THE BEGINNING OF COMMUNITAS
Paul and Karen Anderson
I once told the Board I worked with, “I love what I do, connecting with congregations and pastors, writing and consulting, teaching and preaching. But if you gave me what I really wanted to do, I would work with young adults.” Somehow I felt that God had that in our future.
Karen and I spent our first twenty years together in San Pedro, California, where I was a pastor. In 1995 we were called back to the Twin Cities to direct the work of Lutheran Renewal. Five of our six children came along. Andrew stayed to complete his college and pilot training. We enjoyed seventeen rich years with LR, traveling stateside and overseas to encourage the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
One night as we were having a family worship in the living room, Karen shared a picture she felt the Lord gave her: “Someday this room will be filled with young adults.” My heart leaped, because I knew now that it would only be a matter of time.
Gabriel, our second son, had returned from serving in Iraq with the Air Force a changed man and a leader. He started a guys’ group that met weekly. He also knew of a girls’ group that did the same. We asked him about bringing the groups together and see what happens. We had received prophetic words from our friends that we would one day have wall-to-wall young adults. We had prayed with two friends about our dream, and Karen had seen the fire of God spreading in the Twin Cities. So we decided to start one in our living room.
It caught. We sensed the Spirit blowing on it from the get-go. We were meeting every three weeks. We decided to try every other week and see if we lost anyone. We gained more. We decided we would go with every week, thinking some would drop off. Wrong. It continued to gain momentum.
This happened the fall of 2005. I was still working full-time with Lutheran Renewal and traveling often. It made no difference whether I was at the Tuesday night meeting or not. It had an organic feel to it.
The name “Communitas” came later. Some of the leaders heard about an anthropologist who coined the word. It means “community forged out of suffering.” They liked that idea, having experienced different levels of community, but hoping our experiment would go deeper.
Our group grew not by advertising but by word of mouth, and that is the way it continued to be sustained. A leader from a local church heard about us early on and asked if she could come over and talk about what we were doing. I said, “Sure.” When I hung up, I asked myself, “What are we doing?” When I stopped to analyze that question, several things surfaced that proved to be our standing operating procedure:
- What we do, they do. We make leaders by giving them a piece of the pie. It is the empowering rather than the empowered version of leading. We believe in people and are willing to take risks. That means they do the stuff. For us, leadership is not about getting followers but about helping people to walk into their God-appointed destiny.
- We focus on encountering a good God and asking Him to heal us and empower us. This means honesty and vulnerability in our relationships, moving toward tension rather than away from it, to strengthen love and community.
- Praying to a good Father is fundamental to our meetings—and our life.