Cultivating a Community where People Flourish

Recently some friends of ours moved from our home town of Snells Beach North of Auckland to Christchurch. We spent nearly a full weekend saying farewell to them at different events. They had been in our lives for 16-years and it was fascinating listening to speeches and hearing different people’s perspectives.

One of the events was their daughter’s 21st farewell gathering. I was reminded of the importance of community and continuity with people over time. One of the comments the parents made was that it is said “a child is brought up by a village” and that had certainly been the case for them. The outworking of that concept leaves an indelible mark on both the older and younger members of the relationships especially when it has been over a length of time.

I started thinking about the different roles that I personally had shared with them over the years. Apart from being their friend, I had taught two of the children as a teacher, been school principal to all three children, and a youth leader to one. As well as being in the church leadership team with the parents for a decade.

Thinking back to our own children’s upbringing they were likewise brought up by a village of different friends, relatives and church members. We don’t see some of them all that often now as they like my friends above have moved to other parts of the country and our children themselves have moved away. They are however always with us in family folklore and the children’s memories.

I am reminded of the old Mainland Cheese add that says “Good things take time”. This is completely countercultural to the superficial age we live in where relationships come and go and never get below the surface. While in some cases the image presented in relationships may even be completely false. It is my feeling however that time in a community, if you stay with it, brings a depth and richness that grows by the years. A bit like the growth rings of a tree.

I think we the Church need to cultivate an environment where communities and families can flourish. I am encouraged by my son who moved to Christchurch 18-months ago and is now in an amazing church community of eight families they are close to and do life together. I suppose I am acutely aware of this at this time as we are considering moving away from the community we have lived in for 22-years and a church family we have known for 14-years. It does not make our decision wrong but it will not be without cost. I hope that we can begin a new chapter where our new community and church is as good as the one we are leaving, like my son has found!

“Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’” — C. S. Lewis

How is your church family and community going? Don’t let being busy rob you of the things that matter, it may be time to pause and take stock!

Paul Monahan

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