Community is a buzzword—everyone is talking about it. But in our increasingly digital world, people often feel lonely and crave connection more than ever before. Today on Episode 63 of The Think Orange Podcast, we unpack what it takes to build great community.
First, Kara Powell shares insights from young people and church leaders around the country who participated in her team’s Growing Young research. Then guest hosts Sarah Bragg and Holly Crawshaw sit down with Mike Park, student ministry veteran and church planter, for a conversation surrounding what it takes to foster authenticity among students and young adults. You’ll come away encouraged and challenged by the practical steps your church can take today to grow healthy community that lasts.
Welcome to Episode 63 of the Think Orange Podcast.
Kara Powell talks about warm community (4:55)
Churches that are growing young are described as “like family” (4:55)
Churches practicing healthy community have meeting spaces that feel less like a theater and more like a family room (8:27)
Healthy community involves both short-term and long-term opportunities (9:43)
Healthy community is made up of intergenerational relationships (12:01)
Sarah Bragg and Holly Crawshaw interview Mike Park (14:20)
Creating healthy community begins with giving young people a voice (19:06)
Facilitating spaces for authentic, face-to-face community where people can share their struggles and doubts (23:54)
Story of transformation as a result of safe, authentic community (27:10)
Healthy community begins with a healthy leader (30:35)
Practical steps for beginning to foster healthy, safe community (32:13)
• Start with you
• Practice it within your leadership team
• Be patient
Mike’s personal experience with community in his college years (35:52)
Dave’s final thoughts (40:38)
People, Places & Helpful Resources
Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.
Mike Park serves as a pastor at Hope Midtown, a church plant in the heart of New York City. Before that, Mike led student ministries for 12 years in churches in California and New York in various cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic contexts. He completed a BA from University of California, Berkeley, an MDiv from Fuller Seminary, and is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fuller. Mike also serves as a coach for the FYI Sticky Faith Cohort and is a Student Ministry Associate with Slingshot Group. Mike has the great privilege of speaking to students, parents, and youth leaders all across the country. Mike and his wife Jeanne live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Quotes from This Episode
Ideas to Influence the Next Generation
When you elevate community you do for a few—you decide to do for a handful of people what you wish you could do for everyone. Not only that, but when you pursue community you cooperate with something God is already doing, because it seems to be the way God disciples and grows us with other people. When you elevate community you also do something that culture isn’t doing. Think about it, there’s really nothing else in culture that can match or compete with the authenticity of a small group setting where individuals have a place to belong and people who believe in them. Sure, there are clubs, teams, and all kinds of things in culture that in some way create a sense of community, but we’re talking about something different.
We’re talking about a very unique dynamic that exists between a handful of people and a consistent leader in their life so they can talk about issues and grow spiritually in their faith. There’s a temptation for us in church world to put all of our resources, all of our time, all of our energy into what we consider to be the production or the large group experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be excellent when it comes to quality and use every tool we can possibly use to engage a generation and to teach the Bible in the most excellent ways we possibly can.
But what I’m suggesting is this: As good as we can make large group, it’s still not a substitute for what happens in the context of community. As a matter of fact, I would go even further and say this: That you can spend thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create an experience for teenagers or for children, and culture will come along and out spin you a thousand to one to create a more exciting experience. But what culture can’t do that you can do is to recruit people who genuinely and authentically care about this generation’s spiritual future and about the faith of teenagers. To provide settings that give them a sense of community and a sense of belonging and people who literally believe in their potential to understand what it means to have a relationship with God. Culture can’t and culture won’t do that—that’s why the church should play to their strength. That’s why the church should decide if we have to economize the last place we’ll economize is in the context of a small group.
Conversation Starters For Your Church
How would I say community has shaped my own view of the church?
What’s one step I can take this week to pursue my own spiritual and emotional health?
On a scale of 1–10, how do we do as a church in inviting young people to voice their stories and ideas? What’s something we can do to continually improve in this area?
What is a topic that, when it comes up as part of someone’s story, makes me cringe? As a church, how can we better prepare to guide people to navigate this issue in a small group setting?
When he’s not working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Dave is usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes, and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings. You’ll also often find him up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions. Learn more about Dave at daveadamson.tv.
Ashley serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange and the USA Director of Carry 117. She has worked with students in public education, athletic and ministry settings for the last 12 years. She is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating on stage, developing leaders, working with students and world missions. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.
Join Us Next Week
Thank you for listening to the Think Orange Podcast.
We hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode. More importantly, we hope that when you think next generation, you think Orange.