I’ve been on a line of thought about community for the past week and I just need to post it here. It saddens me to see the patterns that develop in a community over time. For example, it seems like (especially in a college ministry, but in churches as well) there are a ton of people who get involved with the community right away and enjoy participating in it, but as time goes on many drop out, and only some go until the end. I’ve seen this pattern as I get older, and it frustrates me. Why do so many people not get involved and stay involved?
Now you have to excuse me that what I’m about to say is an overgeneralization, and that not every person fits neatly into a catagory. I realize that people have many varying reasons that they may not be involved anymore, and I accept them as good reasons. But this is a theory that struck me the other day. It is a theory, meaning that I may be wrong, or need further thought, and you may correct me on it.
I guess I see people in stages that they start in, and move on to…
New Members: This is where people start. Someone finds a community of believers, and if it is a good fit for them, they get involved, participate and learn within the community. In this sense, it is rewarding. They are essentially takers. Spititually, they are being fed. This is an easy stage to be in, because it doesn’t ask anything of them, and no one expects anything of them. They cannot stay in this stage for a long time though, because communities have needs, physical needs, and spiritual needs. So they move on to another stage…
The Laborers: This is where people should end up. They still participate and learn within a community, but it may not be as rewarding anymore. These people realize the purpose of being invested in earlier, and realize the community has needs that they can meet. So they volunteer to meet them. They are essentially givers. Spititually, they are feeding others. It is a lot harder, it wears on them, and it can be very frustrating at times. It can also be very rewarding, more than only being fed. It would be best if everyone would stay here forever, however, I’m not sure that’s the case.
The Unmatured: These are the people that never completely move out of the beginning stage. Either they choose to ignore the pleas of the needs of the community, or they never really realize that they community has any needs. They are still takers, still being fed. It may or may not be rewarding for them depending on their reason they’re at this stage. It could be that they are afraid to become a laborer because it sounds daunting, or they feel inexperienced, or they may be oblivious. They can wear on the people around them who are investing in them because it can mean so much giving without any recieving. Some take some time, and eventually move on, others stay here forever.
The Leavers: These people get frustrated that the community is no longer as rewarding for them. And while they realize that the community has needs, for some reason they cannot start giving. Whether the problem is time, or inexperience, or laziness, they choose to leave the community because they do not see the purpose of the community if it is no longer rewarding, and they refuse to serve others needs. They are mature enough to see that they cannot continue only taking, yet they cannot move to the laborer stage. So they leave, possibly to start over somewhere else.
Bear in mind that this is a theory, and that I may be wrong, but it is simply how I see things currently. It sounds rather utilitarian now that I put it in writing, but that’s the pattern I have seen. Please correct me if I’m wrong, I would appreciate comments.