The Importance of Community at Every Duty Station
If anyone can claim expertise at goodbyes it would have to be the members of a military family. They learn early on to say goodbye to one another due to deployments and training. They say goodbye to friends every two to five years when they pack up and PCS again. They say goodbye to fellow soldiers at funerals and memorials and they hold on to the memory of them.
So many goodbyes can make it difficult to reconnect. Over time it may feel easier to withdraw into the silence of the home and hang on to friendships across social media. But the truth is that we were built for face to face community and need one another.
Another take away from the constant goodbyes is that there is no time to waste on gradual courtship. If you want to know someone in the military community the best advice is to jump in. Community is so important. For some it is the difference between life and death. A phone call checking in reminding someone they are loved or an invitation to coffee can make the isolation disappear.
One of the best ways to serve the military community is to reach out and offer them friendship. So many are away from extended family and friends. They are new to the culture of your city and desire to make lasting connections.
When my soldier and I first arrived to Ft Bliss in El Paso, Texas we were seven months pregnant with our third child. The very first thing we did was seek out a church family. It was a hard two to three day drive for our parents to come to us and I knew that with two toddlers in the house I would need help when the new baby arrived.
We found that community in a small church down the street from us and were blessed with meals following our daughter’s birth and friendships that still continue today. By the time my husband left on his first deployment I knew I could reach out to my church family for help and friendship.
Galations 6:2 (NIV) tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
It may feel like military families are a poor investment of your time because of the high turnover and personal needs. However, the turnover is similar to that of a college ministry and the intensity of friendship you will build with military families far outweighs any resources it will cost you. The opportunity to shower these families with the love of Christ will bless your church body in unexpected ways.
Military spouse are often looking for opportunities to share their own time and resources with the community. They are gifted, passionate about serving, and simply in need of a family away from home. They crave connections and are looking for support systems to both give their talents to and lean on when necessary.
Here are a few ideas on how to connect with military families:
- Sponsor a dinner for new soldiers and their families
- Start a small group and use a military themed study
- Offer space for a military MOPS meeting
- Host a Valentine dinner for spouses of deployed soldiers, and provide free childcare
- Have older members of your congregation adopt military families as their own, inviting them to dinner and holidays as if they were there own family
- Send care packages to both the deployed soldier and one to their family
Get creative. Reach out to the chaplains and ask them what the needs are. Take some time and brainstorm ways you can reach out and share Christ’s love with the families that migrate through your home town.
Our communities are facing a crisis in mental health and suicide ideation. This area has often been overlooked or silenced by the church. Being the hands and feet of Christ means that we are to go out and show one another the love of God. Sometimes simply knowing there are others out there who care, that there is a community of people who have their back, that there is someone they can call when at their lowest, is all it takes to find a reason to keep living. Your willingness to reach out and be an authentic community could be the difference between life and death.