We have moved so many times. It is not necessarily what I would have wanted or chosen; I would love to put down roots. But what moving a lot has taught us is the importance of community and our role in making it happen! Here are my tips from someone who has done it lots on how to create community where you are. So my number one tip is to stop waiting for someone else to invite you in to community and get out there and find some!
It starts with you
I know, no one wants to hear this. When moving to a new place, most people wait for the welcome mat to be rolled out. You want neighbours to come over with baked goods and welcome you. You want to be invited to social events and all the happenings in the town. BUT are you doing that for a new person who moves in near you? You simple cannot rely on other people if you desire to make connections and community where you live. (and you should!) People to do life with is so important!
find a church and get involved
This has been our number 1 strategy to meet people when we move. In many instances this is where we have met our closest friends, babysitters, support group, you name it. I know this is not always possible, but if it is this is a perfect place to start. I cannot stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there and get involved. It is incredibly hard to feel any sense of community or belonging if you are just showing up on Sunday, listening to the service and then heading home. Join a small group, go early for Sunday School, volunteer where your skills allow (maintenance, work bees, nursery, teach a class, etc), go to special events like adult fellowship, ladies nights, etc. Go to things. Put yourself out there. Sit at a table with people and say hi. No one can get to know you if you aren’t there. Serving alongside someone else is one of the best and fastest ways to create a bond.
If there isn’t a small group for you, start one! We have done this here in our current town. Is it easy? No. Is it awkward to invite people? Yes, depending on your personality. Will some people say no? Yup, probably. But do it anyways. Work to build community and trust that the Lord will put the people in your path that He desires to be there. I truly believe God does not mean us to live life alone and He will provide community for us.
(I wish I actually had photos of all our wonderful small group friends and family but apparantly I have always been having too much fun to take photos! All I’ve got is this silly one from our going away games night in High Level. )
meet your neighbours
Guys, meet them. Just do it. These people are your built in community! You may not have much in common, you may not be best friends, but meet them! If you are both outside mowing your lawns, chat with them! If you are both in the backyard with your kids, ask if they want to come over for popsicles and sprinkler play. If you’re having a campfire and see them outside, invite them for smores. JUST DO IT. Talk to them.
Really, the underlying theme of this entire blog post is that you need to take the initiative. Whether at church, your neighbourhood, work…you need to stop waiting for people to come to you and go to them. Take the first step. Extend the friendly hand. Offer the invitation. Serve them! Water flowers, shovel a driveway. Make the connection.
We have been so incredibly richly blessed by neighours over the years. We have lived near all sorts of people and had many different types of relationships with them, but we know and have seen how beautiful these relationships can be. We had the most special neighbours in our last town who we miss so much. Those relationships were formed over just talking to each other when we were both outside and grew from there!
Unless you absolutely cannot make it work, accept any invitation that comes your way. Already have meat thawing for supper but someone at church invites you? Cook it up and save it for the next day. Do all you can do to accept the kindness of others. You never know where you will find your “people” or your best friends or who will become like family.
share meals with people
Invite people into your home. This can be tricky when you are new. It can be hard to go up to someone and invite them. But it’s hard for them too! Building community involves effort on both ends. So if you meet another mom and her kids at the park, see if they want to come over for lunch. If you are chatting with someone at church, invite them over for supper. Open your door and your home and invite people to your table.
Let go of the need for perfection. It doesn’t have to be fancy, well planned or perfect. Just be hospitable.
Get your hands dirty and show you are willing to be involved. Participate in street clean up, coach a soccer team, go to adult gym night, volunteer at the food bank…there are many volunteer options available to you in any given community. Find something that works in your skill set and schedule and get involved. This helps give you a sense of ownership to the community and helps you feel like you belong. It also gives you time to spend working alongside others, where conversation can easily flow. I’ve heard it said, the busier the hands the busier the lips!
put in the time and dont give up
Sometimes you will get lucky and meet your people right away and sometimes it’ll take a year. It is worth it. Do not give up.
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to meet people but merely a few of the things I’ve found to be most effective. Find something you like and invite others. For us, we love to play games. So we enjoy having other couples over in the evening to play games and visit together. This has greatly helped us build relationship with these people.
Take the responsiblity yourself, put yourself out there and dont give up.
dont forget your kids
It is worth mentioning, before I finish, that your kids need community too. This includes other friends but is not limited to that. Other adults who love them and speak into their lives are important as well. I have found it helpful to have a pretty open door policy to other kids in order to foster community for my kids. With moving frequently comes not knowing every kid and their family and home life well so that can bring challenges. Our solution has be to allow them to play with anyone from the neighbourhood as long as they are here at our house or in our yard. Put some chalk out in the driveway and let them come! Any kids are welcome here. So far this has worked well for us and for our girls. As relationships are built and we get to know families, then decisions can be made about widening these boundaries.
As important as finding community is, don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick a couple things you can do and do them. Start somewhere. When you’ve done this, when you’ve found your community, love them so hard. Send the text, make the phone call, bring the coffee, drive for the visit. Be consistent. Talk and / or meet as consistently as you can. Love their kids. Show interest. Be so thankful for the people that God has placed in your life and honour those relationships. Show up for people.
I’m so thankful for all of you who play a special role in my life! (And I need to take more pictures of you!)
“Go where you’re sent and stay where you’re put and give what you’ve got until you’re done.”