An association is made up of entities that know one another but do not have strong interactions. A community, however, is much more deeply and intricately woven. There is a greater sense of shared vision and purpose, and there is collaboration in working toward shared goals. In addition, communities care for one another much more deeply, meeting the needs of others and supporting colleagues at a high level.
My experience in 28 years of teaching in LCMS schools is that our church body and districts act more as an association than a community. This is not a blanket statement for all regions, but association tends to be the norm. We can do better than that -- for the sake of each other and ultimately for the sake of our Lord's mission!
To help us think more deeply about this concept, here are some questions to ponder as an individual, with our faculty colleagues, and with our congregations:
- Is my school/church more of an association or community? Why?
- Is our relationship to our district and synod more as an associate or as a member of a community? Why?
- What needs to happen for community to be built at a higher level in your school, church, or among the Lutheran community in your town or district?
- Which is modeled more by Jesus, association or community? Why? Give some examples to support your answer.