The steps needed in building a community are similar to growing a garden. Let’s take a look.
Select the Spot
Depending on what you intend to grow, the soil and sunlight needs will be different. What type of community will you be growing?
Till the Soil
This is, without a doubt, the most challenging aspect. There are roots to pull and rocks to extract, not to mention the sod to turn over. Prepping the land for planting is the greatest challenge when growing a garden because it is hard work, and you still have nothing to eat! Building a community is no different. There can be significant resistance and never as much immediate acceptance as we are expecting. We find ourselves in a loop of sharing and bringing value with little or nothing to show for the efforts.
Plant the Seeds
Of course, we don’t just shove a seed into the soil and hope for the best. Instead, we plant with care, water daily, pull the weeds that always grow faster than the actual plants. Sometimes we fertilize, but mainly we water daily. The seeds are what we offer. Despite our efforts, only a few take the offer we might begin to feel a little self-righteous like the world owes us something. The reality is that some will buy, and some will not. Our job is to understand why some bought and then work on the message to better resonate with potential buyers. Stop trying to sell the non-buyers and start focusing on buyers!
Dog Days of Summer
The seeds have sprouted, but the work of watering, weeding, and tending has not subsided. Each day, we nurture our newly sprouted plants. This is when they are the most vulnerable and it is part of the process of gardening. Some will survive, and some will not. The temptation as a new gardener is to attempt to salvage the seedlings that have been damaged, but a wise gardener applies all effort to the survivors because they will most likely bear fruit.
When building a community, we begin to gain momentum with lots of interest and enthusiasm. Then, attendance wanes or post-activity drops off. We might scramble to keep the community together by reaching out to those who have lost touch in an effort to bring them back. All the while, the loyalists aren’t receiving your attention and begin to wonder what is going on. The community is vulnerable through this phase and needs your full attention. Think, engage, and challenge your community to grow and help each other. Continue to get feedback to learn what is resonating and what is not connecting. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Your hard work and effort have begun to pay off. The plants are bearing fruit and strong enough to stand on their own. Don’t miss out on one of the greatest joys of gardening: sharing the harvest. Sharing the harvest with others fosters great relationships, and just plain feels good. Demonstrating generosity is another form of validation of your efforts and a job well done.
Your community has begun to flourish, and the rewards for your efforts are many. This is when we need to ask ourselves – Is it about me, or is it about them? If your answer is yourself, and you begin to believe it is about you, enjoy this season. Nothing kills future success than success. Don’t get arrogant or greedy. How can you further bless your community with your harvest? Sharing feels good and, when done wisely, is the equivalent of reinvesting.
Most gardens are done after the harvest. We must till the soil and begin the process over again. This is the cycle. However, there are master gardeners who are more intentional than most every step of the way. They take great care in selecting a location, putting the plow to the land, and planting seeds at varying times of the year so that something in their garden is producing fruit at any given time. This continuous renewal allows the crops to flourish over the long term—this effort of constant nurturing and tending the soil results in an almost perpetual abundance.
For community builders, the cycle is the same as we work toward mastery. We make an offer that bears fruit and then work to create another offer. We create the content, demonstrate and deliver the value, and prepare for the next offer. Mastery is achieved when we are able to have a system of continuous offers.