Five years ago, looking for one myself, I wrote this blog about finding your tribe
. Since then, I’ve aspired to be a leader who builds a tribe. The ministry I run, AIM
changes lives and AIM people like to hang out with one another. But I’ve
got a lot to learn on the subject.
As I said in the post, “We’re descendents of cowboys and rough riders – independent
souls that killed those living in tribes.
So it’s no wonder that we struggle so to find our tribe. We don’t understand tribes.”
The word tribe
has become more common in the modern vernacular recently (thanks to Seth Godin). I always thought it meant “people who you live and work with and belong to.” But it seems to have been dumbed down to mean “people who are interested in the same subject as you.”
Thus, successful blog writers have tribes (more on that here).
A friend highlighted this when she wrote to express her discouragement:
“I spent three years with AIM, believing that AIM was going to be my ‘tribe’. I wanted to be under that guidance and authority. I had a deep respect for you, and still do. I can honestly say that you personally have stood by me and continued to encourage me when others seemed to give up. But last year when I was looking for direction, I was turned away. I was sent off on my own, and that hurt.
Am I trying to make spiritual covering/authority into something it is not supposed to be? Is there an unhealthy dependece there that I don’t understand?”
Reading this, I felt poorly. I want everyone who’s interested to find a home at AIM. I reflected on why she would struggle and wrote her back:
“You’re looking for your tribe. There are two ways to connect with a tribe – connecting with the people in it or the projects they do.
Don’t look to leaders to create connection for you. They can’t. They can help cover you insofar as you’ve committed to a project and they can provide a context in which it’s possible for you to connect to people. But it’s up to you to dive into people’s lives. If you don’t feel the connection, you may want to ask some friends why it hasn’t happened. But don’t look for leaders to do more than they can do.”
Maybe my answer helped her understand what role leaders play in tribes. But it couldn’t scratch the itch she had to belong to something – to be welcomed and appreciated. We want to be like Norm in Cheers. When he walks into the bar, everyone welcomes him simultaneously, “Norm!” It was probably the highlight of his day.
We humans are social creatures – we all need to belong to something. We’re too independent in America. We emphasize autonomy over belonging. We focus on what divides us – we build walls. But as Robert Frost wrote
, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
I think that something is our natural God-given need to belong. God himself wants walls down. He gave us as gifts to one another to be enjoyed, to meet needs.
What do you belong to? Have you found your tribe yet? If not, why not?