How Anabaptists Do Community

How Anabaptists Do Community March 17, 2023

One thing people often notice about Anabaptists is how community-oriented they are. Whether it’s a whole Amish community getting together for a barn-raising, or a huge extended family gathering for Thanksgiving every year, most of us have many connections that we associate with constantly.

Community Events

Here are just a few of the events that happen in my church community:

  • Fellowship meal—Once or twice a month, our church gathers after church to have a meal together. The children play together outside, and the adults chat with each other, especially with any visitors who attended that Sunday. This helps us make sure we get to know everyone who attends church.
  • Hymnsings—Almost every month, we hold a hymnsing at the home of one of our members. Afterwards, we have a snack and fellowship, since good conversations happen best when there is food involved! We also network with other churches in the area to have hymnsings for holidays like Thanksgiving. There’s nothing that helps me praise or give thanks more than singing in a large group.
  • Small groups—Our church has divided up our members and attending families into four different groups that meet every month at someone’s home or a park. We do informal activities like playing games or helping clean up someone’s yard. This really helps us to get to know each other, as well as helping new church members or attendees to get an idea of what kind of church we are. In a smaller group, you can focus on getting to know a few people, rather than a lot.
  • Workplace—Because of our German work ethic, most Anabaptist communities contain a few small businessmen. These businessmen often end up hiring people they know, since it’s easier for both employer and employee when they have a history with each other. Our church is a bit more that way than most—quite a few of the guys work together at a trailer store. We get to work with each other almost every day. It helps create an atmosphere of conviviality even for the employees who belong to different churches.
  • Homeschool groups—Our church partners with another local church to give community to the homeschoolers among us. The children meet weekly for classes like art and phys. ed..

Advantages of Community

Being an Anabaptist, it’s easy to forget the advantages of the community around me. But for about three months, my wife and I lived in Virginia where we only knew a few other people. We enjoyed the scenic Shenandoah Valley, but we were pretty lonely for more human interaction.

I think a lot of people today are at in a place like that, and that’s why so many look at close-knit communities with a kind of wistfulness. A community is not an automatic cure for loneliness, but it does help give one a felt connection to something bigger, which is at the heart of the human search for meaning.

Finally, in a community like this, we can typically get help whenever we need it—usually not everyone else is maxed out at the same time you are. I often borrow a pickup from one friend, or tools from another. Ladies will stop in with a meal for my wife when she’s busy with our baby.

Disadvantages of Community

Community does have its disadvantages, too. My wife and I are both fairly independent people and we like to have a lot of personal space. Sometimes we have so many events we’ve committed to that we feel like staying at home.

In many communities, the heightened relationships between people leads to gossip—people talk about each other behind each other’s backs. Our church community has much less of that than most, but it’s always a temptation, since it’s a human wish to be in the know.

But in general, I would say that community’s problems arise from the plethora of good aspects of community. We feel that we have so many commitments because we have so many options for ways of interacting with others. Gossip happens because people know each other so well. Just like having a family, it’s probably better to have community and deal with the disadvantages than not to have the benefits of the community.

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