If you’re feeling moved upon to bring together a community of your own, here are some approaches you might consider. I’ve divided them into two sections: organic and venture.
Organic approaches to community building grow fairly naturally out of everyday living. They may sound mundane — you’re probably already doing some of them — but that doesn’t mean the resulting relationships are any less rewarding. In contrast, venture approaches to community building take significant planning, time, and money.
Organic Community Building Approaches
The Correspondence Green Hill
- Create a “remote community” — accept that it’s really difficult to gather people together physically, and instead focus on maintaining relationships through regular contact. Visit friends. Make regular phone calls and emails. Blog. Do your home teaching.
The “Love at Home” Green Hill
- Grow your community out of your own family. Work with your spouse and kids to make a plan that engages each member of the family in fulfilling ways recreationally, educationally, spiritually, socially, and any other “-lly” your family would like to encompass.
The Shared-Interest Green Hill
- Start a club. Meet regularly. The friendships I’ve built since I started holding monthly game nights at my house have been amazing.
The “Live Your Dreams” Green Hill
- My friend Porter and his wife Mary Cate moved to Oregon a few years back. They bought a small farm with a big woodworking shop. Now Mary Cate spends her days tending goats, chickens, and bees, and Porter indulges his woodworking interest in the shop. While they may not be a community in the traditional sense of bringing people together, making dreams real is an important part of Zion building, and their work certainly qualifies as a green hill to me.
Venture Community Building Approaches
The “Forty Acres and My Friends” Green Hill
- Buy a bunch of land and move there with your friends. This is probably the least practical approach to building a green hill, but I have to mention it since it’s the first one that comes to mind for most of the people I’ve talked with. While it’s beautiful in dreams, how often do you and your loved ones all simultaneously have spare money, spare time, and a desire to relocate? And once you’ve all moved out to your forty acres, where are people going to find jobs?
The “Buy an Apartment Complex” Green Hill
- So instead of buying forty acres with your friends, purchase an apartment or condo complex. Now you have a reasonable investment, and while you’re waiting for specific people to move in you can rent the spaces out and make some money in the process.
The Business-centered Green Hill
- Or, if real estate isn’t your thing, start a business that could provide employment to the people in the community. Or combine real estate with business by heading up a spa retreat, charter school, or summer camp.
The “Gathering of Like-minded Individuals” Green Hill
- Perhaps your dream is bigger than just gathering people together. You have a mission, some distinctive ideology or way of living that you want to rally people around. Search the intentional community boards online and organize a group of like-minded people who are motivated enough to make sacrifices for the cause. Get the money, draw up the plans, build the dwellings, and move in. This looks like the “forty acres and my friends” approach, but with a lot more chutzpah.
Considerations — here are a couple things to keep in mind as you get started.
- It’s easy to dream big, but hard to put those dreams into action. In my experience, committing to build relationships is like committing to read scriptures or say prayers: the first time you try to do it consistently, you’ll probably fail. That’s okay, just be willing to keep failing until you get where you want to be.
- No one but you can see your vision, so learn to communicate it clearly and with confidence. Pitching a community is like pitching a business idea — people are cynical, and rightfully so.
- In order for any of these approaches to work, you will still need to take lifestyle, space, and program into account. What are you doing, where are you doing it, and why?