Yesterday, Randy Elrod wrote a great blogpost on “Why We Call Our Community in Franklin, Tennessee ‘The Campus’.” He gave a little history about where the name came from.
“… the downtown Franklin community is very much like a college campus. Merridees is the snack bar, Starbucks at Five Points is the coffee shop, Puckett’s Grocery is the lunch room, Landmark Booksellers is the bookstore, McCreary’s is the obligatory pub and the sprawling historic homes are like fraternity houses for adults. We even have the campus police who ticket you for the slightest infraction of the law.”
“You see… There are a few of us who are really close friends that live within a three block radius of each other in downtown Franklin. We are all friends on twitter and we are all friends in real life. We share meals together, work together, celebrate birthdays and special occasions together… we experience life together. We are much like family and we all support each other very well.
I mean… that’s what friends do.”
(Our campus has broadened since the writing of this post.)
“Well I dare say that no two campus communities would ever be alike but the common thread behind our campus is something we can all share.
That common thread is community.
Community is something I think most of us long for. It’s a group of friends we can share life with through out the year. We share meals, gather at parties, go for walks, run marathons, half marathons, 5k’s and even triathlons together. (our collective sport [not so sure about that one, Spence])
We also share in our struggles and our successes.
We share life together.
That is the essence of our Franklin Campus.”
So, the question is, “Is it possible to create a campus anywhere? What must exist in order to have community like this?
Three years ago there was no Franklin “campus.” I did not know Randy or Chris. (We met at an open house to kick off a Downtown Franklin event.) I did not know Spence. (I met him through Randy.). I did not know Ian and Anne Cron. (I met them at a re:create conference. They lived in Connecticut until last month.) I did not know Patsy and Les Clairmont. (I knew Patsy remotely through Women of Faith, but she lived in Michigan until this summer.) I didn’t know Chris and Anne Jackson either. (I met them via Twitter.) The only couple I did know was Steve and Karen Anderson. We have been friends for twelve years, but only rarely did things together socially. There are many others who are now part of our little community. None of these relationships were planned but they were all intentional.
(I will add that most, if not all, of us Twitter and most have blogs as well—a very important component that helps us stay connected with each other.)
Here are some things that I believe are needed to create your own “campus”
I know that seems obvious, but notice that I didn’t say FRIENDS. The one ingredient that is absolutely necessary is PEOPLE. Do you have people where you live? Spence talked about us being friends. We didn’t start out being friends. That naturally evolved over time. If you already have friends then you’ve got a huge leg up, but they’re not essential. People are.
You may be naturally drawn to people with whom you already have something in common. You work together, you go to church together, you pass each other on the jogging trail every morning, you have a mutual friend. You can start there. Or you many just notice someone at a gathering and strike up a conversation. Open your eyes and see what PEOPLE are already in and about your life.
You have to want it. You need to know why you want a community. Answer that question for yourself. Recognize that God’s created us to be in relationships. Discover how satisfying it can be to have friends to share your life with. It will mean getting out of yourself and out of your safe little world. All kinds of things become possible when we embrace this way of life.
Intentionality begins with initiative—taking the first step. If you’re an introvert this can be very hard, but you’ve got to do it. Someone has to go first. God’s put this desire in you in order to stretch you. Lean into it.
You’ve got to invite and include. Everyone wants to be wanted. Don’t you? Do for others what you wish others would do for you.
Intentionality must also include the willingness to be fascinated with people, to want to know their stories. One of the things that makes these kinds of relationships work for us is that we’ve learned how to ask each other really great questions. It’s because we’re truly fascinated with each other.
A very practical way to be intentional is to build your own traditions. We all like times that we look forward to, anticipate. Times where we can put down the masks and just relax and be ourselves. Knowing that we’re valued, and accepted. As Randy mentioned we have Tuesday Mexican Night. Whoever’s in town comes. No pressure. We celebrate New Years Eve together each year. We celebrate birthdays together. We’ve tried different things, some stick some don’t. You have to experiment. You could meet once a month to talk about a book you’ve been reading – or, for less pressure talk about various books you’re currently reading.
Lastly, identify your favorite spots. Where do you naturally run into each other? Coffee shops, pubs, parks, the farmer’s market? Then get out and go to those places. You won’t build community staying at home by yourself. You have to be intentional about being where the people are. One of those favorite spots could even be your own house or apartment. Invite people to your place for pizza or to cook out hamburgers. Have a “Sundae Night” (i.e an ice cream sundae buffet) get-together or have a “Popcorn People” night. Make it a tradition. Have wine tastings or pot lucks.
I can feel the wheels turning in your head right now. Go for it.
Tell me what you’ve noticed. What’s worked for you as you’ve created a community? What obstacles do you intentionally have to overcome in order to build this into your life? Why is it important? What’s at stake?