Myths of Belonging
The Search to Belong is a about community, more specifically about the type and substance of relationships that form a community in the church today. It strikes me as a “what’s been done and what’s to come sort of book that emphasizes the paradigm shift of post-modern thought and how that relates to the church and the functions of community in it.
“Community is a complex creature. Many factors contribute to finding successful community. With the erosion of the geographically close family and the heightened mobility of our culture, many people struggle to learn healthy competencies for community.”
It is Myers position that there are many road blocks to these healthy competencies and in chapter one there are 6 items which he calls “Common Myths of Belonging”.
1. More time = more belonging.
time has little to do with a person’s ability to experience significant belonging.
2. More commitment = more belonging.
A relationship that involves commitment does not necessarily promote a greater experience of belonging…people equate close relationships with committed relationships, we need significant relationships. Significant is not the same as “close” or “committed”
3. More purpose = more belonging.
people who strive together toward a common goal connect, right? Sometimes people who have a common passion and purpose do connect. But a common purpose or vision or goal does not guarantee that people will connect.
4. More personality = more belonging.
Introversion and extroversion are learned forms of social behavior that help us navigate our day-to-day lives neither block or enhance our experience of belonging.
5. More proximity = more belonging.
space is in some sense a matter of perspective, close proximity need not be geographical.
6. More small groups = more belonging.
churches that provide small group opportunities can expect about a 30% involvement at best small groups do not accomplish the promise of fulfilling all facets of a person’s search for community, only one or two, a person’s search for community is more complex than this.
How do I disagree? Let me count the ways; Actual I can see his point but I hope he does not totally discount the role of time investment, relational commitment and common purpose in the development, or at least as possible barometers for, real community. The point is, I think, that doing does not equal being, ever. If we try to conform our outer selves to some standard of Christian community our inner selves suffer because well focus on the look of that community without addressing the needs of the individual.
Myers also introduces the concept of the levels of belonging in this chapter as four spaces [that] communicate how we belong to each other. Based on the work of Edward T. Hall in a discipline called proxemics the interrelated observations and theories of man’s use of space.
“He concluded that there four spaces we use to develop personalities, culture and communication. Those four spaces are: public(12 feet +), social(4 to 12 ft), personal(18 in to 4 ft) and intimate(0 to 18in). Inductively we discover that Hall’s work not only supplied a structure for architecture and city planning (space = real estate), culture, and communication, but his concepts of space also applied to the conversation about belonging. This is a conversation about recognizing, describing, and validating (or invalidating) the ways in which we build healthy community and employ specific spaces to communicate belonging.”
Some other bits from chapter one.
formation – voluntarily connected in search of genuine and meaningful experiences
focus – add qualitative relationships, meaning, and experiences to the organization, organisms, or movements to which they are connected
membership – without a bounded membership based on a continuing interest in the journey
outside assistance: align themselves with champions or advocates who come alongside them in long-term relationships
recruitment – look for people of passion who want to have fun helping to bring exciting experiences to congregational participants, and a spiritual strategic journey to the congregation
benefits – provide more enthusiasm and meaningful relationships within the congregation
style of work – dialogue, engage in discernment activities, and arrive at the best solutions for a particular opportunity or challenge.
Adapted from Goerge Bullard, Abondon Committees, Skip Teams and Embrace Communities”
We think of belonging as permanence, yet all our homes are transient. Who still lives in the house of their childhood? Who still lives in the neighborhood [sic] where they grew up?… Our belonging is no longer to something fixed, known and familiar, but to an electric and heartless creature eternally in motion.
Michael Ignatieff, The Need of Strangers