In last week’s post, we talked about how we can develop ourselves in 2020 by developing our communities and friendships. But how can we do this? There are a ton of ways, but let’s focus on 10 action steps you can take to develop community in 2020.
1. Make the Time.
This may seem like an odd action step to start with, but in our ultra-busy culture, it is absolutely mandatory we block out time in our daily, weekly, and monthly calendars for community. As Michael Hyatt says, “What gets scheduled gets done”—and that includes community. What can you stop doing over the weekends to make time for friends and family? What shows could you not binge for an evening to go to a small group? What time do you need to get up in the morning to meet with an accountability partner? Is there a coworker you could eat lunch with consistently? If you feel like you’re too busy for community, then you will have to stop something in your weekly routine to make it happen.
2. Meet Consistently With a Friend.
Do you have a friend from a small group, work, church, or elsewhere? Invite them to meet weekly or bi-weekly just to catch up. So many great friendships are missed because no one ever makes the ask to go deeper. Make the ask, find a time, choose a place, and again, stay consistent.
3. Join a Small Group.
If you’re not involved with a small group at your church, then this is a great place to start. The whole purpose of a small group is to gather Christians together on a regular basis to study the Word, pray, worship, and commune together. The beauty of small groups is they meet consistently for a manageable amount of time, so they’re easy to get into your weekly rhythms. Commit to showing up consistently. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it takes a person an average of 8 hours of face-time before they can feel comfortable being “friends” with someone else. That would amount to about 6-8 weeks of consistently attending at a new small group.
4. Serve at Your Church.
Another way to find community at your local church is to serve. Get plugged on to a Guest Services team, work with the kiddos, play on the worship team, join the prayer team, or serve in the community. There’s something really special about the bonds of those who do ministry together. Plus, if you want to avoid the guess work that sometimes goes into joining a small group, serving teams provide opportunities for friendships to develop organically. Once you have 2, 3, maybe even 4 friendships developed, you could even start a small group of your own!
5. Embrace Aloneness.
This one seems counterproductive, but hear me out. One of the best ways we can develop our community involvement is becoming comfortable with being alone. There is a vast difference between loneliness and aloneness. Our lives are filled with so much noise, crowds, and busyness that we barely have time to simply be with God to reveal how we are truly doing. If we can’t be present to how we personally are doing, then we can’t be fully present to how others are doing. I love what the great 20th-century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “Only as we are within the fellowship [of Christian believers] can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship.” Find a time in your week when you can break away from the crowd, be silent, be still, and just be with God, allowing you to become present to the things you need his Spirit to comfort.
6. Put the Phone Down.
No device has brought the world closer together while pushing the living room farther apart than the smart phone. Smart phone addiction is real, and it sucks time away from friends, family, and ministry opportunities to strangers when we let it. So be strategic when you’re off your phone to focus on presence. When it’s time for small group, leave your phone in the car. When it’s time for the holiday meal with the in-laws, leave the phone in your room. When it’s time for your weekly accountability partner meeting, put your phone on airplane mode. You’ll be blown away by how much more present you can be
7. Limit Social Media.
Social media is a great supplement to friendships, but a terrible substitute. A vast majority of people actually use social media as their primary means to connecting with friends, rather than face-to-face. Try limiting your use of social media, and turn on Screen Time controls in your phone settings to lock you out when you reach a certain time limit.
8. Practice Listening.
One of the best ways to be present with a friend is to simply listen to them. And this is much harder than it seems. Putting our phone away and limiting social media are smaller actions under the umbrella of the vastly more important action: being present. We should do everything in our power to eradicate distractions when we’re with those we love. All this is so we can give them our fullest attention and actually listen to them, not just hear words spoken as we focus on social media instead.
9. Be Vulnerable.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we need to practice vulnerability. One of the best ways to develop yourself through developing community is as simple as opening up about the stuff you’re holding in. There is a massive release of anxiety and stress when we confess the troubles on our hearts. This takes a ton of courage, especially in a culture that celebrates strength and independence. Family, a small group, or accountability partner are great avenues for practicing vulnerability.
10. Make a Disciple.
Lastly, one of the best ways to develop yourself through developing community is to make a disciple. There is a profound effect on your own spirituality when you take the time to develop someone else in their spiritual journey. When you teach your disciple some of the rhythms of prayer, you’re reminded of how you need to be praying yourself. When you help your disciple see God in the midst of her difficult situation, the advice you give her may actually be words you also need to hear. Developing the spiritual friendship with another growing disciple has unprecedented effects on your own soul development.
There you have it! Ten action steps to developing ourselves through community-development. May 2020 be a year where we can all grow our inner circles as much as we grow ourselves.