I’m continuing to post the notes from my recent presentation to teachers in Dallas. Here’s a very quick summary of the results of the Hardwired to Connect report I’m mentioned in my last post. The authors claim they are making a “New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities” (I call them “connected communities”). Their major claims are:

First, a great deal of evidence shows that we are hardwired for close attachments to other people, beginning with our parents and extended family, and then moving out to the broader community.


Second, a less definitive but still significant body of evidence suggests that we are hardwired for meaning, born with a built-in capacity and drive to search for purpose and reflect on life’s ultimate ends.

In order to offer our children the kind of environment they need to make those connections, the report lists these 10 components of a Connected Community:

  • [Connected] communities include children and youth.
  • They treat children as ends in themselves.
  • They are warm and nurturing.
  • They establish clear limits and expectations.
  • Their core work is performed largely by nonspecialists.
  • They are multigenerational.
  • They have a long-term focus.
  • They encourage spiritual and religious development.
  • They reflect and transmit a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person.
  • They are philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all people and to the principle of love of neighbor.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–I believe that these 10 qualities are the definition of a healthy, vital congregation. They are, essentially, the qualities our congregations need to embody in order for us to do the work we’ve set before ourselves, especially anti-racism/anti-oppression work, moving youth ministry to the center of our collective mission, and getting over our 1% a year growth pattern so we can truly reach all those who would benefit from being part of our living tradition.