Often churches (like mine) talk about making sure that people can “assimilate” or get “plugged-in” (i hate that second phrase – its so mechanical) to the community. I have always had a love-hate relationship with these ideas. I haven’t really been able to put words around why the idea didn’t sit well with me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I very much want people to connect with our community when they visit. I pray that our church can be a very, very hospitable group of people who love all people no matter what walk of life they are from. That’s something we try to do. Sometimes we are pretty good at it and sometimes we miss the mark. This I think, is true of almost every community, faith-based or not.

But, I’ve just finished reading Tim Keel’s book Intuitive Leadership (which is a great book by the way). He finally put words to what I have been feeling for a long time. He is talking about programming community,

“When we have a program orientation, we suggest they take a membership class or join a group with people in a similar life stage to their own. Programming of this sort pays a certain kind of immediate dividend for the people who participate. This basic underlying assumption in this framework is that anyone who asks ought to have immediate access to relationships in the least possible amount of time with a minimal amount of effort. But can we really expect people to develop relationships of significance and depth when this assumption colors our approach to facilitating them?”

He goes on to describe how his community approaches this idea,

“The basic underlying assumption we try to animate at Jacob’s Well is that real relationships and connection take time and significant investment. We tell people that in order to begin to connect at Jacob’s Well they need to plan on hanging around for at least six months before they can expect to feel like they are part of the community. More than that they really need to actively invest and reach out, not passively sit back and wait for someone to make something happen for them.”

But wait, that sounds harsh doesn’t it?! Well, he makes a great point,

“Where else can you enter a complex relational environment and expect to feel immediately and automatically at home? There is an expectation that some time will need to pass before you understand what is going on and have a basic lay of the land.”

I think Tim is on to something here. In a consumerist world, assimilation is the biggest priority. Get people plugged-in as fast as possible. If you are entering into a machine (hence the phrase plugged-in) this is definitly what is wanted.

But if you are entering into a living organism / community it is much more complicated. Of course, our communities must be full of the love of Christ and places of hospitality. But, I think its a bit more complicated than just getting “plugged-in”. That just too mechanical.

This brings up something I have thought for a long time and Tim reinforces here. My last post talked about programs. Here is sounds like he is all about being anti-programmed. Does this mean that we should never have programs? I personally don’t think so, but I think the way we get to our programs and the basis for our programs needs some freshening up.

More on that in a post later this week….