Have you ever thought about why you just so happened to find yourself in your particular friend group? Maybe you knew these people from college, work, mutual friends, or even church.
But it is an interesting thing that a collection of unrelated people can find themselves in a tight-knit community.
This is the power of the tribe.
A tribe, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”
Tribes are often known for having commonality in ancestry, but in a social context, a tribe is simply a community of people that are intrinsically linked somehow.
If you are a leader of a church or non-profit, your interest may be peaked because the concept of tribe is something you are in the business of upholding! Every organization that has ever existed exists because they are gathering around some sort of common belief or goal.
For car dealerships, it’s providing automobile transportation
For restaurants, it’s providing food and drink
For a water charity, it’s providing clean drinking water
For churches, it’s providing an accessible way for people to hear the Gospel
Each organization is unique in its individual mission but is built upon the individual people that have a common belief and focus on the vision.
The Slow Killer of Community
So what happens when this type of vision-driven attitude doesn’t exist in one of the tribe members? You can probably guess by now… there can be a huge issue. Before we even get into how to find your tribe, we need to talk about the pernicious issue of division in your tribe. 2 Timothy 2:14-17 hits the nail on the head about division and quarreling:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
When a member of the tribe is in the habit of quarreling and causing division in the community, this can slowly but surely deteriorate the health of the community and derail its mission. Paul isn’t talking about someone who simply disagrees with the mission here and there. He is referring to those who are in the pattern of quarreling and consistently partaking in “irreverent babble.”
While it may not seem like a big deal to have someone in the tribe who is divisive, Paul warns us in Galatians 5:9 that “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
This is to say that even just a little speck of division in a group will eventually work its way through the entire community, slowly but surely.
This is not a warning to cause fear, but an encouragement to seek to know the hearts of those in your community well! People do not become divisive and bitter overnight. Most people become bitter because they don’t feel like they have a safe place to express their viewpoints. Keeping an open dialogue with your tribe is a fantastic way to root out any bitterness, division, or negative talk.
Be the type of leader that seeks to know the hearts, concerns, and opinions of your community members!
The Thriving Tribe Looks Like...
Finding your tribe is an essential component of successful and sustainable growth and health as a church, non-profit, or other organization. Here are a few components of a thriving tribe:
- The mission is their heartbeat. While some people are driven by money and notoriety, a true tribe member is someone whose life force is the mission. The mission drives them to action and sustains their daily work. In a church context, the overarching mission of sharing the love and saving power of Jesus Christ is what compels the tribe to action.
- They have the heart of a servant. We have all worked for bosses that seem more like cattle drivers than bosses. They rule with an iron fist and rarely get down in the dirt with those they lead. The culture of a tribe is not authoritarian mastership but servanthood.
A true tribe will do whatever it takes to propel the mission forward. They are humble, meek, and willing to serve if someone will be positively impacted. The heart of a servant is essential to a healthy tribe. Think about Jesus: He wasn’t some bossy cattle driver. He was a humble Shepherd. And He got in the dirt with His sheep.
- They uphold the culture. Every single organization has a culture. This culture is built over time and is pretty easy to influence yet difficult to break. If the foundations of the culture are shoddy from the beginning, the whole house will inevitably fall. Bad culture kills an organization, but a healthy culture sustains it. The tribe members will work to uphold and maintain the culture of the organization. They will do their best to speak the language of the organization, nourish the values and mission, and walk alongside those in the group.
Culture is Key
Culture and tribe go hand-in-hand, so we want to talk more about it. While a tribe is a way to categorize a social division group, culture is the specific customs, habits, and beliefs of individuals.
Culture is what you do. Tribe is who you are.
Understanding your culture is truly an essential component of finding (or building) your tribe and developing a healthy community overall. However, it can be difficult to get people behind the mission and vision of your tribe if you haven’t quite defined it through your culture yet!
Culture is not merely the words you say, the way you dress, or the mission statement posted on the wall – it is the way you live, the attitude you carry, and the ways you contribute. Culture is the defining characteristic in your community that is a commonality among all the members.
What is the culture of your church or organization? This is not something we can necessarily measure for you; it is something that requires self-reflection as an organization and an honest evaluation of your tribe. Ask yourself a few of these questions to figure out what your culture is like:
- How do outsiders perceive you?
- How do people feel when they’re with us?
- What is your reputation in your local community?
- What is the general mood/attitude of the members? (E.g., light-hearted, joyful, strict, stressed)
Establishing a healthy culture takes intentionality and the work of all members of the tribe to uphold and honor it.
A Tribe is Not A Crowd. It is A Concise Collective
For a tribe to truly be a tribe, not every single person on the planet can all belong in it. Think about the countries and nationalities of the world: they are separated by borders, yes, but they are made distinct by their individual, unique qualities. This separation starts at the national level and trickles down to the neighborhoods in our towns. This type of segmentation is not necessarily a bad form of division. It is a necessary one.
It would be amiss to think that one organization could fit every single need of 7 billion people on planet earth. An environmental conservation non-profit cannot meet the needs of women in crisis, just like a car dealership couldn’t meet the needs of someone trying to buy dish detergent.
Individual organizations exist to meet the needs of their target market, in their specific niche, in their specific community. This is why a tribe is not just a giant crowd of people. It is more like a concise collective. It is a small group of like-minded people who are all after a similar vision and mission.
In the church world, our mission as a whole is pretty clear: to share the Gospel, make disciples, and bring hope to the world. But as individual churches, our specific ways of accomplishing the mission may differ.
Some churches may put a greater emphasis on serving the community.
Some may offer different types of small groups for recovery, grief, and family.
Some may pour effort into their online community and campuses.
As more and more churches and organizations pop up, more good is being done in the world (and we love it!) The key to the success of these individual entities is not to grow the numbers astronomically but to build value in the tribe. It truly is quality over quantity!
While it may be appealing to have a gigantic church full of thousands of people, having a ton of people does not always mean success. Many of these people are likely not committed to driving the mission forward. They may just be spectators who enjoy what you do, but they don’t necessarily want to contribute to it. While numbers can be exciting, having an excited, loyal group of 1,000 is far more valuable than a stagnant 10,000.
When a smaller group is wholeheartedly invested in the mission, they are more likely to spread that mission with others! From this point, growth is inevitable. But growth cannot happen when your heart is only halfway committed. True growth happens when the tribe is full of a fiery passion for the cause that spreads like wildfire!
The Contribution of the Tribe
The membership qualifications for a tribe are pretty simple: have a passion for the mission and contribute your part. It is pretty simple!
The way that members of the tribe contribute can vary depending on their gifts, resources, and the nuances of the particular tribe. Guess what? The contribution is not just financial! While committing to donorship, generosity, and tithing are great ways to propel the mission forward. However, it is far from the only way to make an impact!
Here are some practical ways you can contribute to your tribe:
- Volunteer for the next outreach event
- Give someone a ride to church
- Utilize your gifts on one of the volunteer teams
- Help set up or clean up after an event
- Share your tribe’s social media content on your personal feed
- Participate in social media or donorship campaigns
One of the best ways to contribute to the tribe? Word of mouth! It is one thing to volunteer or share digital content, but allowing the mission to overflow into your daily life is vital. Part of “the pride of the tribe” is living and breathing the mission and living in such a way that it invites other people to be a part of it.
Whether your tribe is big or small, non-profit organization or church, your mission matters to the people around you! If you continue to invest in the mission and contribute to moving it forward, thriving is bound to come!