Sunday, December 29, 2019

Building Community - Evaluating Potential Members

By Timothy Gamble (August 21, 2015)

Many preppers, survivalists, and religious folks are looking to build community - be it an informal network of like-minded friends and neighbors, or a more formal arrangement where folks have a defined role within a group of people living and working together towards a common goal. If you are looking to build a community, you probably have some questions. Who should be in your group? Who shouldn't be in your group? How do you evaluate potential members?

Evaluating Potential Members for Your Community

0- The Basics  I am assuming the the person you are considering to join your group shares your goals for the community, and is of similar religious background and political views If not, why would you even be considering them for your group? 

If your group is a religious-based one, and person X is an atheist, then his inclusion in the group will not work, even if he is your cousin and a medical doctor. If you are forming a group over concerns about America's leftward lurch towards socialism, including your hippie socialist sister in the group will be a huge mistake. Sorry, but that is the harsh reality. Some people need to be excluded from the very start.

But is sharing common goals, religious backgrounds, and political views really enough? I've been talking to many current and former members of such groups, and the resounding answer is NO, it is not enough. Here are some additional considerations:

1- Stability   Look for signs of stability, or the lack of it, in their lives.  If they are holding a job – its a good sign.  If they bounce in and out of work often or spend large stretches of time unemployed  - it may be a bad sign. Same goes for other areas of their lives – friendships, relationships, living arrangements…  Do they have long-term relationships (spouse, friends, etc.), or do they bounce in and out of relationships often? Does their life seem full of drama where things seem to constantly go wrong and they always seem to have problems of one sort or another? Or does their life seem mostly drama free.  Of course context matters, so use common sense.  However, generally speaking, signs of stability in their lives are good, and signs of a lack of stability are warning flags.  Look for trends within their life, not one time events.

2- Friendship  If you cannot be close friends with someone, it doesn't make sense to include them in your group, no matter what skill sets they bring with them. You will be living and working closely together, depending on each other on a daily basis in very difficult and stressful times. This will create a more intimate relationship than just being a typical co-worker or neighbor. If there is  something about their personality that annoys you, it will only get worse in any collapse scenario.  If you don't like them, don't expect to be able to "put up with" them over the long-term, especially during stressful times. It will go wrong at some point. Some questions to consider: Do you enjoy being around that person?  Can you have a good time together? Are you both comfortable around each other?

3- Trust   Do you trust that person?  Do you feel you can tell them anything without them judging you, telling others, or spreading gossip?  Do you trust them to always tell you the truth? Do you trust them enough to always tell them the truth? Can you trust them to not put themselves above the group in a crisis? Can you trust them to take care of tools and other things belonging to the group, every bit as well as they take care of their own personal property? Can you trust them to make the same commitment of time, effort , and finances to the group that you are willing to make?

4- Reciprocity   By this category, I mean How do they treat other people? Is your relationship with them reciprocal (involving give and take on both sides)?  Do you get as much out of it as they do?  Are they a good host AND a good guest?  Are they a giver, taker or balanced?  (Taker is bad, balanced is best, giver may be okay as long as you or others don’t take advantage). How do they treat you and other people? Do they try to live by the golden rule, treating others  in the same way they want to be treated? As you get to know each other, do they seem willing to sacrifice (time, money, effort) as much for the group as you are? 

Warning Signs

1- Addictions   Addictions of any kind – drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, TV, etc – are a MAJOR warning sign.  Does their addiction control them?  Does it create chaos in their life, or hold them back? Avoid anyone with any form of addiction. Pray for them. Offer to help them find assistance in overcoming their addiction. But do not make them a part of your group until they have successfully and completely overcome their addiction.

2- Nuts/Crazies   There are lots of nuts and crazies in the world.  I'm not referring to people who are unusual or marching to a different drummer, but those who have actual serious mental problems.  Avoid them. Remember, at some point in a crisis, their meds will run out.Besides, the stress and chaos of a crisis will likely make their illness even more serious. This might seem heartless, but including them in the group will put everyone else in the group at risk. Besides, you can help people without making them part of your group. Pray for them. Help them find assistance and treatment for their illness before a crisis hits. Even check on them during a crisis if you can, providing food or other assistance if needed. But, don't being them into the group. 

3- Bizarre or Unusual Requests Early On   If you are just getting to know someone and they hit you with a bizarre or very unusual request, tread carefully. Bizarre requests might be to borrow a significant sum of money, or to quickly make a serious commitment, or to do something illegal or unethical.

4- Dishonesty  Its one thing to be guarded with personal information, and concerned with maintaining privacy. Its something else entirely to outright lie, especially about major issues. Don't expect someone to completely open up to you and tell you everything about their life, especially early on. But you should expect them to be honest in what they do tell you.

Skill Sets

It is a good idea to include a wide variety of skill sets in your group, and that is the area I most often see discussed when folks talk about building community. However, I suggest that skill sets should be at the bottom of your list of things to consider when building community. Having a wide variety of skills sets will be of little value to a group that falls apart because of other more basic problems. A group that splinters over personality clashes is no longer a group. All the skills in the world won't change that fact. 

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