Book Club Discussion Questions

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Discussion Questions for The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging by Charles Vogl 

1. What does it mean to ‘create a culture of belonging’? How do you define belonging – is it everyone who is physically present in a community or space, or is there a deeper requirement for members to participate?

2. Think about your own community. What comes to mind first? Is it the city you live in, your church or school, family or friends? Why does that particular community resonate with you? If you have a hard time defining your own principal community, what do you want to find in a place or group that you might join?

3. The author talks about the importance of defining the values of a community, so that people know whether they ‘belong’ to that community. What values do you feel your community shares and embodies? Are those the values that you want your community to share and embody? What additional values would you want to see emphasized in your community?

4. How does your community show itself to the rest of the world? If you tell someone that you belong to this community, what are their first thoughts? What do you want the outside world to recognize about your community? How might your community change the way that the outside world sees it?

5. We tend to assume that everyone shares our moral code, unless shown dramatic evidence to the contrary. In reality, though, the moral understandings of others may be very different from our own. What makes your community’s moral code different from other, otherwise similar, communities? How does your community enforce its own moral code? What happens if a member of your community breaks the shared moral code?

6. It might be uncomfortable to read about allowing exclusivity in communities, when many of us are focused on promoting inclusivity. What does it mean when the author says that every community is at least somewhat exclusive, and that every community has insiders and outsiders? How does that inform our own desire to be inclusive and welcoming? What guidelines might be used to create and communicate the boundaries of your community? Are there current boundaries that you would like to see changed? What might prevent those boundaries from changing?

7. Privilege is another loaded word, but every community confers some sort of privilege on its members. What privileges do you have due to your community? What privileges do you see other communities providing for their members, particularly communities that we don’t usually think of as privileged? What privileges do you think should be separated from membership in your community?

8. The idea of ritual as a way of affirming community membership and bonds is ancient – but we still share rituals today. What are some rituals that your community observes? How did those rituals grow and develop? What are the most important components of those rituals? Do you always share food, for example, or is there a common greeting or farewell that members use? What about the hidden rituals – things like weekly email updates, or even HOA meetings? Are there rituals that you would like to see your community adopt?

9. Stories have power – ‘History is written by the winners’ – and it’s important to have control over your own story. How does your community tell its story? Do all of the members of your community share the same story? Who created the story of your community? Does that story need to be revisited and reclaimed by current members of your community?