Monday, February 5, 2024

Community Building - Evaluating Potential Members

By Tim Gamble

If you are into prepping and survival, chances are you are also interested in building community. This may mean building an intentional community from scratch, or simply creating a community of like-minded friends and neighbors for mutual assistance. Whatever your goal, at some point you are going to need to evaluate potential members. Here are a few of my thoughts...

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 self-defense and firearms will be important to your group, then your anti-gun nutjob of a neighbor will make a horrible addition to your group. If your group is a Bible-based one, and person X is an atheist or a pagan, 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 the rise of socialism and liberal tyranny, then including your extremely woke 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, both good and bad:

Stability - When evaluating potential group members, look for signs of stability, or the lack of it, in their lives. If they are holding a job – it is 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. Generally speaking, signs of stability are good, and signs of a lack of stability are warning flags. Of course context matters, so use common sense. Look for trends within their life, not one time events.

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? Figuring out the answer to these questions requires spending time together actually doing stuff.

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?

Reciprocity - 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?

Addictions - Addictions of any kind (drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, or whatever) 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.

Mental Illness - 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 you can. But, don't being them into the group.

Bizarre Requests - If you are just getting to know someone and they suddenly 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.

Dishonesty - It is one thing to be guarded with personal information, and concerned with maintaining privacy. That is good. 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. And you should be honest with what you choose to share with them.

A Word On 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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