Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"community is not a luxury but a necessity for life"

This is going to be a long post - but all of these thoughts have been swirling in my head for a couple of months and they NEED to come out.

I've been reading Randy Frazee's book "The Connecting Church" and have found it very intriguing. Maybe because Ryan and I have been trying to get connected to a large church in GR for 4 months now - and still feel like we don't really know anyone. We love the pastor and have really grown and been challenged by his messages each weekend. We just don't feel that sense of belonging yet, and it seems like no one knows our names.

I think one of our main problems has been that we haven't seen the same people two weekends in a row. Its a BIG church - and they offer 3 video venues simultaneously, which make it feel smaller, but makes it hard to find a consistent crowd in any venue. We met a friend from Hope one of our first Sunday's visiting - and then never saw her again until 12 weeks later when I ran into her at a women's ministry event I went to trying to make friends. We exchanged numbers and she invited us to a small group that we're planning to try out this next Sunday. - So that is one connection that will hopefully lead to the authentic community that we are starving for.

Another potentail connection is serving. I emailed the usher/greeter guy to see if maybe Ryan and I could plug in that way, but the email back let me know, "the Sunday morning greeting ministry is currently full..."
I am signed up to help in Discovery Village next Saturday night as a one-time 4th grade girls small group leader (which is blogworthy as it's own post). There is only one service on Saturday - which means if you serve on Saturday then you have to come back to attend a service on Sunday. We live about 30 minutes away, so that makes it a little bit challenging...and Ryan can't serve there with me, which is bothersome because of his call schedule at the hospital keeping us apart enough as it is. Those are excuses. I'm not saying I'm not willing to make it work - but it would be awesome to be able to serve together as a couple in the service we are attending - ie: ushers or greeters

So how's that for a servant's attitude. I am a bad person.

Back to the book. One of the big problems Randy talks about is that people have too many worlds to manage.

"There are too many sets of relationships that do not connect with each other but all require time to maintain"
When I read the truth in that statement I nearly fell out of my chair! Ryan and I are currently maintaining the following:

My family out of town, Ryan's family out of town, two sets of extended families beyond our immediate families, two places of work, church and our potential small group, neighbors, two sets of friends from high school, two sets of friends from college, friends from our church where we used to live in Chicago, neighbors/best friends from Chicago, friends from med school, wives of friends from med school, friends from Granger, friends from Marshall, and to top it all off - friends from the blogosphere!

You may be thinking "brag brag brag, so many friends she doesn't know what to do" and I challenge you to do the same exercise with yourself. How many worlds are you managing right now?

It only makes sense to simplify our lives in such a way that we concentrate more energy into a circle of relationships that produces a genuine sense of belonging. The book suggests that we look to the church to help us in our search to belong.

So that's what we're trying to do. I haven't read far enough to find a solution to our problem, perhaps I haven't lived in Grand Rapids long enough or attended this church long enough. How long will it take for us to feel like we belong?


Transplant said...

I generally am not too good about reading long posts, but I read yours with interest. I never quite thought of things that way - all the worlds we live in.

I do know that moving is hard, and settling into someplace new is not usually a quick process. And big churches, while they have their advantages, can be hard places to really feel community.

We moved a number of times, and sometimes, the connection happened quickly, even within a few months. This, it seems to me, was simply a great gift. More often, it has happened slowly, almost without my noticing, simply as we go about living life.

Another thing I see is crisis brings us closer. Having weathered certain storms together binds us in a powerful way.

Having said all that, I might add that after 11 years here, my dearest friends of all are not here, but scattered around the country, and three of them are my own daughters all grown up.

Kathy Guy said...

Hey Amber - Thanks for processing about what it's like for new people to get and feel connected.

I'll have to read exactly how Randy suggests people should "look to the church" as the notion scares me from one perspective. It depends on who they are holding responsible to "find me a friend." I likely don't agree with Randy.

I wrote a post on 10/4/07 on the topic.(sorry I can't figure out how to insert a link in comments)http://www.becauserelationshipsmatter.net/2007/10/find-me-a-fri-1.html. Your dad was the inspiration, so I have a credible source!

Where you are owning the responsibility to connect, many others don't; they often leave the church feeling hurt.

How many sets of relationships you can juggle is a great point - it's also a great question for churches considering if relationships outside of small groups count as significant. I think they do.

Have fun!

heather said...

amber - i so appreciate your honesty in this post. i am SO with you on the Ada thing - I've only recently started to feel connected there - and we've been going for 2.5 years AND David is on staff!!

You're right about serving, though - that's exactly how I started meeting people (even though I wasn't doing exaclty waht I wanted to be doing, I started to feel more connected).

I'm so excited that you're doing the small group thing this Sat. int eh 4/5th grade room - that's the room I teach in!! BUT, I'll be OUT OF TOWN this weekend!! Bummer. You'll love it, though. It's REALLY low-key on Saturday nights, and you'll get some good time with the girls in your group. Plus, the 4/5th graders in that room are awesome, especially the girls you'll be working with. I think you'll be surprised how much you enjoy it.

Blessings to you trying to find balance in all you're juggling!

Vince said...

Two Years. That's what it will take. Keep trucking.

three things i like
Randy Frazee
Strong Bad
Ask A Ninja

Can't remember how I found this blog...I just follow links from friends and end up somewhere and see something cool...like the blog.


Kristin Baker said...

Hi Amber,

I so identify with your post. And as a fellow former pastor's kid, I totally understand how frustrating this can be. When I was little, community just came to me b/c I was the pastor's little girl, and when my husband and I moved to Texas and later to GCC, I was on my own. We've been coming here for four and half years, and I've been on staff for six months and still not quite sure where we "fit in", but I've been really trying lately to (like Kathy said) "own the responsibility to connect". Hopefully, we'll both be blogging soon about God's blessings of authentic community. I'll be praying for you, and picking up that book! : )

B. Irv said...

Amber, I have alerted an assistant youth pastor at ada bible of your plight... He has seen your picture and is on the look out for you. He's a good friend of mine :) He suggested getting involved with life line or one of the small groups at the church. But in our on G-raggity experience it took almost 1.5-2 years to really build a community of friends. Its not as much of a mover or shaker as say Oak Park, or Phoenix. Hang in there. Our family always likes to hang with you young people, yo! were wit it.