Community Building

The nuclear family consisting of parents and children does not have the resources to meet all the problems it faces. Previously, the grandparents, uncles and aunts, and siblings provided a protective network, which supported the nuclear family. The community at large also provided support when circumstances required resources beyond those of the extended family. However, as families have fewer children and are widely scattered, the nuclear family lacks the resources to survive and though our society has tried to develop ways to support the family, imitations do not adequately provide the support needed. While society can provide financial support, it cannot provide the emotional support needed. As the family crumbles, it cannot adequately train its children to be good citizens and so our society crumbles. While liberals blame Christians for the problems our society faces, it is their own misguided programs, which are causing the breakup of the family and in turn causing the breakdown of the community. While my ministry began in trailer parks where families were traditionally transient and had little or no family support nearby, I am finding an increase in transient families in traditional neighborhoods also. Families who were once fairly firmly tied to the community are being forced to move seeking work or following jobs, often far from their extended family. While many sell their house and buy another if they feel they will be in the new location for awhile, an increasing number are renting apartments or houses rather than buying because they recognize that this position may not be long-term and they may be required to move again in the future. This transient mentality is causing many to isolate themselves from their neighbors. They are reluctant to make friends knowing that they will eventually have to leave them. However, humans have a need to be wanted. While the immediate family provides that to a limited extent, there is a need to be accepted by those around us. In small communities where everyone knows everyone else, that acceptance was usually available from the surrounding community, however as we are surrounded by large numbers of people or by transient people, it is difficult to find that acceptance. With people so isolated today, we rarely know anyone well. We are surrounded by people; but we lack a sense of belonging. The church can provide that sense of belonging if it is small, close-knit, and involves its members in active fellowship within the group, but if it is not close-knit and doesn’t involve its members in fellowship within the group, many will lack that sense of belonging and feel isolated. Once the group exceeds about 50-100 people, it cannot provide that sense of belonging to everyone. Some churches are beginning to develop small group ministries within the larger church but very few. Many develop small teaching groups but they lack the long-term stability to build cohesiveness within the group.

However, the community provides many functions beyond a sense of belonging. The community looks after its members. Previously, children often roamed the neighborhood playing with other neighborhood children. There was no great concern for them because neighbors kept a eye on them and admonished them if they got into something they shouldn’t or went where they weren’t supposed to. Now neighbors rarely pay attention to kids unless they get into trouble and then they usually call the police rather than confronting the kids or calling their parents. Neighbors also watched over each other’s homes and possessions and questioned strangers and reported unruly children to their parents. Now the police have to organize block watches to keep an eye out for strangers because neighbors are so isolated that they often don’t know those who live around them. Often people want to get to know their neighbors but don’t know how. Community building involves providing opportunities within the neighborhood to get to know each other. Planning a party and inviting all the neighbors is not enough. Often households are afraid to get together with neighbors they don’t know. Community building often involves building bridges between neighbors to form a cohesive group.