In high school, I was a part of a group of people who changed my life. In those teenage days where feelings change by the minute and our insecurity screams, it was pure gift to have a group of people where everyone felt safe to figure out who they were. We worked hard to make sure everyone felt included. No one was was going to feel left out on my watch. No one.
This kind of home base enabled me to dream big dreams, help others and start to see a vision for what’s possible in communities like this.
The downside to this group is that it grew. At least it felt like a downside some days. We had so much fun being friends, laughing and hanging out together. We were happy to have new people join us, but if we were really honest, we loved our group the way it was. So sometimes we didn’t invite everyone to everything. There were Friday night hangouts where not everyone was invited. I remember feeling the tension at a young age.
My heart beats for including everyone who wants to belong. AND it’s hard when you want to hang out with your people who you know. There’s history, inside jokes, trust and comfort that only comes with time.
This is the grief of growth.
Our world needs safe community more than ever. We need places where all kinds of people can breathe a little easier because they know the color of their skin, their mental health, gender, ability, clothing, lack of resources, the person they love or their imperfection won’t be teased or mocked.
It takes work to love and welcome someone different from who you are. It doesn’t come naturally. This is why we do this work together in community. It’s a muscle we strengthen with practice. Together we welcome the new brave person who’s trying to write a new story with their life.
We stand at the door, pull up a chair, build a bigger table, start new communities in person and online because the Jesus we follow longs to give every person on the planet a seat at the table.
And we name that it’s not easy when a community grows. The new faces, new ideas and new stories can feel overwhelming. We don’t know everyone anymore. It can feel like too much. Maybe we miss how it used to be. Because “how it used to be” was incredibly meaningful for us.
And it is in this exact moment, we must pause and turn to each other and whisper, “this is why we exist in the world.” “You’ll never stop being my friend. The experiences and relationship we’ve had have changed my life. And if I have a chance to create that kind of space for someone else, then swing those doors wide open. May we dream new communities into existence. I want to be a part of others experiencing what I got to experience, even if it means I’m uncomfortable sometimes.”
The church I serve has this ridiculous dream of birthing ten new expressions of faith in the next thirty years. The first one is underway and we’re already learning so much about what our wider community is looking for when it comes to being more fully alive.
At the same time, our existing church is growing and we’re trying to figure out what that means for us. One of our values is purpose over preference. And it’s rarely easy to let go of our preferences when we assume we have a right to them. But in the kingdom of God, our purpose is simply more important than what we prefer.
So we remain committed to swinging those doors wide open. To rearranging ourselves so there’s a safe and welcoming space for new friends. To take the time to listen to new stories and new pain. To put into words how we grow in our faith so we can walk alongside beautiful new friends.
Here’s to celebrating growth of any kind and naming the grief that comes with growth.
If we don’t get honest about it, we could easily be the lid to what’s possible. Our inability to face why growth can be painful could be a way of sitting on the box and trying to contain what could be.
Let’s be those high school kids who welcome every single person because we know what it’s like to find a family that feels like home.