 different adult age groups in the USA. One strategy they suggested to attract millennial buyers was to shift the focus of the house from the back to the front, since engagement in ones community will be a big selling factor for this generation. They also noted that millennials are generally downsizing on square footage. Sounds like your list fits right in with the research!

    • Dr. Kelly Flanagan

      Thanks for this perspective, Maria! It’s encouraging to think that a generation might be emphasizing community enough to influence an industry.