How Can We Cultivate a Sense of ‘Belonging’ in Our Gospel Witness?
December 11, 2017
Belonging is one of the great longings of the human soul.
I am white.
And I am part of a community of ethnically diverse women who come together each year for five days for a spiritual retreat. This spiritual practice is life-giving, stretching, and enriching. Although I work in correctional ministry alongside a very diverse group of people, prior to this group, I did not have any close friends who were ethnically diverse.
I love these women and am indebted to them for helping me develop, and continue to develop, my cross-cultural intelligence. As a result of our relationship, I have gone on to develop other relationships with those who are ethnically diverse from me.
During one of our retreats, one of the women made a comment which has deeply impacted me. She stated, “I feel like I belong in this group,” to which I responded, “Meaning, you can be yourself?”
Her response stopped me in my tracks: “No, I can be myself in other settings, but here I belong.”
Everyone longs to belong to someone or to a group. Humans need to feel closely connected to others, where they feel safe, cared for, and loved.
Author Evelyn Underhill identified belonging as one of the great longings of the human soul. The idea of belonging is a felt need that we can tap into when sharing the gospel with others as well. Creating a sense of belonging takes intentional time and effort. Below are a few ways to build belonging.
First, identify people who you sense are seeking a place to belong.
This may even be family members. Just because someone is in a family, he or she may not feel like he or she belongs. I think of friends who are the only Christian in their family, and thus often feel like outsiders.