Finding Community in All Shapes and Sizes
WRITTEN BY REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR, RACHEL DAWSON
If you were to ask me to name one thing that’s important to every single person on the planet, I would answer firmly that it’s community.
We were not meant to go through life alone, no matter who we are or what we do. For those of you who are introverts like me, you might often feel tempted to try to go through life independently, but I assure you, it’s so much better with others by your side.
In every aspect of my life, having other people alongside me to encourage, challenge, equip, teach, lead, and support me is a game-changer. I spent several challenging years in high school feeling like I could handle things on my own, but I have since realized the best parts of my life are the ones I share with talented, loving friends or with my communities.
Whatever season of life you might find yourself in, whatever stage of your business, whatever phase of dream-chasing you’re in, I strongly encourage you to find a community where you can plant roots and truly grow.
Community doesn’t always look the same. There isn’t one perfect formula for creating the right blend of personalities to surround yourself with, and there isn’t only one kind of final product either. A kind of community that might make one person thrive might make another person want to hide. It’s about finding the best people in the best places for your own self, whatever that might look like.
Because every community is different, I wanted to share some thoughts about different styles and sizes of groups I’m a part of, as a way to encourage you to find the best community fit for yourself, too.
Your community might look like just a select few people.
For me, this is my mentoring group. One mentor, three mentees. This group is tight-knit, intimate, and the place where I’m the most vulnerable. In this group, there is an established standard of confidentiality, so I know I can share my deepest, darkest fears and anxieties with these people, and also celebrate my greatest joys with them too. This group is my core-- they’re the ones holding me accountable to my personal goals, checking in with me throughout the week, asking the tough questions, and really challenging me to be my best self. This group has taught me the value of vulnerability and accountability.
Your community might look like a kitchen table full of people.
For me, this is a “dinner for 10” gathering of people from my church. This community is centered around a shared interest (in this case, food, because who doesn’t love a good meal?!) and includes people from all different ages and stages of life. It’s a diverse group, it’s a lively group, and it’s a really fun gathering every time we get together. The conversations here are light, but the sense of community is strong since we all are joining together in fellowship and carving out intentional time to be together despite our busy schedules. This group has reminded me of the value of breaking bread with others, opening up a home to friends and strangers, and expanding my social circles beyond just people who are like me.
Your community might look like a dozen or so people.
For me, this is my small group of about twelve women who gather weekly to discuss the sermon series our church is going through. This group also has a shared interest, but we take it a step further with a gathering that’s focused on discussion and conversation about a certain topic. This group for me is all women in their twenties, so we all have similar life experiences that we love to share and chat about when we’re together. We encourage each other, we grow together, we dive into deep waters together, and we bond as women, as friends, and as believers together. This group has taught me the value of consistently gathering and growing alongside women in the same stage of life as me, and the importance of talking about the hard, messy, real stuff of life.
Your community might look like hundreds of people.
For me, this is both my work community and my church community. These people know me less intimately, but we all share common bonds that still unite us and connect us in strong ways. They might now know all the details of my life, they might not hear about the things I’m struggling with, and they might not be the ones I have those heart-to-heart talks with, but they’re the people who give me places where I can belong, places that are so much bigger than me in their impact and their reach. When I’m with these people, I feel like I’m part of something that is powerful and that is making a difference in the world, and it’s fuel to my passion and my fire. These groups have taught me the value of being a small part of a big group, of joining with many, many others to make an impact in the world.
I encourage you to take a look at the people in your life, and to reflect on the things they’ve taught you and the value they’ve added to your life.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to community, and to test the waters of new kinds of groups that might help you grow and flourish even more. I challenge you to be the kind of friend, neighbor, coworker, and creative that you would want to find in a close-knit community: be open, be gracious, be kind, be encouraging, be wise, and be brave.
This life is so much better when we do it together. Trust me, don’t try to go at it alone. Find your people, find your tribe, find your community, whatever kind you like, and keep them close.
Rachel Dawson is a believer, editor, writer, and juggler of many creative and community-building endeavors. She spends her days crafting words, creating art, and bringing people together both online and in Richmond, VA. You'll commonly find her wearing black in cozy coffeeshops with her nose in a book and a vegan latte in hand but she'll drop everything to swap stories with you.