Creating Authentic Communtiy

What an oxymoron. Can authentic community be created? Maybe if we create an environment where it would naturally happen.

Sam replied to me on a forum that we frequent concerning my post on experimental community:

I thought about this idea, and reread your post, I noticed you wanted a place where people did not have to "buy coffee or beer" but still feel a sense of community. Why not have a building that has similar things as a coffee house or bar? Pool tables, ping-pong tables, fussball, etc. You will recall that the open area in the ad building at GlCC was similar and fostered community. At the same time, I wonder how much is too much? Does it turn into entertainment as the catalyst for bringing people together instead of a deep sense of community?

Here is my reply:

I concur. Those questions are things I struggle with. That is why I came up with this house idea. What things do we naturally want in our backyard? It so happens that those things we want in our backyard foster community. (That might be why we want them in our backyard.) So if we get together and do together what we naturally want (but might not be able to afford on our own) and allow it to be open rather than only by our invitation (which we will also give), then we have created a place where community will foster naturally (I hope).

Last night (and many nights), despite the heat, I took my kids out and played in the backyard. We filled up the little play pool, grilled dinner (although the propane ran out half way through), and ran around. Many families do the same thing. If we joined together in this nightly activity because of the close proximity of living together, we would have very dynamic and authentic community. If we have healthy community, it would be natural for it to take in others that are seeking for the same thing.

I didn't play fussball, pool, or ping pong in the ad building because I didn't enjoy playing those games all that much. I would say that our living in close proximity to one another had as much if not more to do with fostering community than the games did because I had good community despite only playing 5 games of fussball, 30 games of ping pong, and no pool during my college years. The ad building did provide a common place to just sit and hang out, which I did do much more frequently than play any of the games.

Although, I have toyed around with the idea of establishing a great big living room with games like you mentioned (and other games that I enjoy) in which we would gather together in and hang out at on a near nightly basis. But I feel that giant living room wouldn't be as welcoming or as natural as a shared back yard. A place in the open air always seems a little more welcoming than a place surrounded by walls.

"It is a place for people to hang out when they are lonely and just want people to hang out with, and they can do it without having to buy a coffee or a beer."

The key word in the phrase "buy coffee and beer" was "buy". And I had previously used the word "free" in the sentence following that one, but it apparently didn't make it through editing. I wouldn't want to exclude people who have an extremely tight budget from being involved in community so it has to be free to everyone (except for those who obviously support the ministry - I would hope it was the church budget). We probably wouldn't serve beer because of all the alcohol hatred in Christian circles in America. But coffee would more than likely pop up its addictive head.

Watch out for potholes.