I spent two years working and living in the US. In that time, I found two things to be true:

  1. It’s lonely living in a new country.
  2. Making close friends as an adult is hard.

But something shifted in my perspective when I read, “Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World” by Jennie Allen. First of all, I learnt to just show up.

Show Up

The central thesis of Jennie Allen’s book is that friendships emerge from larger communities. Therefore, to forge genuine connections, you must commit to showing up somewhere at least once a week, and engaging consistently for a few months.

As you do so, people will come to know you and vice versa. You will then gravitate towards those that resonate.

A similar thing happens in playgrounds or in classes. You interact with many people every day and invariably bond with a few.

A variation of this even occurs online. You regularly comment in a forum and then click with some fellow commenters.

This phenomenon of consistent contact is why volunteers bond very quickly. There’s a foundation of shared values, passion and commitment to a cause.

Long Road to Friendship

You see, the road to friendship starts with companionship. But, it’s watered by consistency until you find someone who matches your energy.

Wherever you find people who choose to share drinks or a meal regularly, it’s an oasis to a lonely soul. No matter how invisible you feel, as long as people call you by name and look you in the eye at least once a week, it makes a difference.

After I read Allen’s book, I recommitted to volunteering and to do dinner with some church folks twice a month. Try to leave the house so people can see you.

Church Communities

Churches build communities. There’s the larger group – Sunday services where you might see the same people in your row every week.

Then, if you join a small group or unit, you will be thrust into a cell of folks with shared interests.

Despite this, why do some still struggle to find a tribe in church? Some say it’s because people might be on their best behavior in church, and so rarely bring their authentic selves to the table.

This might make it difficult to meet the kinds of people you want to do life with. That is, unless you interact in more organic environments, without any mandatory readings or outlines. After all, you don’t need a script when you’re with family and friends, do you?

Serving Together

As I mentioned before, volunteering is a great way to bring people together who share common interests. But we must be careful to avoid burn out or valuing people for only what they can contribute.

Sometimes, people are not able to keep to the regular schedule required by church units because of life commitments or personal reasons.

Doing Life Together

In the book, Find Your People, something made me pause – “You are alone if there’s no one to call in an emergency that’s less than five minutes away.” I learnt this from experience when I had a medical emergency. Your neighbor is the one that’s near you, not a far away sibling.

Thus, proximity and access are important components of community. Being able to casually pay a visit without needing prior permission. Asking for sugar from someone when you suddenly run out.

Community matters in the real world where trials and tribulations take place. Who do you call when you’re struggling with a career decision or need a quick loan? Those are your people.

Who shows up in times of sorrow, bringing food and speaking words of comfort? Who can you invite to the movies or to accompany you to a new restaurant, without any assumptions?

It’s hard to bear trials and tribulations. It’s a tragedy to face them alone. When people are in trouble, what overwhelms them is the mind-numbing fear that needs to be vocalized so its grip is lessened. It’s the desperate need for honest advice, feedback, pushback, or even perspective.

Intentional Communities

There’s something instructive about how ethnic immigrants cluster around specific neighborhoods. The most popular ones are Chinatown and Jewish neighborhoods.

For the newcomers, it creates a helpful base from which to start a sojourn in a new land. It provides the comfort of a familiar culture and identity. Even if it’s just finding food you are used to.

These communities were intentionally formed by pioneers and elders. To a newbie, it may appear organic. But there’s an unspoken structure in place that sustains the community through generations.

Another model I admire is the African village. How people show up for each other in times of crisis. Even when you travel far, you retain an anchor to the community that keeps you rooted to specific values.

Communities are safe spaces of vulnerability. People open up their lives without filters.

In-Person or App

I can’t write about communities without referencing online forums.

Whether it’s WhatsApp, Facebook, Reddit or a Dating App, some of the strongest bonds are formed online first, and then eventually become in-person relationships. This fact is inescapable in the digital age.

Churches can learn to use online clusters to create or extend real-life connections, since people spend significant amounts of time on their screens.

In Summary

To be sure, the strongest communities are engineered by natural connectors though they appear organic on the surface. They thrive best in spaces where people actually live, work and play.

Finally, communities are sustained by regularity and proximity.

Thank you for reading. Next week, we’ll explore Stewardship.

𝗣𝗦: I just began a Life Mastermind for mentoring and meaningful conversations. Learn more via the link in my bio.

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