This is the part of our Community Series in which we answer a question that was submitted by a reader/member of our Mundane Faithfulness Community. Today’s question is answered by Caitlin Lieder.
How do you build community with people who are different and have different life experiences or come from different cultures?
One of the most beautiful and exciting things about building community is the opportunity to meet people who have diverse backgrounds. The Body of Christ reflects all nations and all peoples, so our smaller communities reflect that as well.
When building community, it’s wise to seek out people who possess different perspectives. Sometimes we get stuck hanging out with people who look like us, think like us, and do life like us; but then there is no room to expand and grow and to see the world through other eyes—to understand other points of view and the richness of God’s creation in His people.
I’ve moved a lot and every time I begin to build community, I first sit and observe people around me. I pray for God to give me discernment in seeking out people I want to befriend. A key to this is seeking out friends who are different. For me, that means finding people who aren’t young parents or who are a more creative type or something else that I am not. It will be different for everyone.
One way to build community with different people is to meet people where they are. I can think of one example when I already had a tight-knit community but was trying to pursue a particular woman. I was young with small children and she was an older, single woman. I had to learn what kind of things she was interested in. First, I asked her questions over the course of several weeks at church and in our small group. I asked a mutual friend what kind of interests she had and discovered she was into baking and photography. Subsequently, I invited her over one Saturday morning to bake pumpkin bread with me in the kitchen as my children ran around at our feet. I first had to meet her in her comfort zone and in her element; that became the basis for what transformed into a deep friendship that still lasts today. I had to pursue her with intentionality and not expect her to be in the same places I was.
Finally, ask questions. Building community with people from different cultures and experiences is hard, and to understand them means we must humble ourselves and ask questions, not condemn different views or ways of doing things. So ask about their background, ask to hear their story, ask about their thoughts on living, ask them to teach you something new, and be ready to have your life and heart enriched! In Christ, we are one and the differences in us create a beautiful, big tapestry of God’s people. It’s a life-giving thing!
Who is someone in your life that is different—who has a different background or culture or life experience? How can you reach out to them? How can you pursue them and engage their differences? What can you do to celebrate your differences and use them to build/enrich your community?