Not technology or real estate. Not education or technical skills. Not even time, although it's related. The most valuable commodity in American society today is genuine community.
Economically, the United States is number one in the world (a GDP of more than $17 trillion). But in terms of overall well-being, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found the U.S. rates 15th. Fourteen other countries are generally happier and healthier.
An article titled "How America Rates" in The Week gave one reason for the poor rating. "A lot of Americans are isolated and feel a lack of social connection." This is in contrast to countries where social cohesion is strong. The article noted Latin American countries where strong community is central to everyday life, countries like Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize.
Technology connects us like never before, yet we find ourselves disconnected in new and profound ways. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety reveal a poverty of genuine community.
To know and be known. To belong. To have meaningful relationships with people who know your best and your worst. These are hallmarks of sincere relational cohesion that we long for in our families, friendships, neighborhoods, and churches.
This kind of community is harder to find because it's expensive. It costs things that we are unwilling to pay. Relational depth requires:
Time - Relationships are not quick or efficient.
Sacrifice - To truly live in community, I have to set aside my own preferences for the sake of others.
Commitment - Community requires persistence. To stay with someone today, and the next day, and the next day . . .
Everyone is trying to capture the Millennial generation. Businesses and companies. Human resources and the job market. Marketing and ad agencies. Universities and school districts. And of course, the church.
"What's the secret for reaching Millennials?!!!!"
It's no secret that Millennials long for genuine community. This is true of every generation, but Millennials have a particular longing. Because of changing family structures, technology, mobility, and the fast pace of society, a need for deep relationships is at the top of their list.
Our family hosts a community group (small group) that meets every other Thursday in our home. We have intentionally invited people younger than us. Our group consists 15 "kids" ranging in age from 17 to 33. Here's our agenda.
Eat - They eat all my food and drink all my juice.
Share - We share highlights of the week (and a few frustrations).
Laugh - There are always jokes. Last week, we laughed at this video.
Devotion - Our kids lead "the big kids" in a devotion. We often act out a Bible story.
Study/Discussion - A book or Scripture, and serious discussion.
Prayer - Honest prayer for each other, our friends, our church.
The "After Conversation" - Sometimes I need to kick people out. "It's jammie time!"
We often over-complicate church. At its heart the church is a community gathered in and through Jesus. May we never forget that we possess a most valuable commodity.