The Real Way to Create Community (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Lately I’ve been thinking about church again–why I go, what the purpose is, how participants in a church go about enfolding everyone into the life of the church–so today, I’m writing at YALT about community.

The Real Way to Create Community

Evoking images of shared meals and laughing people, community is a popular word in Christian circles. While not the sole intent of a church, creating a sense of community among their members is a mission most churches value, because strong Christian 2015-07-22 20.49.48-1community is certainly good, and even biblical. The how to create community is where things get complicated though. Countless books and blogs posts have been written, all offering various tactics and strategies, but I think the real way to create community cannot be distilled into an easy formula.

I think the way to create community is to embrace the awkward.

Keep reading at the YALT blog.

People Are My Drug

I’m a people person.

A communicator, a people-gatherer.

 

Every personality test I take affirms these qualities about me, and I see it play out in my life in a myriad of ways.

On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my Extrovert number is usually towards the very top of the scale.

I like being a people person. I like connecting with people and helping connect them with others. I like to get to know people and like for them to get to know me.

 

There’s a dark side to this way I’m wired though, one I’m discovering more and more of: People are my drug.

I need people. On some level, we all do.

 

But when the people are not there, because they can’t be or don’t want to be, I can find myself clamoring and gasping and clawing for people in dangerous, unhealthy ways.

It’s an ugly little truth I’m uncovering.

When I don’t feel like my life is as “people-ful” as I would like to be, it’s easy for me to become needyTo see people as a tool to use to meet my own needs for connection and communication and companionship.

To miss the fact that they are people too.

 

I will always defend the idea and importance of community and relationships. But I can’t let my desire, my inner-wired need for these things, to drown out the fact that the people I am in community and relationship with have their own needs too. And sometimes what they need is not me, may not be people at all.

 

If I were a better Christian, this would be the part when I start waxing philosophical about how God is all I really need. But I’m not, so I won’t. As much as yes, I do need God, God has made me to need people too. Not in the way that I sometimes think I need them, as though they are a drug and I need my fix, but in that I need them because God often works through people to help me see him.

We’re all made to need people a little bit, just not in the way I sometimes do.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever found yourself needing people?

Why I Keep Writing About Church

I write about Church a fair amount. It’s a touchy topic, one laden with emotion for many people. Church can be complicated and messy, and it can bring up bad memories or reopen wounds we thought had healed.

But I keep writing about Church because I keep seeing the good side of it, and in all the Church bashing that takes place, I sometimes think Church could use some cheerleaders. I haven’t always been in a place to be that person, and I know that I won’t always be. For now though, I able to champion Church, to remind us of the good of Church in spite of the bad.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

For much of my childhood and teenage years, going to church was something my family simply did. There were times when I enjoyed it well enough, though I don’t remember actively looking forward to going to church very often. The first two years of college, I bounced around churches a bit until deciding to stick with one for a few months. Finally, as I drove away in tears yet again because no one seemed to have the time to say hello to the college girl attending by herself, I figured God didn’t want that for me either.

Then, through a situation I can only describe as a “God thing,” I found out about a new church. I showed up once, and have kept showing up ever since. Almost every week I drive away from my church wishing I could hug it, feeling incredibly grateful that God has blessed me with this community for this season of life. It is nothing but a gift to be able to show up to the same place each week, to look forward to hearing sermons, singing songs, greeting friends and making making new ones, to seeing all the ways that God is using the church and the people in it to bring little pieces of his kingdom here. It is not we that are doing good things though, it is He. Anything good that comes from our church is simply an expression of God’s grace, and we are merely players in it.

I can’t tell you what the future holds for me, my church, or my involvement there, but right now, I don’t think I’ve ever been more certain that God has me somewhere for a reason.

I also fully realize good church experiences are not the case for everyone. I don’t want to deny or excuse the dark side of Church—the abuse, the exclusion, the hypocrisy, the judgment, the hurt—but I also don’t want to ignore the good side of Church because of those things.

So I will keep writing about Church, because maybe it can breathe hope to someone who has never felt this way about Church, thinks they will never feel this way about Church, doesn’t even believe it’s possible to feel this way about Church. I wish everyone could walk or drive or skip away from church wanting to hug it, because I think that’s how Church in its perfected state is supposed to be. It won’t always be that way, because sometimes Church is just really hard.

But it can be so, so good too.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What are some of your good church experiences?

The Beauty of Church

Three years ago, I walked into a church that met in a school. I heard about it in an odd manner, as the pastor had stopped into the ice cream store/coffee shop where I worked at the time, looking for my boss. He asked me a little about myself, and we chatted for a few minutes before he left his business card for me to give to my boss. The church’s website was listed on his card, so when I got home, I looked it up. A few weeks later, on the last Sunday of August, I attended for the first time.

Today, on the last Sunday of August three years later, that same church I now call “mine” celebrated a huge, momentous occasion. We had our first service in our very own building, only three years after we officially started meeting every week.

There’s an element to this that is crazy. The age of our church itself is young–only three years old–and demographically speaking, we are a very young church. We’ve seen the studies that say that Millennials are leaving Church as fast as they can run, and probably everyone who attends my church has seen that firsthand in their family and friends.

But we’ve also seen our Sunday morning services that, at times, nearly overflow with college students. The people that everybody says are leaving the church are coming to ours, but I don’t think it’s because we’re really awesome—it’s not our doing, but God’s. And we are blessed to be a part of it. I am blessed to be a part of it.

Both of our pastors and many in our congregation are Millennials—from those who never left Church, to those who left Church for a while but not God and decided to give Church another go with us, to those who never tried Church but are trying it with us—and a myriad of others in all sorts of life stages. We’re together, growing and struggling and discovering what it looks like to follow God well, no matter where we are.

And this thing that we’re doing, of buying a building and signing a mortgage and settling into a neighborhood, is risky and a little scary and a lot of exciting.

I’m not telling you it’s always easy. The nitty-gritty of running a church or getting a new building isn’t easy, and the personal work of going to church, getting to know people at church, of being church, is not easy either.

If anyone tells you that they always want to go to church, that it’s always easy for them to get involved and to feel like they belong, that church always feels happy and joyful—they’re probably lying.

Church isn’t easy.

Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes the sermons don’t seem to apply to you for weeks at a time. Sometimes you really can’t stand that one song they keep singing. Sometimes you want to sleep in on Sunday morning or skip that meeting on Wednesday. Sometimes your feelings get hurt and you feel a little lonely and left out. Sometimes you feel like it’s all a little pointless and can’t you still love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people?

Yes, you can love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people.

But some really, awesome, beautiful things can happen when you hang out with his people. I’m not saying they happy every day, every month, or even every year—but they do happen. And in those moments you see and feel the way that God is moving in Church and in those broken, messy people, and you count it all grace and mercy and love and you wonder how a feeling like that can possibly stay contained in your human body, because it just feels so out of this world because it is.

And that is Church. That is why my church has taken a bold, risky move by buying a building—because we believe in Church, of the power of God in and through his people to impact the lives of others, and perhaps, a neighborhood and even a city. We do what we do because our God is big and he moves in bold, risky, exciting ways. Because this is the beauty of Church.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you experienced the beauty of Church?

Disclaimer: I’m a Mess

If asked to introduce myself, it would probably go something like this:

“Hi, I’m Brianna. I graduated from college in April, and I work part time at a Christian publishing company in social media and marketing. I also work part time as a teaching assistant for 2 freshmen English classes at Kuyper College. Right now I live with my parents, I’m actively involved with my church, and I hang out with friends as often as I can. Many of my friends aren’t around right now, but I’m looking forward to them being back, and I keep pretty busy.”

Doesn’t look too bad, all typed up like that. From a cursory read through or introduction, it sounds like I have life fairly together right now.

Really though, I don’t. Browse any of my recent posts, and I hope you will quickly understand that I don’t have it together. My introductory paragraph doesn’t tell you about my uncertainty, my dislike of change, the deep ache I feel and the tears that spring to my eyes when I think about how much I miss my friends who are far way, the way I wish God had seen fit to bring a guy into my life by now, the piles of student debt I have to start paying off within the week, and my general fear and anxiety in regards to not really having any idea what I’m doing with my life.

When I introduce myself, I feel like I should be passing out little business cards.

“Disclaimer: This girl is a mess.”

I’m not trying to be self-deprecating or asking for sympathy or pity; I’m simply telling the truth. We are far too good at pretending to be put together on the outside when we are falling apart on the inside. Perfection at the human level does not exist, and the illusion of it can be so irritating; so why do we work so hard to perpetuate the myth?

Because you’re a mess too. Maybe (and I hope for your sake) not as much of one as I often feel, but there is likely at least one, even if its small, area of your life that’s a mess too.

If we all talked about it a little more, maybe we’d all begin to realize that no one is as perfect as they may initially seem. Handing out disclaimer cards declaring “I’m a mess” when meeting new people is probably not the best way to go about it, but declaring it, even if only to yourself at first, might be a place to start.

I’ll go first.

Hi, I’m Brianna, and this is my declaration: Most of my life is a mess.

How about you?

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

I Need Church

I’ve been attending church my entire life. As a child, I don’t remember ever actively balking at the prospect of going to church, though I’m sure in middle and high school there were times I would’ve preferred to sleep in. My first two years of college, I did a fair amount of “church shopping,” as well as some intentional skipping. For the last two years, I’ve been attending a church I have grown to love, and have become quite involved there.

Photo Credit: Flickr User celesteh

Finally, after over 22 years of attending church, I think I’m finally beginning to understand why I need it.

As I stood in church this morning, my soul sighed in rest. This is where it belongs. Worshiping, surrounded by other believers–this is what my soul needs.

During the week, I go to work. I go to classes where I am the teaching assistant, and leave with stacks of papers to grade. I go to Bible study once or twice. I grade the stacks of papers. I hang out with friends. I watch TV. And so forth. In their own way, these are good things, even necessary. These are the day-to-day bits that make up a life.

But they are often tiring, stressful, wearying. They take their toll, in all sorts of ways.

Church is a recharge for my soul.

In so many ways.

I love to sing, but I love to sing most when they are songs of worship and praise offered to God. I love (and hate) the way the sermon often seems to be intended specifically for me, and I find myself examining my life, determining things that need to change or I need to be cautious of. I love seeing friends, and greeting new ones.

Not every church has these elements, every week, for every person. As a whole, the church is not a perfect institution. On an individual level, no specific church is perfect, even mine. Most weeks I can’t wait to go to church; but this phase of wanting so desperately to go to church will not last forever. This is the first time in my life that I can say that with any sort of consistency, and as with all things, it will go in cycles. But I truly hope and believe I continue to go to church even when I do not feel like it.

Because church has praise. Worship. Community. These are the things my soul needs.

This is why I need church.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Church can be a touchy topic. What do you think about it?

Deleting Home

According to my cell phone, as of today I don’t have a home. A home number, anyway.

My parents finally decided to get rid of their land line and go completely cellular. Though I live with them, I rarely used the home phone, so its lack of existence doesn’t affect me greatly in a physical sense.

Deleting “Home” from my cell phone sure felt strange though.

“Home” is not a number in my cell phone; I know that.

Nor is it a house, apartment, igloo, or any other structure.

 

At this stage in my life, I don’t know exactly how to define the concept of “home.” Yes, I live with my parents, and compared to many in the same situation, we get along quite well. In conversation, I still refer to it as “home,” but I don’t always feel like I believe it.

 

Singing about the idea of home seems to be a popular choice for musicians. Without much work, I thought of 3 songs by different artists, all entitled “Home.”

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ “Home”:

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is whenever I’m with you
Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is when I’m alone with you

I love the song, but their definition of “home,” as being with you significant other, doesn’t  apply to me at this point. Michael Buble’s song Home seems to imply much the same thing, and though I think these definitions of home are valid, they’re not valid for me right now.

If “home” is defined so narrowly as being with a significant other, I know a lot of people who are “homeless.” But I don’t that’s the only way it can, or should, be defined.

Maybe Philip Phillips’ Home gets the closest of any of these three songs:

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Maybe all these songs are onto a similar thread–though traditionally I think of home as a location or structure, it’s more about who you’re with, and what you make of where you are. Maybe home is a feeling, not a state of location.

In that sense, home isn’t external, but internal. I knew “home” wasn’t the number in my cell phone, but neither is it the house I’m sitting in. Pieces of it can be found in my family, pieces of it in my friends, spread over the country and globe though they are, pieces of it can be found in my church, my coworkers, and community as a whole.

Maybe home is what you make it.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How would you define “home”? Has it changed over time?

 

The Last Post of An Almost College Graduate (And Pie)

24 hours from now, I will be a college graduate.

I’m still feeling about 20,000 different things about this. While I try to remind myself of the good, of not paying tuition and no more studying for exams and no more dealing with scheduling classes, my college community still has too much of a hold on my heart for me to be able to bask in that goodness just yet. I get tastes of it, but not gulps.

Earlier this week I was offered (and accepted) a part time temporary position at the company I’ve been interning at this past semester–a HUGE blessing, and one I am incredibly thankful for. Still, it did not immediately vanquish all my worries and fears. Not that I entirely expected it to, but it would have been nice.

If I think of my life as a pie (although I’d really rather just eat it than think about it), the part time temp job really only takes care of one sliver of the pie. There are so many other pieces of my life-pie that are still in flux, that I have no control over or maybe not as much as I’d like, that I don’t really understand or don’t know how they’re going to turn out, or pieces that I might like to hold onto but have to give up, that although I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity…it doesn’t solve everything.

Tomorrow night I will still have to say goodbye to people I may literally never see again on this earth, and that will be hard. I am leaving a community that I love and care about deeply, that has been not just a sliver of my life-pie these past 4 years but the majority of it…and that will be an adjustment. Today I moved back home with my parents, with no move-out date on the calendar like I’ve had every other time I moved home…and that will take some getting used to. So though I am thankful for that sliver of pie that is a little more figured out than it used to be, it doesn’t make all the other pieces magically fall in line.

And it still leaves me pretty much just wanting to eat pie.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~