Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Find Community in the Summer

The first summer after I started college is marked in my memory as a summer of trial.  In part, this is because my family was having a difficult time.  My grandma found out she had breast cancer, my little sister was struggling, and my household seemed entirely attacked by the enemy.  Another big struggle for me last summer was loneliness.

While I'm at college, I am a member of a few Bible studies, Christian organizations, and outreach.  My church is a place where I feel at home.  Community surrounds me.  This is where I was at the end of my second semester of college... and then I came home.

I suddenly felt stranded from the college-aged community that had blessed me so much.  I don't connect well with my home church.  There was no young adult Bible study or college ministry available.  Many of my friends didn't stay in town for the summer or they had drifted away from their faith since high school.  In a town you might call the buckle of the Bible belt, I struggled to find any form of community.  And it was hard.

You may be concerned about the same for this summer.  Whether or not you're returning from college, these next three months can be a time of spiritual drought or of sweet, refreshing time spent with Jesus.

Today I will share some tips that have helped me in finding Christian community during the summer.

1.)  Create community.  If you go to seek out a small group or Bible study within your church that fits your needs and you cannot find any, do not resign yourself to being stranded without community.  You are not stuck.  Perhaps the Lord has placed an opportunity to lead and serve in your lap.

If you cannot find community, spend time asking the Lord to provide it.  And be prepared to be the one He asks to take leadership.

2.)  Branch out.  If you are seeking out community in the form of a Bible study or small group, but it isn't something your home church offers, don't be afraid to seek out community from other churches for the summer.  You can continue to attend your home church regularly, but join another church's Bible study.

This is no form of betrayal.  Whether or not we use different buildings, we are the Body of Christ.  We have one Head in Jesus Christ.  Community must not only be found within the walls of your church and among the faces of your congregation.  If your church is not meeting a need and is unable to do so, allow another part of the Body of Christ to fill you in that way. 

3.)  Find community within your family.  You may have parents, siblings, or even grandparents who are devoted to the Lord and actively pursuing Christ.  If so, consider starting a time of worship within your household.  God created families as units of love and community.  Do not be afraid to seek this out from yours.

If you do not live in a Christian home, this may not be able to apply to you, but continue to lift your family up to the Lord.  He is so faithful.

4.)  Don't go into the summer expecting sameness.  If you are still in school, summers will obviously be different from the school year.  Your schedule and routine will change.  Your source of community will probably change.  And as wonderful or as difficult as your summer may have been last year, it will not be the same this time around.  Your emotions will be different.  Your experiences will vary.  Your family life will work in a slightly different way.  You will have grown further in your relationship with the Lord.

Do not rely on high or low expectations to define your summer before it even begins.  It's going to be different than it ever has been before.  Be prepared to spend three months in newness and growth in Christ.  In a summer of wilderness or a summer of refreshment, the Lord desires to fill you with good things.

5.)  Use this time to rest in the presence of the Lord.  With each tip listed above, you may be thinking, "This won't work.  I am completely alone this summer."  No matter how stranded you are from a community of believers, do not feel overwhelmed or alone.  You have not been forsaken.

This time may be a gift from a Father who desires to spend more one-on-one time with you.  Perhaps community and involvement have become more important to you than your personal relationship with Christ.  Community is sweet, but quiet time spent kneeling at the foot of His throne is even sweeter.

If you are approaching a summer of loneliness and lack of community, do not fear.  Use this time for resting in the presence of your Abba.  He longs to commune with you.  He is eager to spend this summer shaping your gaze until it rests fully on Him and His perfect, unfaltering love for you.

As long as you are in His presence, you are not alone.

Lamentations 3:22-26
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

One year ago: I can't frat snap.

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