One of the things I have come to realize recently is how disconnected I am from my own community. What I mean by that is my specific neighborhood and surrounding areas. When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely no one. We had been given a few church recommendations, that just didn’t work for our family. Through a chance encounter at a park, I met a woman who invited me to a local MOPS group.
We had only been living in the area a matter of months, when I found out I was going to have another baby. Since pregnancies are not easy on me, I was home a lot. Thus, I didn’t really connect to anyone in my immediate community. By the time I met this mom, I had a brand new baby and was desperate to get out of the house and make new friends. A MOPS group being hosted in a church would mean that I could build up a group of moms who shared the same values as I did. I envisioned our children being friends, our husbands too.
The hitch in this plan is that the church was actually in a neighboring county, albeit close in proximity. I didn’t think this would be a big deal. Additionally, most of the moms in this group were just starting their families. I entered in with our last child. This created a gap in the ages of our children, to an extent. Please understand these were just hitches in the plan, not any negativity about the group at all. These are wonderful women, many I am still in touch with and see occasionally.
The problem came in as our lives began to change. It was convenient to drive to the next county when none of us had kids in school or to find a park in the middle to meet at for lunch. Once the kids began attending school, and time became more strained… the travel time was a little less convenient. The kids were not as close as they once were, as my kids were attending school in a different county. Once I was graduated out of MOPS, often the only time they would see each other was during Sunday services. There was just a very natural parting. It happens. That is ok.
In the last year, I started to notice things. I noticed how close the kids were who were in the same schools, the families were that lived in the same county. We didn’t have that same closeness. We lived just far enough away to make it difficult to have that same connection. I realized, however, that I had done a really poor job of connecting into my local community once I was not part of the MOPS group. Perhaps I thought that the weekly connection in the church would be enough to sustain? Or, perhaps having three kids so apart in age, it was just difficult connecting into anyone school community because our time is so divided. (We have had three kids in three schools for quite some time now).
I began to feel almost burdened by our lack of connection to our community. This grew each month as my eyes opened wider. I never run into anyone I know at the grocery store. I don’t have a neighborhood friend that I can go walking with. Swinging by for coffee takes effort and planning. Going to meet up with others means that I also have to factor in my travel time, which usually means I must arrive late or leave early. This was an environment I created for myself, and didn’t even realize it.
I’m not a total hermit in my own neighborhood. I know some people by name, I can tell you who has lived here the longest, we wave at each other, have mailbox conversations, etc. Still I long for a different kind of relationship with the people on my street.
Case in point… found out that a family who lives on my street and I were going to the same church. Only found this out in the last month. How crazy is that?
Ultimately all of this has had an effect on us as a family, and we have been trying to decide exactly what to do about this. It’s been weighing on us for some time. How do we connect locally? How do we give our kids a change to build real friendships? What can we change?
The first answer to this question, was probably the hardest to make… and one we have been struggling with for some time. This was the decision to leave our church of eleven years, really the only one we have attended since moving here. Our 3 children were baptized in this church. We have invested so much service into this church. We have made so many great connections, and have grown in this church. To leave is an incredibly difficult decision, and yet one shrouded in such peace.
Right decisions are not always easy decisions. Peace doesn’t always mean easy decisions, either. It is peace in spite the sadness that affirms this is the right move for our family.
My husband and I were both experiencing this call to move from our church, yet we had not shared it with one another. It was a thought rolling through our minds, but I suppose we were both uncertain of how the other would receive the idea. Finally one night my husband started sharing with me, and I realized that we were of one mind. I was feeling the same way, having the same thoughts, feeling the same call.
We spent several days talking over these feelings, just between the two of us. This is a big decision for a couple to make, but even more so when there are kids involved. How would they feel? Then one day, coming home from school, we passed by a local church. One of my children asked if we could visit that church. That began the conversation with our kids about possibly changing church, and a surprise for us at how open they were to the idea.
I remember a few years back speaking to my Pastor’s wife about moving and how it impacts children. She told me then that God has always taken care of her kids when they have moved. I believe that to be true, and the Lord had already softened our kids hearts. He was preparing us for the time the call to move would come, and I fully believe that is why everything unfolded the way it did. When we were all ready, when the timing was right, He prompted the conversations to begin.
I am very excited about what is to come, and how we will begin to plug into our immediate community. I’ve been taking the time to learn about my community demographics, connecting with ministries serving our community, learning about our local churches, and even reading up on how others have done the same thing.
If you have done anything to intentionally connect to your local community… I’d love to hear about it! Comment with your ideas, suggestions, and experiences.
I’ve been looking at the “Teal Table Project” as one idea too. If you have done this, I’d love to hear about how you got the ball rolling and how it has worked out for you.
This is my neighborhood. These are the people of my neighborhood. It’s time we are apart of this neighborhood.