We kicked off this month’s content with a focus on building long-lasting friendships, but there’s another side to this idea of connecting as well, and that’s being part of a community.
A strong community or tribe, if you will, offers an umbrella for those individual friendships to blossom and grow, but it’s also a really beautiful thing by itself.
The word tribe means an “aggregate of people united by ties of a common ancestor, customs and traditions, or adherence to the same leaders.” I would define a tribe in our modern culture as a group united by shared goals, shared values or beliefs, or shared interests. Oftentimes, a tribe is built around one uniting feature (i.e. homeschooling, a political candidate, faith, an art, a business goal), but made up of very diverse individuals within the group.
What I love about finding your community or tribe is that it offers you the opportunity to draw from the perspectives and strengths of the individuals of the group, many of whom you might not connect with at that deeper level otherwise. That makes the whole group stronger.
I first experienced this idea after our second daughter was born. We had moved twice in one year and ended up in Winchester, VA, where we really didn’t know anyone. I joined a mom’s group at our church, and we met every week—twice a month for Bible study and twice a month for a play date.
Within that group, the things we had in common were having young children and wanting to study the Bible, but the similarities really ended there. The group itself included women of different ages who came from different backgrounds. We had different numbers of kids (and different ideals about family size). I probably would have connected with a few of the women outside of the group, but I came to love all of them, not in spite of those differences, but because of them.
The most important part of a strong community or tribe is that everyone feels like they can trust the group. That’s not to say that there are never disagreements or personality clashes, but as a whole, each individual is valued by the group, not gossiping behind one another’s backs, and working together to resolve conflicts.
The benefits of this type of group go beyond that of an individual friendship. Belonging to a tribe or community offers you a sense of belonging and identity as well as a place where you know you’re welcomed and loved.
A community also offers practical support that an individual may not be able to do on their own.
For example, several years ago, the husband of one of the members of our homeschool community became suddenly and critically ill. He spent a week or so in critical care in a coma before passing away. During that time, members of our group made sure that someone was always at the hospital sitting in the waiting room just in case his wife, or one of their family members, needed something that we could provide. We made phone calls, did laundry, brought snacks and chapstick, and so on. This was the most beautiful picture of community I’d ever seen.
If you’re having trouble finding individual friends, a tribe is a great way to meet your need for connection and lay the foundation for those friendships to form.
So how do you find your tribe or community?
The first step is to simply put yourself out there. Choose something that’s important to you and join a group. It might be a mom’s group or a small group at church, a volunteer organization, a homeschool co-op or a professional club, the PTA or your neighborhood homeowner’s association.
Once you join a group, be willing to dive right in. Start conversations with individuals in the group. Look for ways you can participate, not just as a “taker,” but as a “giver.” Be willing to step up and volunteer to help keep the group running.
Real community is not clique-ish but welcomes new people to their ranks, so how welcome you feel when you jump in is a good indication of whether it’s the type of community you’re looking for.
And remember, it’s okay to admit a community isn’t a great—or the best—fit for you, so don’t feel like you have to settle if you’re really not connecting with a group or feeling that sense of community. Don’t give up too soon out of shyness or fear, but be willing to keep looking for your tribe!
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Do you have a tribe? What is the “one” thing that draws you together?
- If you’re still on the lookout for a tribe or community, make a list of your interests, beliefs, or goals and possible groups that might be built around those.
- Set a goal of connecting with a new community (or your existing one if you haven’t connected in a while!) this month. Attend a meeting or event and practice “jumping right in,” even if it’s hard!