When you hear the word community, what images come to mind?

For me it’s Spencer Street. We moved there when I was 5. There was a house on the corner and several beside it, then a large vacant lot, our house and three additional houses very similar to ours.  Next to that was a huge wooded area on each side of the street and then more houses.  Across the street was a church and a church parking lot.

My brother and I in front of the old car that would never start. That’s OK because someone in the Spencer community was always ready to lend a hand, help fix the car or give a ride.

Those four 700-square foot houses define community for me. Next door lived Mr. and Mrs. Mockbee, an older couple who liked to sit outside in their back yard every evening. He smoked long cigarettes held by a plastic cigarette holder.

Next to them lived Brother and Sister Forsee. She had long white hair which she combed out every night sitting on her covered front porch. Her house was filled to the brim with memorabilia. She literally shined with the light of God. Next to her lived a couple of different families while I was growing up.

The Zumwalts had a son my age, Chuck, and an older daughter, Rita. At the time Rita was about 16 and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. They had an older son who liked to impale small animals with sticks. My father thought something was seriously wrong with him. The dad, Harvey, was the best neighbor you could ask for as long as he wasn’t drinking.

After the Zumwalts left, the Cranes moved in. They had two children, Marla, a few years younger than me, and Mikey, my young sister’s age.

At night our four back yards became one as we ran and played together. Stopping to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Mockbee. They seemed to love to watch us play hide and go seek, giving us suggestions where to hide. They lived vicariously through our youth and enthusiasm.

I loved going up on the front porch to sit a spell with Sister Forsee.  She had the bluest eyes. Many times I felt she could look straight into my soul. With Sister Forsee there was no chit chat, she went straight for what matters. She talked about heavenly things, what God had taught her that day, why it was important to keep your hand in Jesus’ hand.

When my mother’s schizophrenia and manic depression got too bad, the church across the street became my second community. She didn’t want dad to leave her on Sundays, so he sent my brother and I across the street to church. I loved my Mom and Dad’s church, but there was something about going to church with people who lived in your neighborhood that gave me a sense of belonging.

The fact that I was a kid there without her parents seemed to bring out the motherly attitudes in every motherless woman there, especially Dorothy Brown, the organist.  Some Sunday nights, I would sit beside her as she played and then sit on the second row at the end with her during the sermon.  She cared about me and I belonged.

Basically that’s what community means to me, a place were you belong, where you are cared for and supported, where people laugh with you and play with you, where people take care of you.

Today, geographical communities are less prevalent as lifestyles seem to get busier and busier. In their place are online communities where people gather virtually. It’s a place to share common interests no matter where you live.

It’s a place where we support each other, encourage each other, build each other up, prod each other to move to better and greater heights. It’s a place where we laugh with each other and cry with each other.

A community is where each person brings his or her uniqueness to make the community better. Communities gather around commonality. When I was growing up the commonality was the four houses on Spencer Street or geography. The community of the church was belief-centered.

God Writers Community is built around the common theme of writing with spiritual inspiration. It is built around doing what God has called us to do. It’s built around supporting each other as we go forward towards our purpose. As in any community, the diversity we bring makes us stronger.

I started the group because I need accountability in my writing. Each of those in the community joined for the same reasons.  I didn’t take into account the time administering the group would take. It’s a little like being a mom, making sure everyone and everything is taken care of.  It’s a role I know how to play and fall into easily, probably too easily.

However, I’ve realized thanks to a wonderful coach and mentor, Aida Ingram, that I need help in administering the group and I need to empower you guys to be the awesome encouragers that you are.

ML Donovan and Linda Morgan have agreed to help administer the group.  However all of who are members are administrators in a way.  Linda, Lynn and I will be the point people to whom others outside can come to ask to be added. Once a member, each of you can add people. We learned this when Sherrie was able to add someone.

If someone is out of line in the group, which hasn’t happened yet, we can all come together to let them know that. As a group we can decide if someone needs to be removed from the group.

This is a closed group which means the outside world knows it exists and can see our membership list but cannot see the posts or post themselves.  However, all of us can post. All can add members. All can contribute.

If I forget to announce on Friday that it is Goal Friday, any can announce it because we are a community.

It is a subtle mindshift perhaps, but it does one thing for me and another huge thing for those in the community. For me it helps to be involved in something that I am not totally responsible for. I am trying to stop being so uber responsible that it keeps me from my main purpose which is writing.

The most exciting part, though, is what it does for the members. It empowers each member to make the group the most awesome, inspiring, life-changing community ever. Together we can change the world, one word at a time.

Now, why are you still reading this? Go write something.

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.