Written by Calvin Franz, BCM Vice President of Villages
If you were to ask me what villages mean, I would say villages are small hubs across campus with the goal of building a close-knit community that teaches and encourages Bible storytelling so as to share the gospel with other students. If you were to ask me what villages mean to me, I would start by describing to you a person without a trusted group of friends, without a strong will to share the gospel, and without much enjoyment of college. I would then tell you that person was me until I was invited to a nearby village. From that village, I was invited to BCM and church events, and from those events, I was invited to join the leadership team and many others in passionately sharing the good news of Christ with fellow students. Villages have been important throughout my time in college, and that is why I became Vice President of Villages. Even now, during a global pandemic, villages remain one of the best ways we can reach students on campus. So in order to ensure they remain effective in building community, we need both good village leaders and good villagers.
Villagers are the key to villages. Without villagers, there is no storytelling, no community, and no Village. We do village because “we believe God is best explored in community.” This belief is not a whim, but is biblically backed by Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Building a community is essential for villages to succeed, but how do we build a good community? Well, a community is not simply a group of people in the same location but a group of people who come together to enjoy fellowship with one another. So as villagers, our efforts in village should be focused on creating this fellowship. This can be done in many ways, including inviting others to dinner after village, encouraging others to participate in discussions, or even reaching out to fellow villagers outside of village time. Whatever form it may take, it is important for every villager to feel they belong to the village. Villages are designed so that such fellowship is easy for villagers to encourage and experience.
This is mainly where the village leaders come in. The only difference between village leaders and villagers is that village leaders set up the village structure to enhance the sense of fellowship and community. Village leaders do this by structuring their village as if each meeting will be full of new villagers. Even if you already know everybody, someone who has just started in your village may not. We encourages doing nametags and introductions every week to prevent new villagers from feeling they are out of the loop or are an inconvenience because their presence requires you to accommodate for them. This feeling makes it harder for new villagers to feel part of the community, which is why we strive to make every village meeting as welcoming and seemingly fresh as the last one.
However, the process of building a community may differ in each group. That is why we encourage villages to build their own. The guidelines we set for nametags and introductions are just that, guidelines. We leave it up the villagers and village leaders to decide if those are the methods they want to implement, or if they would rather implement a different method they deem more effective. Each village is also meant to be unique, so we do not have bland copies of a single village scattered across campus. Instead of building communities by a script, they should be built by those who are in it: the villagers! This allows for each village to be a closer-knit community. Another thing about building a community is that communities come in all sizes. There are successful villages that have 10 regular villagers, and there are successful villages that have 3 regular villagers. The size of your village is up to the village’s preference. The important thing is that the villagers feel as though they are part of a close community. This gives way to growth within the community.
I have talked a lot about building community and fostering fellowship among other villagers. That is because without community, villages would fall short of excellence. Without community, stories will be easily forgotten and not shared. Without community, villagers will not get plugged into the BCM or a local church. Without community, villagers can’t grow into leaders. Without community, village isn’t worth coming to. This is why I’m grateful for our village leader team because each member has shown a dedication to fostering their own community and have created a set of incredibly successful villages.
If you have yet to get plugged into a village, I encourage you to do so. God calls us to gather to read his word and talk about it, and villages are a fantastic way to do this. You can read more about our villages and find a time that works for you on our website!