A few days ago, a friend sent me this article about Commonspace, a “coliving” apartment building where 21 “microunits” will be built around a shared living space for cooking, eating and hanging out. For Millennials, who are generally getting married later — and consequently going it alone longer — it’s a brilliant concept. It’s like a dorm for grown-ups.
This got me thinking about how many of us have such a deep craving for meaningful community. In some way, we’re all looking for it (and need it). So until dorms for grown-ups are widely available, where can Millennials find community? Here are three places that might not immediately come to mind:
1. Where the elderly gather. You may recall an article from earlier this year that reported that a nursing facility in the Netherlands was allowing college students to live rent-free to improve the quality of life for seniors. In exchange, the students were asked to spend 30 hours per month being “good neighbors” to the elderly residents.
Officials at the nursing facility reported students doing a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and, perhaps most importantly, offering company when seniors fell ill, which helped stave off feelings of disconnectedness.
The students weren’t complaining either. Not only did they experience better living conditions than they would have in student housing, but they developed relationships with amazing humans who had stories to tell and new perspective to offer.
Some of my most meaningful times of community have involved older generations. Whether visiting the nursing facility where my grandma lives or participating in multigenerational church events that involve seniors, I always feel grounded by exposure to the faith of those much further along the road of life.
2. The choir. So it turns out one of the best ways for adults to make close friends is to sing together. A researcher at Oxford University conducted a small study in which participants in adult education classes joined either singing classes or creative classes, such as arts and crafts or creative writing. Those who sang together reported bonding more quickly.
As for why exactly singing facilitates fast group bonding, the researchers say one possible reason is that everyone does it at the same time. Compare that to creative writing or crafting, where everyone is working on an individual project. Another potential reason, according to the researchers, is that singing involves muscular effort, which triggers the release of certain molecules that can make us happier and more willing to cooperate.
I can personally testify to the relational power of singing. When I was a teen, I was part of a Christian youth choir that traveled around my state. My two years with the choir are some of the best memories of my young life. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow singers.
3. Children’s ministry (or any ministry). Can’t carry a tune? That’s OK. You go to church, right? The cool thing about church is that God designed it to be a place where people are interdependent and community can thrive. Your church is likely bursting with opportunities for community if you know where to look.
I mention children’s ministry because that’s where I’ve plugged in through the years. Just as the senior saints lend a seasoned perspective to faith and life, children will open your eyes to what Jesus meant when He said, “[T]he kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16, NIV). Their faith is enviable, and they’re the most loving and accepting group you’ll ever meet. (Plus, as the wife of a children’s pastor, I can say with confidence that most children’s ministries are in desperate need of committed volunteers.)
If working with kids isn’t your thing, get involved in another ministry at your church. Be a greeter. Volunteer with the youth group. Lend your talents to the tech team. As you serve alongside others, you will build community.
Commonspace is an intriguing concept because it promises ready-made community. But if you’re not up for dorm living, you can still find connection. You may just need to look for it in unexpected places.