Someone recently asked me to weigh in on their “be part of a local community” or “do Classical Conversations at home” dilemma. As I began to gather my thoughts, identify my best examples, and marshal my arguments, I realized that for me, the jury is not still out. I am wholly sold to the power of community! But, as I continued to think about the subject, I realized that the primary power of community is not what I once thought.
Community is about fellowship
When I was a young homeschooling mom, I sought community as an opportunity for fellowship. My girls and I loved being together, doing projects, and reading and thinking new thoughts. But…we needed more people to “play with!” They needed other children to giggle with and negotiate with and share with. I needed some grown-up conversation and some perspective on parenting, and homeschooling, and life.
Community is about encouragement
When I found a group of like-minded moms, I discovered a community of encouragement. Some of my most perplexing parenting questions were talked out with friends who loved me AND my children. I found shoulders to cry on, backs to share my load, arms to link in solidarity, and eyes that saw the true me—and appreciated me anyway.
Community is about service
When our lives became entwined with others, I discovered that community provided the opportunity for service. My girls learned deeper lessons from helping others than they did from studying a book; community gave us the chance to put our faith into action. It also helped us to see that everyone has strengths to share! They found much to admire in others and recognized some sterling qualities that they yearned to emulate. Those lessons would have been hard to teach without being surrounded by other people.
Community is about accountability
When we found Classical Conversations after homeschooling for six years, I was glad to have a community for the sake of accountability. I had tumbled down the slippery slope of, “Oh well, we’ll finish tomorrow,” one too many times for comfort, and I wanted some positive peer pressure for myself and for my girls. It felt great to have shared goals to meet, and friends to practice with! As the girls approached the Challenge years, that accountability helped us stay on track—especially in the subjects we each tended to avoid.
Community is about others
When we became part of the fabric of a community, I realized another of its benefits: the “power of the other.” My girls had other adults who shared our values speaking life and truth to them on a regular basis. What a blessing! These “others” could speak to, and love on, my girls in beautiful ways. When we sometimes grew weary of one another’s conversations, these “others” could share true and inspiring words with my girls. How often does a new voice allow an old message to finally penetrate a hard head?!
I have been an enthusiastic and energetic member of a community for years; I have given time, a different perspective, warm hugs, and extra books. I have received good advice, bad jokes, constant encouragement and tender understanding. But, finally, after many years of participating in a community, I believe I have hit upon its primary power.
Community is about becoming
It is not in the giving or in the taking...it is in the becoming. When we are part of a community, it has the power to help us become who God intends us to be. As I live and love and strive and struggle, God uses other people to rub off my rough edges. And he uses those same people to polish what remains into beauty. I do some of my best thinking when I wrestle big ideas into submission with my comrades. The ideas people share spur me on to deeper thoughts than I come to on my own. When others ask me penetrating questions, I have to rethink and re-examine my prejudices and presuppositions.
Community is about conversation
When others share their thoughts, and I respond, our give and take reveals insights to all of us. Sometimes I don’t know what I think about something until I talk about it with someone else! The power of community is in conversation, because conversation leads to deeper examination and greater epiphanies. Conversation allows us to not only pool our thoughts, but to understand more together than we did apart. Community provides the environment for becoming, and in this possibility of becoming lies the true power of community.
Originally posted by Lisa Bailey on Wednesday, 29 March, 2017