How to Build Real Community

4w_wed_300x300_080713Meet Kate Cavanaugh: National Business Development Officer for Stewart Information Services, mother of four and new wife of Chip Cavanaugh. She also just moved for the 27th (yes, you heard us correctly) time! Kate has led a working women’s Bible study for the past few years, and we chatted with her last week about the impact that community of women has had on her life.

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4word: How long has your small group been meeting together? What first gave you the idea to start the group?

Kate: We have been meeting for three years. Our church launched a church-wide community group ministry the year prior. I wanted to bring together women who worshipped alone (as I did), and the church asked me to be the group leader.  As the group formed, the one commonality unchanging besides our shared faith was that we are all women in the workforce, mostly in corporate America.

We are single, married, with kids, without kids, but all believers and all working women. My hope is to bring that community in a larger sense into the church, possibly even through 4word and a visit from Diane!

4word: Have you women and/or your husbands been reluctant to attend Sunday services in the past?

Kate: The women weren’t reluctant to attend worship but several of us were challenged to find a niche. We all worked, so it was more of a challenge to plug in. The timing of women’s events didn’t coincide with our availability: moms’ groups met during the day and most of the other women’s groups were comprised of women who didn’t work. What did change is that we all gradually cemented our commitment to attending worship services and often do so together.

4word: How did you go about building a tight community in your small group?

Kate: We shared a common goal – to grow closer in Christ through our study and time together. We didn’t want another social or happy hour; we wanted a group of women to learn, explore and live out the Word with.

We also established “ground rules” regarding confidentiality, trust and sharing outside the group. We established transparency, encouragement and love as our pillars and reiterated again and again to each other the latter was our purpose.

4word: Are there specific things you did/planned to help the sense of community grow?

Kate: I firmly believe praying as a group, for the group and for one another facilitated our growth as a community. Our decisions were made together regarding our studies, format etc., and we all took turns “leading” or facilitating as it was possible. That not only took the spotlight off a single person but helped us all to engage more and listen differently.

4word: In what ways have you noticed this community come together to help each other grow?

Kate: So many! We have reached that place of trust where encouragement is also accountability. We actually ask one another for both and one serves to grow the other. We celebrate the joys together and have prayed one another through career changes and challenges, deaths, cancer, marriages, divorces and dating.

One of my favorite experiences of literally “growing together” was during our Galatians study. We were looking at a verse in which Paul was admonishing us to carry one another’s burdens and discussing that if that was true, then each of us was to allow others to carry our burdens. One of the women then said, “Kate, this is random, but I love to organize and put things away. Can I help you unpack?”

Having just gotten married and moved for the 27th time, I was trying to decorate a new house while working and being mom. I was in no position to turn down help. Even so, it was very new for me to accept her offer to help.  I did, and more than 20 boxes later, we had a finished dining room, butler’s pantry and bar. I have physical proof on a daily basis when I walk through those rooms that we are created to grow together, in community. It’s humbling, and I am so grateful to have a community where we don’t just share His love and word, but we also live it out.

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Do you have a community to which you belong? In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of a safe, welcoming community of friends and believers?