“It takes a village to raise a child,” right? We’ve all heard the African proverb, whether relating it directly to raising a child or otherwise. However, in today’s culture we scarcely find a consistent villager let alone a whole village!
This proved to be the case for us when after college we moved out of state leaving behind the initial community we had forged in our first years as a young married couple. After a few hops between states as we sought to find a place to take root, we once again began that work of building out our community.
The loss of community can be quite devastating. The relationships you relied on can significantly change in the blink of an eye. To have community, true community, is to not only have digital connections but to also have geographically close friends whom you can rely on. It’s about having mutual connections to support each other as you navigate life, raise children, and to give each other the much needed reprieve in often busy, chaotic, and stressful lives.
In our experience the foundation of community has been through shared mutual interests. When seeking to build community we have followed the steps below to guide us:
If you know something is on the horizon that will change your community life, such as you’re planning to make a move, first consider the impact. Consider whether the change will improve your community life overall or if it will it be detrimental. If its going to be detrimental, is the change necessary? If it is, then plan ahead and get engaged, for example, with local groups or individuals who have shared interests. Social media helps a great deal here because you can begin connecting with other communities ahead of time to get a sense of what opportunities exist for “plugging in.”
Fortunately, for us, our last move we had a couple of connections in the area already through mutual shared interests. When moving that was immensely helpful because they helped organize people to assist with unloading our moving truck, they brought us food when we arrived, and they actively checked in on us early on while we were settling in. We quickly became friends with these individuals through this experience and have since only strengthened those bonds.
Get out and get involved with the local community by volunteering or joining local shared interest groups, whether it’s a gardening club, an exercise club, a hiking group, or a local church. For us, we are Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) Catholics, so when getting involved in the community we looked for TLM parishes and were able to connect with families of similar age groups. Because of the array of TLM communities and traditional monasteries in our area we were able to connect not only with the chapel we attend weekly, but also with other TLM communities and monastic communities. This has helped us find our “place” in the community and gave us a diverse resource pool to access, including sourcing us when we recently sought a “Mothers’ Helper” to assist us around the house during the week.
Beyond getting involved with already existing local shared interest groups, think about what interests you have and what you could offer others. The interests may overlap with existing groups or events and from there you can share an invite with that audience. Or your interest may be a niche interest. If so, that gives you the opportunity to offer something new to the community. When thinking about where to post flyers about your event, think about places where you are most comfortable and where you think you’d connect well with others in that community.
If you were able to connect with other families in the area through getting involved (the previous step) you could then also host events for those individuals/families to gather together. Offer up your home for a girls’ night or guys’ night, crafting, seasonal holiday events, or play dates. Outside the home offer up outings for fall cleanups, going to the park, playground, museum or brewery. Cast a wide net and don’t be discouraged if everyone cannot make it.
In the past I have hosted a monthly hiking group and as a family we have hosted book clubs, girls’ nights, countless playdates, and celebrations for anything – including annual Halloween movie-a-thons and a “Pie Friendsgiving” event for our friends where we all brought pie to share the week prior to Thanksgiving. Any event can bring you together with community if you find a way to celebrate it!
Next Steps to Consider
- List out all your interests, even the most benign mundane crazy niche interests. Get them written down.
- Think about the local volunteer opportunities, groups, or events that correspond to your interest. You can check social media or any number of local meetups, coffee shops, parishes, etc for information on local groups as well.
- Consider if you would like to host events or groups related to your interests. If so, consider:
- Which interests you want to pursue first. If you have various interests, prioritize them and start small with one or two as your focus
- Decide what the format or agenda of the event or group would be
- Decide where the group would meet
- Decide on your target audience (young families? fathers? mothers? Catholics?)
- Offer enticements (cocktails, coffee, tea, an activity)
- Decide on a cadence for meeting
- Promote your new event or group online, with your social network, at coffee shops or libraries, or at your parish!