Your community needs you. You, yes you. I’m talking to you. Your community, however you define it, needs you. As technology – especially communications technology – advances, we have seen a decline in hands-on and face to face participation in community and service groups in communities large and small. This is not to say that the changes we have seen with technology are detrimental to a sense of community, but community activities and services require us to physically show up to do the work which builds community. Whether you think of your neighborhood or faith community or community service groups, we communicate less and less face to face, myself included.
All of this was true prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last two years have accelerated existing trends. For example, in March of 2020, faith communities had to make changes overnight. We figured out how to stream worship services, how to provide care for our people, and celebrate the sacraments and other major faith milestones. In-person worship attendance declined while online worship became common. Now, we are back to a relative sense of “normal” in terms of being together and open without restrictions or modifications. However, we have not seen pre-pandemic levels of participation return in faith communities or community service organizations, yet we still have expectations of a similar level of activity with such groups.
Notice that I did not say that we have seen a decline in community, because our communities are made up of our people. Without people there is no community. The people are still here. What we have seen is a decline in the members of community involved in direct engagement and forming and sustaining relationships. This results in the outcome of those expectations – from community rec to vacation Bible school to various parent teacher organizations – falling on the shoulders of fewer and fewer people, which results in burnout. That is where you are needed.
If you are reading this and saying, “I’m involved with Kiwanis, volunteering, teaching faith formation, serving meals at the shelter, or volunteering on boards and with community activities,” thank you! Keep doing it – please! If you are reading this and thinking, “you know, I haven’t been active in the community for a while now because we had to stop in 2020 and I am only worried about my own wants or needs,” we need you. Your schools, churches, youth groups, after school programs, volunteer groups, and your community needs you, because you are a part of your community. Community does not happen without your participation, energy, gifts, enthusiasm, and passing on your knowledge and love for your community. That all happens through you. So find out where, how, and when you can serve the community around you, large and small. We will all be better for it, and you just might find where your gifts and passion help serve the needs of your neighbor.