Spontaneous Belonging

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, July 28, 2005 at 7:55 AM


*I've moved, and my posts have come with me! Check out my new blog at www.jeffrey-davis.net/blog/*

I'm reading a book right now called the Search to Belong by Joseph Myers (see the link in the sidebar). I'd like to share some excerpts from this book and hopefully have some conversation about them. Sorry if this post is a little long, but its only because of the book excerpts. I always want to know "who" the person I'm reading is, so here's a little about Joseph: He's a speaker & writer; owns a consulting firm called "FrontPorch" which helps churches, businesses, and other organizations promote and develop healthy community; and is founding partner (with his wife) of "settingPace", a communication arts group based in Cincinnati...so now you know Jo.

Jo's thought on page 68 states, "So often our small group models encourage forced belonging", and the rest of the chapter builds on (or rather digs into) that idea. He goes on to use the Emergence Theory as his primary example (and no, he's not talking about the organization that you may have just thought of, but the scientific theory that the organization drew it's name from). This theory uses a slime mold on a forrest floor to spark new ideas regarding community. To sum it up, Jo quotes author Steven Johnson as saying:
"The slime mold spends much of its life as thousands of distinct single-celled units, each moving separately from its other comrades. Under the right conditions, those myriad cells will coalesce again into a single, larger organism, which begins its leisurely crawl across the garden floor, consuming rotting leaves and wood as it moves about. When the environment is less hospitable, the slime mold acts as a single organism; when the weather turns cooler and the mold enjoys a large food supply, 'it' becomes a 'they'. The slime mold oscillates between being a single creature and a swarm."
Myers goes on to comment that,
"The intriguing secret of the slime mold is that there is no 'master planner' calling the cells to unite. The coming together is spontaneous. There is no apparent leader. There is no call to action. No vision statements, value statements, or mission statements...the cells collect spontaneously when the environment trigger the response."
He then presents the idea that,
"We humans could help by creating the healthy environments {emphasis mine} in which people naturally connect. If we would concentrate upon facilitating the environment instead of the result (people experiencing community), we might see healthy, spontaneous community emerge."
Finally (for this post anyway), Myers presents a "formula" for community:
"I suggest it {the 'community compound'} looks something like Pu8 S4 P2 I. For every one part Significant intimate belonging {'I' in the compound}, there are two parts personal {P}, four parts social {S}, and eight parts public {Pu}...Many promote this as the compound for community: Csv Cvf FMCC (a common set of values plus a common vision of the future plus frequent meetings plus a formal or informal contractual covenant). These are not the ingredients for community, but rather the results of community {emphasis not mine}.
I personally do by no means see these ideas as absurd, but just different--and definitely worth considering as we journey towards becoming a new community of faith. Thoughts?

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