The importance of building strong communities
What makes up a good community? Great communities start with God’s redeeming love. Building strong communities strengthens everyone’s wellbeing. If we don’t love others, as God loves us, we lack true, pure, and redemptive love to offer others.
By Naomi Adjei
Licensed Mental Health Professional
Who is your social support?
This is one of the questions every therapist is trained to ask when walking with someone through their healing journey. Your social support is your community.
Taking part in healthy communities is essential for our well-being. The people you surround yourself with, do life with, express emotions to, mourn with and celebrate with are important. The success of your mental health depends on whether or not you are rooted in a healthy community.
We are not created to do life alone. No matter the season of life, God has ordained people for us to do life with.
An abundance of research shows that we need community to thrive. Dr. Curt Thompson a psychiatrist who has done extensive study on the topic on the brain and relationships, says “our brains are wired to live in community.”
Dr. Thompson’s book, “Anatomy of the Soul,” explores how connections with other people is mentally transforming. Basically, rewiring our brain is possible through healthy connections.
Just to be clear, no community is perfect even in the best of our circles.
The reality of life is that we are imperfect people and that effects the people within our community. For example, I might gossip about a friend in my community when I feel jealous. If she finds out, she will get offended, which will create some tension.
Our human complexities make it difficult to create and maintain healthy communities. However, we have a great mandate from God to create and sustain His nature here on earth.
In this article, I am going to communicate my personal story on community, share about community from a biblical perspective, talk about characteristics of great communities and offer ideas on what makes a good community.
Naomi with two of her closest friends celebrating her birthday during quarantine.
How building strong communities has been important in my own life
Hi my name is Naomi and I am a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. The concept of community means a lot to me in different aspects.
First of all, I am from Ghana, a West African country located along the Gulf of Guinea, where we lived in community. I love and miss that culture of intentional community.
We take care of each other, our elderly live with us, and new mothers are supported 100%. Growing up seeing this was a blessing.
As I mentioned before, we counselors are trained to teach people to have people. No matter the season you are in, having people is key to being a successful human.
When I look at my life over the last 32 years, I am amazed by what God has done, especially in the area of community.
I grew up surrounded by people. Although my parents had just 2 children, we always had more people living with us. Till this day, my parents care for others around them.
Naomi’s grandma and her grandchildren in Ghana, August 2017
In my college years, I joined Campus Fellowship and learned the meaning of true biblical community. This was a place where I learned true biblical community among peers.
This group loved and served well. They were all about bringing the love of Jesus to people and discipling them through friendships. I spent most of my collage days doing life with them.
Life after college is a bit different, but even during this time, my community here in Omaha has helped me move several times, hosted me in their homes, celebrated holidays with me, provided furniture for my new place, and raised money for my first missions trip etc. The full list is even longer!
I have had fun and joy through my many communities. We have celebrated each other, laughed, teased, played, and cried. We have been silly together, watched TV together, traveled together – just done life together!
We have moved apart, but still keep in touch. We have moved into different stages of life, but still find ways to connect. I am thankful for the community around me.
Church youth camp.
Living in community through a biblical worldview
When I think of community, my mind naturally goes to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. In the beginning, God was already in community.
In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us create.” Who is the us? That’s God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Then he creates man and says, “It is not good for you to be alone.”
How wonderful it is to have a God who desires for us to be in community. So how do we do it?
If you follow Mike Bickle, you know one of his primary messages is charging the church to love God and be loved by Him so we can love others well.
Loving God with all of our hearts is the foundation of a healthy community. If we don’t know that we are loved, then we have nothing to give. If we have not been loved by God, then there isn’t a true, pure, redemptive love to offer to anyone else.
So if you want to love well and build a healthy community, make it a priority to love God. Let your heart be in tune with Him.
When you become a vessel of God’s love, love overflows through you. In this way, we don’t use people to meet our needs or demand love from people.
Lysa TerKeurst said it best in her book titled Uninvited, “Live from the abundant place that you are loved and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.”
In seasons when community is hard, take some intentional time with the Lord to renew your heart, restore your soul, and seek His fresh perspective. Pray and ask God to fill you with his love because that’s what makes us better participants in building strong community.
Characteristics of a healthy community
As I stated before there is no perfect community. However, there are communities that are healthy and some that are not.
I am sure each one of us reading this can relate. Healthy is defined as a state of thriving; therefore, a healthy community is one that is thriving. Let’s look at some of these characteristics.
1. A healthy community is centered on God and His purposes
Colossians 3:17 says, “ Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
As a Christian, this tells me that in all my being, God is to be glorified. A healthy community is one that is centered on glorifying God.
In practice, this looks like loving the people around me well so others can be drawn into God’s story as well. It also looks like praying for the people in my community. It also looks like showing the fruit of the Spirit in all my dealings with the people in my community, which is being kind, patient, and self-controlled with them.
The main purpose of God is that all may be saved. Is my community actively pursuing the great commission?
A healthy community is one that is reflecting God and living out His purpose, which is the great community.
2. A healthy community facilitates vulnerability
Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. Does your community see you?” And, do you see your community?
Or are we too busy and occupied to notice the married couple who is struggling due to their inability to have a child or the older man struggling with cancer or the single woman looking to connect? Do we really see people?
Are we allowing those around us to be fully who God has called them to be? In a healthy community, people don’t hide. They are fully visible and vulnerable.
3. A healthy community changes over time
Change is inevitable. Change is always happening in us and around us. This is the same for any healthy community. As we grow as a community and expand, the Lord himself leads us outward. This is so we can bring more people into the body of Christ to also experience healthy community.
I have been in Omaha for the last 7 years. And looking back, some of the people that I was in community with when I first moved here have moved on. We still connect, but the circle has gotten bigger.
A pastor once said it this way: A healthy community is like manure. When it’s piled up in one place it stinks but when its spread around it’s great for the land. Changes in our community is God’s way of spreading us to be useful for the gospel.
4. A healthy community is mutual but not codependent
The fastest way to lose people is to come in with the intention of taking instead of giving. To have great community, you have to be ready to give and not just to take.
The relationships that have lasted the longest are those that love me well and I loved well. It’s been mutual. On the other hand, the ones that just wanted to be loved never lasted. If you are looking for a good community, be ready to be in it as well to contribute. Do not go into a community just so your needs can be met.
The flip side of this is codependency. One of the blessings of having community is that we are able to depend on each other, love each other well, and help each other.
However, sometimes it gets out of control.
The term “codependency” is usually used in context to psychology. I am using it differently here (But the use of the psychological term could also be happening in our community which is even more unhealthy).
The definition of this term in this context is dependence on the needs of or control by another. Codependency in community happens: When they are controlling; when their bad behaviors are beginning to affect you; when they are tormenting you but you are too fearful to leave; and when you keep feeding their addictive behaviors.
5. A healthy community can quickly heal from hurts and conflict
Conflict is a fuel for healthy relationships. Building a healthy community is an honor but comes with a cost.
Building a healthy community can be tough. We hurt each other, we misunderstand each other, and we judge each other.
God made us so differently; there is no way to have a perfect community. There will be disappointments and hurt. However, the true test of a healthy community is its ability to recover from hurts and conflict.
Is the community filled with love and forgiveness? Are we able to let things go easily so love may abound?
A group from Naomi’s church graduating from a Purpose Discovery group.
What makes up a good community?
A simple way to explain discipleship is: Follow me as I follow Christ. In a healthy community, we are admonishing one another to be a follower of Christ and to model after the teaching of God.
Every healthy biblical community should have some component of discipleship with teaching and mentoring.
2. Building strong communities through diversity
I personally believe that a healthy community has people of all ages, marital status, different life experiences and work experiences. If all we do is spend our time with similar people, we will not grow.
When we incorporate the older generation, we incorporate wisdom. When we incorporate married with singles we get to learn from each other. When the doctor does life with the postman, they learn different perspectives of life.
The list goes on but you get it right? We can’t build a healthy community with people just like us.
3. Healthy boundaries are part of building strong communities
Boundaries is simply knowing when my responsibility ends and when yours begins. A healthy community consists of people with healthy boundaries.
We don’t say yes when we can’t and later develop resentment. But rather, in a healthy community, I am honest about what I can give and what I cannot. Most important, in a healthy community, your boundaries are also accepted.
4. The fun in building strong communities
Fun is a great thing! Being able to laugh and joke and make fun of each other is a good thing. A healthy community is one that can have fun together, celebrate each other, and truly enjoy each other.
We are responsible for building strong communities
Building a strong community means you and I are invested in making it happen. Building a healthy community has to do with everyone bringing their best foot forward to make it happen.
I read a post on Instagram that said “Behind every great relationship is very difficult unseen conversations.”
Creating a healthy community doesn’t come easy. Many of us have done it the wrong way. However, being committed to a strong healthy community is a solid joy of life! God wants us to be in community.
I LOVE the people God has blessed me with. Some of these people have walked me through my ups and down and vice versa. There is such great joy in knowing that someone has your back. We all need to master the art of building strong communities.
So my question remains, who is your social support? Who are you building a healthy community with?
My name is Naomi! My friends call me Nay. I am a licensed Mental Health Practitioner in the State of Nebraska. I’ve been working with people in the area of mental health since 2011. My current job is the Prayer and Care Associate Director at Good News Church where I help our leader in the caring for the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of the congregation.
Jesus is the most important in my life. I couldn’t do this life without Him. I am blessed with an amazing dad, mom, and a sister who are my rock. I have lots of Aunties and Uncles and cousins and my Gran Felicia who are in Ghana but deeply connected to me. I am very thankful for all the relationships that I have! Life wouldn’t be the same without my super awesome friends.
My go-to hobbies are cooking, walking in the park, naps, Hallmark movies, hanging with friends, and traveling.
I run a page on Instagram called Wholistic Care. I use this page to encourage you to be healthy in your spirit, soul, and body.
Life has not been perfect, but I live it to the fullest. I am also not perfect, but I do not allow it to disqualify me from my potential.