Many people have different perceptions about the meaning of sense of community. A widely held academic definition of this term is ” the sense of community is a feeling members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and the group, and a shared faith that member’s needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (McMillan and Chavis, 1986). No matter how serious people’s level of involvement in the community, there are four main elements that compose a person’s sense of community.
The first aspect of Sense of Community is membership in that community. People become members of a community when they feel emotionally secure, personally invested and a sense of belonging or identification in the community. These features of membership “fit together in a circular, self reinforcing way, with all conditions having both causes and effects” (McMillan, 1996).
Secondly, people that have a sense of community must feel that their opinion can have influence over what the group does. The most influential people within a group are those who acknowledge the importance of other people’s needs, values and opinions. In close knit groups of friends this element may be increasingly more important.
Another element that is fundamental to people experiencing a sense of community is that people are rewarded for their participation in the community. This attribute is fundamental for people maintaining their sense of community. Ahlbrandt’s research clarifies the importance of this attribute by asserting a community “must attract individuals by positive rewards and satisfying experiences. When this attraction is not present, people withdraw their commitment, participation and rewards” (1984).
The final element that creates people’s sense of community is that the members have a shared emotional connection. This element seems to be the defining feature for people to experience a true sense of community. There are many features that facilitate people having shared emotional connections. One feature that connects to the physical features of a community is that people have an emotional connection with each other when they have a shared history (Mcmillan, 1996). Shared emotional connections are often experienced in public spaces. Public spaces can generate or restore a deep sense of community through providing people places to socialize and interact with each other (Hayden, 2000). People need places where they can socially interact with each other on a non-commercial level.
As you continue to grow, we want to develop, nurture, and challenge your sense of community. (Ephesians 2:21) Feel free to share your thoughts and join in the discussion on Facebook.