The Challenge of Community in Suburbia
Melanie and I were on a walk last night and we were talking for a bit about the challenge of being in community in our suburban environment. With all of our good intentions, its been hard to find a way gather with those who live around us to read scripture, pray together and just plain old be together.
There are a lot of factors that go into this. Children are a big key. We have two young children and we try and have them in bed by 8:00 each night so they don’t kill each other the next day. To do some kind of small group / bible study during the week is tough. Not impossible, but really, really hard to pull off.
Another issue is our busy schedules and the fact that while each of the families in our area have holes in the schedules, they rarely coincide. So, while we are free on Tuesday evenings, another family isn’t and they are free on Thursday evenings, another family isn’t, etc.
My point is, its just not cut and dry. As we talked, we are committed to finding a better way forward and figuring this thing out. But, its not easy and its not convenient. If convenience were our goal, we’d probably just keep on going like we are.
Personally I’ve been making it a priority to meet with another guy in our area on Wednesday mornings for coffee. It’s earlier than either of us want to be up, but it works and its been a great encouragement.
Often we have impromptu dinners with other families, especially the ones who we share kid watching with. Sometimes one of us will be watching the others kids and instead of heading them home for dinner on our own, we’ll just have dinner together. I mean, we’re already together so why make two meals and two sets of dirty dishes?
These are great ideas but the more we talked the more we realized that they aren’t perfect. They are helpful and very good and we’ll continue to pursue them. But, they are still imperfect options.
Really, the best option for us, and one we’ve prayed about for a while, is to purchase a duplex with a shared front porch, shared yard, shared back deck, etc. This way we could live in community while still having our separate living quarters. The more we talk about it, the more we realize that if we didn’t have kids sharing a house would be just fine. But, with kids we’re thinking its pretty important for them to have their own living spaces, at least while they are young.
Another option for us is to get a larger house with extra rooms or an apartment and have single people live with us and invite them into our family. This would be in a similar vein to the Mustard Seed House in Seattle.
With either of these options, we’d work on creating a rule of life that would include some committing to a weekly shared meal, a bible study night, neighborhood involvement and other practices that we would decide upon together.
Of course, all of this depends on us getting out of debt so we can purchase a house or finding someone who wants to invest in a missional venture like this where we would just rent from them and be in charge of keeping the house in order.
While I realize that this isn’t an answer for everybody, I think its the best one for us. The biggest thing we have to continue to do as suburban Christians is to constantly ask the hard questions and constantly look for solutions / answers to the challenge before us. I think the answers aren’t the same for all times, all people and all places. Some seasons require some answers and other seasons of life demand others.
But, the worst thing we can do is continue to function as part of our culture without asking hard questions about our default way of life. Melanie and I need to constantly be asking where we need to step out of the suburban mob and back into a way of life and a community that is more reflective of God’s kingdom and God’s purposes for our lives.
Again, this isn’t easy. But, I believe its totally worth the effort.