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9 Habits for Building Community

Updated: Jun 17

Habits matter. The rhythms we have shape the lives of those we relate with, whether that is our household, an affinity, association or workplace. Each of these communal spaces have rhythms for conducting themselves. A church has a set rhythm for its worship services that looks different than a worship service at a synagogue or mosque. An association has habits for how they conduct meetings. Your gym has habits for how they conduct training classes.

Like growing, habits for building community take time.

Habits are not a new conversation. We see them in the story of Daniel in the Bible (Daniel 1:3-16), and we see them in the feasts God instructed Israel to conduct. The desert fathers from the early church would refer to habits as a “rule of life.” Similarly, the Latin for rule is regula with the image of a bar or trellis for a plant to grow.

A trellis supports plants and their growth

God designed four key relationships in Genesis (God, self, humans, created order). God gave instructions to his followers, rhythms to embody that encompassed all areas of life. And his desire for each of these was so that they could glorify God by living as he intended. Jesus says it is in remaining with his words, or ordering of life, that allows us to abide in him and bear fruit (John 15:7-17).

So, when we think of habits, we are thinking about rhythms where we

  1. grow into all God intends for us to be

  2. invite those we relate with to grow into all God intends for them to be

John Mark Comer, pastor and founder of Practicing the Way, writes heavily around habits that we can apprentice in community. In this way, he seems them not as self-help but how a network of relationships can grow into all God intends. Comer writes,

A rule of life is a schedule and set of practices and relational rhythms that help us create space in our busy world for us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did—to live ‘to the full’ (John 10:10) in his kingdom, and in alignment with our deepest passions and priorities.

When working with fast-paced, constantly changing communities, habits offer an alternative and invitation to communities living as God intends. Here are 9 habits for building community that we at the Resilient Communities Center have developed to build joy, love and purpose in relationships. These, like our principles, are interwoven and equally valuable in forming toward overall well-being. They are the characteristics of the resilient vocations, affinities and identities we build with leaders and communities.

1. Resilient Vocation: Taking Care of Your Body

The first of three habits that we see build joy is around taking care of your body. What are the rhythms in place for yourself and your community that honor your body?

When we say body, we are not merely referring to the cells, muscle and bone that make up who you are. We see our bodies as embodied souls, a beautiful tapestry and interplay of yourself and your mind, your body, and your spirit. How you relate to each of these is inseparable from transformational development.

This interplay can be found when considering sugar. Jim Wilder and Michel Hendricks in their book, The Other Half of Church, use the example of consuming high amounts of sugar as a form of pseudo-joy. Our brains long for joy, and when we struggle to find them, we can try to substitute it and harm our bodies in the process.

Is the issue just what our bodies do with glucose? No, it's the soul's longing for meaning coupled with the brain analyzing and processing our surroundings coupled with then our body consuming and temporarily satisfying what the brain triggered.

Taking care of your body is not just about food. How much sleep we get, how long we sit, how hard we push ourselves in workouts, how we delay gratification -- all matter.

2. Resilient Vocation: Limiting Your Phone and Computer

The second habit that cultivates joy is around using your technology. Unlike what Apple and Amazon would have you to believe, the latest from Silicon Valley won't bring you joy.

Let's get this out of the way up front: It's really hard to grow this rhythm without a community. Why? The pseudo-joy of social media is rooted in our longing to be known. Not only that though. Without a community to mutually honor limits on technology will make it incredibly difficult.

Here's a simple example: You start a rhythm of putting your phone away at 8 p.m. and your best friend wants to start weekly watch parties of your childhood sitcom now returned in some mediocre reboot. What do you do?

Well, a community going through this rhythm together can find another time or opt to watch it on their own time and use it as part of face-to-face catch-ups with phones and devices left behind.

3. Resilient Vocation: Saving Money

Whether short-term or long-term, saving money is more than just financial advice. It is deeply rooted in joy.

The delight of your child's well-being, the provision of a home for welcome, the support of those in need when disaster or challenge arise -- joy is the driver for growing this habit. This habit, along with the previous two, help grow a resiliency of vocation that can help counter a poverty of provision, whether of energy, time or material goods.

4. Resilient Affinity: Eating Meals with Close Friends

Tim Chester in his book, A Meal with Jesus, wrote that you could essentially sum up all of the Gospels as narratives where Jesus was either coming from a meal, sitting at a meal, or heading toward a meal. Meals make up every day of our lives. They are also a powerful rhythm to grow love and connection.

I get it. I am writing this during the lunch hour and feeling the temptation to push through my hunger cues (taking care of my body, anyone?). There's a reason why products like Huel are as successful as they are. Nobodies got time for it.

But what is threatened by this is that meals are more than fuel depots. They are spaces for connection, storytelling and repair. This is true not only for families. Create rhythms with roommates or start a new one with neighbors.

5. Resilient Affinity: Making People Feel Welcome

The second habit of this second triad around love is closely tied to the last. Welcome. Easier said than done.

Welcome is not simply entertaining. Stadiums do that, but no one probably imagines a sporting event as their first instinct when prompted to imagine a welcoming place.

Welcome is not just about the other, though. Your sense of self and capacity to love are deeply rooted in your ability to make space for someone else, especially when they are different than you. The alternative is an echo chamber where you hang with your fellow club members.

I love C.S. Lewis' quote in his book, The Four Loves. written around the idea of vulnerability, which I believe is one of the key reasons welcome is so difficult for us.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

Welcome takes intentionality, the intentional risk of making mistakes as you navigate unchartered waters of new relationships.

6. Resilient Affinity: Helping Others

The final habit of this second triad around resilient affinity is also similar to the last: solidarity. Or a better word might be, compassion.

To be compassionate is to co-suffer with someone else. To co-suffer with someone else is to know enough of their story to know they are in a place of suffering. To know one's story takes time and curiosity.

Lots of potential for habits there, right? Even better, who can you invite along in this process?

7. Resilient Identity: Leaving Extra Space in Your Life

Rounding the last set of habits are rhythms that grow resilient identities, our purposes that we encourage and inspire one another to pursue.

The first is margin. I love when the Psalmist writes that we get up early and stay up late for no purpose. When is it pointless? When we do so from a place of anxiety rather than reality.

In other words, what the Psalmist is not saying is that it is shameful to have to work hard or take on a night shift. But it is asking, "Are you putting in extra hours for something that you don't actually need to do? Who is telling you this?"

It is getting at this idea of purpose. I recently walked through this with my wife. She was feeling anxious about some metrics within her counseling practice. Left unnamed, it created a sense of scarcity and a need to put extra hours that she did not have to a new project that also was not her greatest joy. After a midweek lunch that we spontaneously planned, we were able to walk away with what she actually needed to do in order to accomplish the goal she set out for. Suddenly what felt like a demand of hundreds of hours turned into a simpler, more measurable goal.

8. Resilient Identity: Calming Your Mind

I will be honest. This is my hardest rhythm. It is hard for me to be in silence. To be still and to invite God's presence to draw up gratitude and root myself in the joy of people's presence and love toward me.

Audiobooks are one of the greatest and most harmful things created for me. They are celebrated in our culture because, why not? It is reading, that one thing every child was allowed to do without question during summer vacation. However, it shadows my headspace in the same way that streaming services can clutter it.

What I find at stake in my own life is that this broken spoke in my life then makes me less present to my family during the meals we have, less urgent to create space for welcome, and more likely to feel I have a whole lot more to learn and do than I ever could manage in one lifetime.

9. Resilient Identity: Telling a Better Story about Yourself

Jesus asked his disciples at one point, "Who do people say that I am?"

This is the habit of asking, "Who do I say I am?" AND "Who do people say that I am?" AND "Who does God say that I am?"

We all are telling stories, making meaning of the various moments of our day. "This is why such-and-such happened." "This is how I ended up ____."

What I love about this rhythm is the holistic nature of it. We can act it out, paint it out, sing it out -- creativity is the limit. It is why I love organizations like Proskuneo Ministries, who invite students and communities to connect to their unique, multilayered identities, many of whom come from first- and second-generation American homes.

Where Will You Start?

Think about your own life and various relationships and identify one of those where you would like to see a change in a rhythm that develops community. Our habits are sweet aromas that tell of God’s goodness and invite the broader community into experiencing this same rhythm of life.

Our team of trained mentors and facilitators are available to coach you through realistically developing around these rhythms and launching your community to discover its potential.

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