What a gift I get to share with you today! That is the only way I know how to introduce this article on “Opportunities to Grow in Intimacy with our Community” by Heather Zempel. Heather has written this article for our Mission: Intimacy series on Community. It is simple, yet provides truth with practical ways to take action. Let’s get started!
What are the opportunities to grow in Intimacy with our community?
Even though our culture encounters a number of obstacles to experiencing authentic community, it also offers us many opportunities to pursue it. Community is messy and hard, but it’s also worth fighting for. Click To TweetThere are several on-ramps to establishing deeper levels of community with those around us. It will take time and effort. But perhaps more importantly, it requires us to develop a keen awareness of when there is a potential opportunity for deeper relationships to develop. Here are just a few.
Ask good questions.
Our conversations often begin with the perfunctory question, “How are you doing?” Or perhaps the more casual version “What’s up?” If we are honest, those questions are rarely genuine expressions of concern for the other’s well-being. Rather, they have become nothing more than a standard greeting.
What if we began conversations with a slightly more interesting question?
What are you most excited about today?
What is the greatest challenge you are facing today?
Or if you must begin with “How are you doing?,” consider following it up with another question: “What makes it fine?” “What could turn it from fine to good?”
Asking good questions can take us to new levels of intimacy instantly. There are questions that help us get to know others better (If you could go to any concert in the history of the world, what would you choose? What accomplishment, before the 8th grade, are you most proud of?) There are questions that peel back surface layers to get to the heart (What is consuming the majority of your mind and heart right now? If you could change one thing about the situation, what would it be?) There are questions that reveal how a person is doing spiritually (If you could pray one prayer that you knew God would answer, what would it be? Where is God working in your life right now?)
Good questions lead to more meaningful conversations which lead to life-giving relationships.
Be a part of solutions.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to point out a problem; all of us are pretty adept at being able to recognize and acknowledge when something is wrong. Being a part of the solution, however, requires a higher level of thinking and a longer level of commitment. Community forms when we are wiling to be the solution to problems, the help for needs, and the answer to prayers. When we hear of the pains, problems, or simple every day dilemmas of others, we are often quick to add our consolations: “It will all be okay” or “I will pray for you.” What if we offered to walk with them…even, perhaps, if things will not be all okay. What if we decided to be the answer to the prayer that we would otherwise pray? Everyone has needs, and those are on-ramps to intimacy in community. When we step up to be a part of a solution, it gives us access into the life of a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. There is a level of community that is experienced by being with someone in the trenches of the battlefield of life. There, we find opportunities to encourage, comfort, challenge, and to simply be real with one another.
Recognize you are a shareholder in your community.
Perhaps one of the best ways to pursue deeper levels of relationship is simply to embrace the idea that you are a shareholder in your community. Instead of parking the car in the garage, entering through the back, and never opening the front door except during Girl Scout cookie sale season, what if you lived the majority of your life in your front yard or on your front porch? Throw a block party, pick up trash off the sidewalks, shovel snow or rake leaves for a neighbor. Don’t just be a resident of your neighborhood, be a person who shifts the culture of your neighborhood.
Capitalize on the value of fun.
Finally, capitalize on the value of fun. Fun can be a more consistent catalyst to community than crisis, and laughter can be a more powerful bond that tears. Look for ways to create times to simply have fun together- play games, go on adventures, host a karaoke party. If something’s not fun, look for a way to make it fun. Sometimes, playing together for one hour can create a deeper level of community than talking with someone for two hours over coffee. Don’t underestimate the power of fun. Click To Tweet
Thank you, Heather, for participating in Mission: Intimacy. These insights are powerful if we do not just hear them, but we take action. Don’t forget to check out Heather’s book “Community Is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group Ministry”.
Heather has provided us with numerous questions to begin to ask one another as we pursue deeper relationships. If you would like more ideas on these types of questions, there are more resources available such as the book “Love Talk Starters: 275 Questions to Get Your Conversations Going” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. These questions can be adapted to any relationship, not just marriage or dating. Find more resources for your journey to discover God’s design for relationships in our Mission: Intimacy Toolbox.
  “Third place” was a concept introduced by Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place, and it refers to the social environments where we feel “connected” outside the home (first place) and the workplace (second place).
 Will Miller and Glenn Sparks, Refrigerator Rights (Willow Creek Association, 2008), p. 65
 Ibid, p. 65
 Ibid., p. 67-68