Community Building 101: Philosophy & Framework To Get You Started
The internet and social media are here to stay, there is no changing that.
As the Church, we have a responsibility to use them wisely and as vehicles to share the Gospel. Why? Because souls are already using both, and wherever souls are, the Church must also be.
But we must address the elephant in the room: we are more divided, isolated, and alone than ever before—in large part because of the impersonal nature of the internet and social media.
We haven’t integrated our “digital” lives with our real lives. Often, we act as if we prefer digital relationships over in-person ones.
But times are changing. People are fed up with their relationships being disrupted, with algorithms dominating what they see, and ultimately our overall lack of time spent with the people they care about most. This doesn’t mean the answer is an all-out rejection of technology—that’s unrealistic at this point. People will still use technology, but instead of allowing it to run their lives, they will use it to serve what matters most.
The truth is we’re meant for real connection, not more likes and followers.
Called exists to bridge the gap between a life that exists digitally and one that is material; a life that is pixelated, and a life that is tangible. We give ministry leaders the knowledge and tools to harness technology to facilitate deeper, more authentic, in-person connections & form disciples who are on fire for Christ and His Church.
Here’s how we do it.
Our philosophy is simple:
We want to use what exists in the created world to facilitate a greater relationship with God and those around us, keeping subsidiarity as the guiding principle.
FACT → We must focus on the most local level if we want to share the Gospel through relationships and community.
Instead of building technology that is made to keep your eyes glued to a screen or monetize your attention, we exist for an inherently good purpose—to build real Christian communities once again.
Our goal is to use digital technology to build local groups that transform local communities that convert entire societies.
This is the foundation for all we do at Called.
The Ministry “Funnel”
A couple of things before we establish how-tos…
First: Outreach in ministry will never be replaced by technology. Ever. At least, not entirely.
It’s your job to attract people to your ministry.
Technology simply gets you better exposure to those you want to reach.
Think social media, email, digital communities, search engines, communication tools, etc. These are meant to make your outreach easier, streamlined, more effective, and efficient.
Second: This is why it is really helpful to think about this concept in popular marketing terminology.
Imagine your ministry as a funnel.
Anything you do to attract people to your ministry lives at the top. This is what we call the “top of the funnel”.
Everything in the “middle of the funnel” is what you do to establish deeper relationships, form your people, and inspire discipleship.
The “bottom of the funnel” is where leaders and evangelists are born. You’ve got them in your door (top of the funnel), they’ve been set on fire for the faith and are starting to step up amongst their peers (middle of the funnel) and now they are ready to lead and boldly share their faith themselves (bottom of the funnel).
Sounds great, right? There is just one thing to consider. What do you do once they enter the top of your ministry funnel?
Where are your people going?
How are they being led down the “funnel”?
You MUST have a place for them to go. Both physical and digital.
For years, we’ve only solved for the physical location. This is the foundation, no doubt. But we’ve neglected to realize that most of our lives are now interacting with technology.
So how could we not have a digital home for our ministries as well?
Community, events, and relationships play such a vital role in every ministry. They are obviously more powerful when experienced in person. This is why everything we do with technology is meant to facilitate these in-person experiences.
This is where Called comes in. We do the heavy lifting on the digital front for you, by sitting in the middle to bottom of your funnel.
We’re the digital door your newest members enter to join a group, attend an event, and build relationships with peers.
So how should someone actually use Called to accomplish this?
5-Step Community-Building Framework You Can Use Today
You download Called from the app store. Then you jump into the app and create an account. But then…*Crickets*
You think to yourself, “Now what?”
The fact is: before you can create a really attractive culture in your new community —whether in person or digitally on Called — you must have a plan.
This is where our 5-step framework can be really helpful. If you’ve already created a community, no worries! You can still go through this process and reap the benefits.
Step #1: Establish Community Identity
Let’s start with identity.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!”
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8: 14-17)
We are children of God! Joint heirs with Christ! What a glorious identity all baptized into the one, true faith have.
Just as it is essential we keep our identity in Christ always before us, so too we should in our evangelistic efforts.
But it’s easy to forget.
If it’s easy to forget what we did yesterday, it’s easy to lose sight of our personal identity, not to mention the identity of a community we’re a part of on some app.
This is why we must establish a core identity in our ministry community—digital or otherwise. But what is identity?
Identity is what gives your community purpose, it's the common goal and vision that everyone in your community will rally around.
It doesn't matter if this is a bible study on your college campus, a Men's Ministry at a parish, or an entire diocese; your group or community identity is the key to attracting people, getting them active, and ultimately keeping your members focused on who we are and why we are here.
Take some time to go through and answer the five questions below. Any leader should be able to answer these for their groups and communities:
- Why are we here?
- What do we represent?
- Who are we trying to become?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- Why should anybody join, stick around, and tell others about it?
#2: Create the actual plan
In the Catholic tradition, creating a plan of life is essential for anyone serious about pursuing holiness. A plan of life is a simple program for how you will grow in virtue and pursue sanctity in your daily life. It starts with that big idealistic desire to love God and neighbor in all things and ends with a very practical approach to doing so.
Similarly, your community needs a plan.
You know who you are; but what do you do? Or rather, how will your members live out that shared identity every day?
We understand that everyone will be at different points in their journey with your community and with Christ. It’s helpful to build your plan with these people in mind.
The Minimum Viable Community framework was created by Fabian Pfortmuller, a Swiss entrepreneur focused on community building.
From this, he developed the Minimum Viable Community Canvas (MVC) — a one-page summary of what your community stands for based on nine key questions.
We’ve created our own version of his original MVC so you, your team, and other leaders can easily update and collaborate over time.
The Called Community Canvas is made up of 9 questions, all based on Fabian’s original framework.
*We recommend that every ministry leader who organizes events, facilitates small groups, and is fostering community should work through them.*
You’ll get clear on what you’re hoping to accomplish and build a more active ministry and community.
#3: Invite the right people
Once you’ve established an identity for your community and created a plan, it’s time to invite people to join!
Go back to your plan from the last step and be clear you know…
- Who is this group for?
- Who is this group NOT for?
Okay, now comes the fun part. Send those invites!!!
#4: Set expectations and create rhythm
Make expectations super clear to members. The best way is to nail down onboarding.
Second, be upfront about the routine — when do you meet? How often? Events? Programs? “Bible Study” means many things to many people.
Make it very clear who/what the community is for and where it is going.
Create your onboarding process. Here are 5 things we suggest:
- Introduce new members via the group chat
- Create a weekly news post including all new members
- Prepopulate content in your News Feed. This can include:
- Your Community Canvas/Plan document
- Our Quick Start Guide to using Called
- A post that clarifies what commitment is expected from them and how to make the most out of the community.
- Pictures from past events, educational content relevant to your group, etc
- Make recommendations to individual members of groups to join or events to attend.
- Introduce new members to other members or send group/event invites that you think they'd be interested in.
#5: Grow and maintain
This is the pitfall of most — keeping any community active long-term. There are ways to avoid this.
Firstly, be really clear on the roles people can hold and who will help you keep the conversation lively.
If the community is dependent on you alone, the odds of things fizzling out increase drastically. It’s draining to expect it can be all on you forever. Plus, members want to lead. So let them.
Secondly, understand what your members want. What you want things to look like will not be the same thing necessarily. Don’t waste your time on events and groups that mean nothing to most people.
Start Building Your Community On Called
There you have it — a simple framework you can use when building a community from scratch or optimizing an existing one.
If you're ready to build a digital extension of your in-person community, start today on Called.
Here are some ways we help you:
- Building digital tools that enable effective communication, organization, and conversation all in one place. Download Called today (Apple Store or Google Play)
- Providing education on best practices for leadership, building communities, and using technology. Follow us on Linkedin and share this newsletter.
- Connecting leaders with leaders to share and learn from each other on what works and doesn’t work via our leader's community on Called.