Search to Belong : Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-09-01
  • Publisher: Youth Specialties

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A practical guide for those struggling to build a community of believers in a culture that wants to experience belonging over believing Who is my neighbor? Who belongs to me? To whom do I belong? These are timeless questions that guide the church to its fundamental calling. Today terms like neighbor, family, and congregation are being redefined. People are searching to belong in new places and experiences. The church needs to adapt its interpretations, definitions, and language to make sense in the changing culture. This book equips congregations and church leaders with tools to: - Discern the key ingredients people look for in community - Understand the use of space as a key element for experiencing belonging and community - Develop the "chemical compound" that produces an environment for community to spontaneously emerge - Discover how language promotes specific spatial belonging and then use this knowledge to build an effective vocabulary for community development - Create an assessment tool for evaluating organizational and personal community health

Table of Contents

Foreword: Coachp. 2
Forewordp. 4
Those Who Show Up Along the Way (an introduction)p. 6
The Myths of Belongingp. 9
Longing to Belongp. 23
""Give Me Some Space""p. 35
Group Chemistryp. 59
Trading Spacesp. 87
Searching for a Front Porchp. 119
What Now? Finding Harmonyp. 135
Bibliographyp. 156
End Notesp. 168
Indexp. 176
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups
Copyright © 2003 by Joseph R. Myers
Youth Specialties products, 300 South Pierce Street, El Cajon, CA 92020, are published
by Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Avenue, Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Myers, Joseph R., 1962-
The search to belong : rethinking intimacy, community, and small
groups / Joseph R. Myers.
p. cm.
ISBN-10: 0-310-25500-7 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-25500-0 (pbk.)
1. Community--Religious aspects--Christianity. 2. Small
groups--Religious aspects--Christianity. 3. Intimacy
(Psychology)--Religious aspects--Christianity. I. Title.
BV4517.5.M94 2003
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy
Bible: New International Version (North American Edition). Copyright ©
1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic,
mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in
printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.
Web site addresses listed in this book were current at the time of publication.
Please contact Youth Specialties via e-mail (YS@YouthSpecialties.com) to report
URLs that are no longer operational and replacement URLs if available.
Some of the anecdotal illustrations in this book are true and are included with
the permission of the persons involved. All other illustrations are composites of
true situations, and any resemblance to people living or dead is coincidental.
Edited by Randy Frame
Cover and interior design by Electricurrent
Cover photo by Michael Wilson
Printed in the United States of America

the myths of belonging
Our old ideas about space have exploded.The past three decades
have produced more change in more cultures than any other time in
history. Radically accelerated growth, deregulation, and globalization
have redrawn our familiar maps and reset the parameters: Borders are
inscribed and permeated, control zones imposed and violated, jurisdictions declared
and ignored, markets pumped up and punctured.And at the
same time, entirely new spatial conditions, demanding new definitions,
have emerged.Where space was considered permanent, it now feels
transitory—on its way to becoming.The words and ideas of architecture,
once the official language of space, no longer seem capable of describing
this proliferation of new conditions. But even as its utility is questioned
in the real world, architectural language survives, its repertoire of concepts
and metaphors resurrected to create clarity and definition in new,
unfamiliar domains (think chat rooms,Web sites, and firewalls).Words that
die in the real are reborn in the virtual.1
Rem Koolhaas, in a guest editorial for a special issue of Wired
Wen our pastor rose to make the announcement, I
suspected we were in for it again. “We’re going to be a
church of small groups,” he told us, like a child pleading for his parents
to read from the well-worn book one more time. “A church of
small groups instead of a church with small groups.”
My heart sank. Been there; done that.
I remembered attending a small group several years earlier. It
was the next step in my process of growing deeper in Christ and in
community. “Everyone in a small group” was the church-wide goal.
So my wife, Sara, and I hopped in our car and began our eight-week
We were greeted kindly at the door. It was not so much a
friendship sort of kind as it was a salesman’s type. “This is the first
time,” I told myself, “so relax and enjoy.”
Once gathered in the “family” room, we played several silly,
juvenile games in the hope of opening the door to relational bliss.
Next, we were asked to agree to and sign a Group Covenant.
The covenant seemed harmless enough. It established a purpose
for the group. It enlisted everyone to the 100 percent attendance
policy. It explained a code of group life. It requested that we enter
into accountable relationships with our new “friends.”
The covenant was very organizational and institutional. Its
purpose, values, and vision were all clearly stated. Everyone signed
on the line. Our well-trained leader promised that eight weeks later
we would all arrive at a closer walk with God and with one another.
Sounded promising and hopeful, so we started. By the third
week I had had enough. I did not want to return to share my deepest
thoughts. I did not want to give obvious answers to predictable questions
from the published small group material. I did not want to play
one more icebreaker game.
I was not getting closer to anyone. Instead, I was getting angry.
This group was expecting more from me than I wanted to deliver.
And this group was trying to deliver to me more than I wanted.
A church of small groups? Sounded like forced relational hell to me.
Others tell of similar experiences.When a friend asked Miguel
to help start a men’s small group for the new year, he agreed at
once.Through a contact in the hotel business, Miguel found the ideal
meeting place and time: Holiday Inn at 6:30 a.m. on the second and
fourth Tuesdays.The men would meet for breakfast, pray, read from
a study book, and by 7:30 be on their separate ways to work.
The group was launched and continued through the spring,
summer, fall, and even the winter. Sometimes as few as four
gathered, sometimes as many as seven. Every second and fourth
Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., often on cold and dark mornings, they met.
Through vacations, travel schedules, traffic tie-ups, the group met.
As the second summer approached, someone suggested, “Let’s
take a breather for a few months.” Everybody agreed.When
September arrived, not one person suggested starting again.
Common Myths of Belonging
Community is a complex creature. Many factors contribute to
finding successful community.With the erosion of the geographically
close family and the heightened mobility of our culture, many people
struggle to learn healthy competencies for community.
Schools, service agencies, churches, and other organizations are
making a concerted effort to help.Yet several common myths surround
the search to belong, myths that dilute and confuse the definitions
we employ to describe our journey to connect.
More time = more belonging. The first myth is that the
greater the amount of time spent in relationship with another person,
the more authentic the community will be.This is a pervasive
myth. In reality, time has little to do with a person’s ability to experience
significant belonging. Many people tell stories of first-time,
episodic introductions from which a spontaneous connection
emerges. Have you ever said, “I just met you, but it seems like I’ve
known you all my life.”
Contrast this with Teri’s feelings about Maggie.The two roomed

Excerpted from Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups by Joseph R. Myers
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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