We believe effective community building is a missing ingredient in the spiritual formation practices of most churches. We live in a society that practices superficial intimacy. Being known is more about how famous we are than how richly we connect with a few others. This shallow way of connecting is causing a brokenness that can only be healed by healing the way we connect as a community. The apostle Paul said he worked hard to have people’s “Hearts knit together in love.” (Col 2:2) So how do we do this more effectively?
What if we could give people an experience that completely changed the way we relate with a group. And what if this group was or become a permanent part of our lives? What if the outcome was communities that were contagiously attractive: community the way it was meant to be?
Belonging, being known, experiencing protection from others so that relationships become really safe are all core longings that we as humans thirst for. Sadly we live in a society where individualism, autonomy and not needing others are prevalent strategies for achieving success. This NA culture has become like a virus, destroying the vitality of our Christian faith which was meant to be the place where love and unity flourishes. This cannot happen where individualism dominates the culture.
For many the idea that such a community could exist is a lost hope. We hear talks about love and care and then experience just the opposite. We know a rich relational world should be possible, and that it should be very different from what we typically experience. So how does one discover/create this quality of community so many of us long for?
Only Seen in Community
Video from www.truefaced.com
So How Do We Get There?
Traditional approaches to community building do not work. Teaching it from the platform might change the way we think about it, but it does not effectively build new relational practices between individuals. Putting people in small groups provides very inconsistent outcomes. Being together more often helps, unless we are together with people with poor relational habits. This does more harm than good. Is there a better way to get to the place where rich connecting with others is normal? We think there is!
Grace Must Be Experienced and Trusted, Not Just Taught
Grace is caught more than taught. Love is learned from being loved more than trying to love. Grace must be experienced to be understood. Grace must be trusted and we need to be encouraged to trust it in order to learn to trust well. And all this happens most easily when we are in rich community focused on teaching, learning and walking in grace.
It’s Also About Changing Habits, not Just Learning New Concepts
Trusting grace requires a major shift in our relational habits. The following video illustrates the challenge we face in shifting the way we relate. In the video engineers built a bike where the front wheel turns opposite of what you would expect. Turn left and the wheel goes right. Turn right and the wheel goes left. Now one would think that this would be easy to learn: just do the opposite of what we used to do. Unfortunately it isn’t so simple. We have instinctive bike riding habits that don’t change easily. In the same way we have instinctive relational habits that also don’t change easily. As you look at the video ask yourself: “Why did it take so long?” and “How does this challenge translate to the challenge of changing our relational habits?” Maybe the solution is about changing habits, not changing knowledge.
Experience Based Learning
Contagious Communities provides events in which multiple groups can be coached and guided into rich community and deeper spiritual health. It is a safe, rich, life-changing experience. Rather than a dominantly educational process the journey is more about experiencing and developing trust, hope, humility. the ability to hear each other and the vulnerability essential to deep connection. These relational practices and habits enable the quality of relationships to move to a new level. The journey involves maturing in both horizontal (knowing and trust at the human level) and vertical (knowing and trusting God) relational practices. The challenge is: we must grow spiritually so we can grow relationally and we must grow relationally so we can grow spiritually. Our workshops provide environments where both relational and spiritual growth happens concurently.
This provides outcomes that few have ever experienced. Because the spiritual maturing process is highly relational, tying to mature without growing relationally is impossible hard. Maturing through rich relational living where others know me and partner with me in the movement of my heart towards God and others is absolutly liberating. Growing through the formation of rich community provides a path that makes is both easy for group practices to mature and fosters growth on the following fronts:
- Discovering and developing grace and acceptance as the dominant ethos within the community
- Learning together to increasingly trust God and others to know, encourage and strengthen me
- Learning together to actively trust (have faith) that unleashes the Christ life within each of us as the transforming energy of life
- Shifting our self image from being rooted in self effort and accomplishments to being grounded in the new life birthed in us through Christ. This shift in self image orientation completely changes the community’s foundation for worthiness and acceptance
- Pursuing and growing in unity as the strategically critical dimension that must grow in order for us to be healthy spiritually
- Belonging to each other and owning kingdom purposes that foster a missional intensity and passion tied to realizing the “Hope” of the gospel
Participating in such a community is life changing, not because of some magical community development technique, but because God’s design for discipleship is a process that can only be effective within healthy, deep-relating community
Sample Group Learning Videos
The above video is a sample discussion starter used in our workshops. The use of these rich concept videos enables groups to grow new relational skills and habits. The whole process, guided by a series of learning videos, enables groups to build new levels of trust and experience a richer way of relating based on insightful discoveries affecting how we connect. Over time a new set of relational skills develop. Short videos from exceptional teachers & researchers establish the context for discussion. Guided discussions make it easy to talk in new ways. Over time the discussions lead to a new set of relational skills within table groups.