catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 2 :: 2009.01.16 — 2009.01.30


Community doesn’t just happen

College friends Katie Timmermans, Nicole and Richard France-Coe, Ryan Kruis and Sean Baker decided to start living together in an intentional Christian community in the summer of 2007. Sean married and left the household a year later, with Amy Jonason moving in, and baby Micah France-Coe was welcomed in October 2008. In this article, Amy plays both interviewer and participant to find out what her housemates really think about sharing more than just space with each other.

What originally motivated you four, individually and as a group, to form a community household?

Katie: During college, I lived in an intentional Christian community for a year and a half where we shared food together, made time each week to spend together, and desired to live into each others’ lives. It was a good and hard experience and after college, being without this for a year, I really missed it and desired to live this way again. Then a few of us began talking about the possibility of living in intentional community and it all kind of fell together. It was wonderful!

Nicole: What motivated me was the fact that I was growing increasingly curious about how my life could embody Acts 2 a bit more fully.  I had heard Shane Claiborne speak about the Simple Way, and after hearing about how that community lives, a deep desire was planted in me to live with people and to learn how to love God, myself and others more fully through this. As for the group of us, the wind simply blew us together (see John 3:8).

Ryan: I knew that community was something I wanted incorporated into my life at least in some capacity. When we all started talking about forming a household, I was a senior in college and still unsure about what I was called to vocationally. I decided to view my house as my primary vocation for the next year, and trust that a job would come my way. Little did I know how influential this community would become in the discernment process for other vocational decisions over the next two years.

Richard: I wanted to work against the notion that in order to be happy you needed to start a family, hunker down and isolate yourself from the world. The idea, though not always the reality, of sharing is also very appealing to me; sharing of lives, general household stuff and food solicits in me romantic notions of a counterculture lifestyle that ultimately serves to bring freedom even as it limits. 


A community like our household is often referred to as an “intentional community.” What do you think “intentional” means? What does it look like in terms of our household structure?

Amy: Well, our house meets for three “events” each week: a house dinner, a business meeting and a time for devotions. We also buy groceries as a household. So it’s one gallon of milk in the fridge, not five-that sort of thing. We’ve also got a covenant in the form of a list of values that  we review weekly and try to hold as the pillars of our community.

Richard: To me, intentional means that I am committed to going out of my way to set aside time and energy to invest into my house. It means that I have made this household, and what I can personally contribute to its well-being, a priority in my life.

Nicole: I have experienced “intentional” to mean that we are living in such a way that we are not simply co-existing but that we have and continue to invite each other into the nooks and crannies of our lives-that we are intentional in the fact that we have invited each other to partake not only in the maintenance and logistics of the household but that we live the beauty of brokenness before each other and in that taste the goodness of The Bread that was broken for us. I see the intentionality played out in our values. For me the most important one is honesty, which is manifested through open communication and inevitably teaches us to “speak the Truth in love.”

Katie: Everyone is committed to working together and doing things that intentionally foster community within the house. This also means doing these things when you don’t feel like it! Things like washing dishes at night because it bothers someone to have dishes out, or making time to have dinners together, or confronting uncomfortable issues. It’s a lot of work and I don’t always do it well at all, but it’s good to know that all of us have a common goal of working together to be a community.

Amy: Intentionality means a lot of sharing-sharing your money, your food, your space, your time, your feelings…

Ryan: We are sharing more than just space with one another, we are sharing with one another our lives. This requires a lot of work, attention, vulnerability and thoughtfulness and assumes a sort of commitment is built into the fabric of daily life.


Some people have been surprised to hear that we have a house business meeting every week. “Why? What do you have to talk about?” they ask. How would you respond to this?

Nicole: A few things we talk about are how we as a house are getting along, leaks in the basement, chores, inviting people over, etc. I personally enjoy our business meetings because they are a time in which we are all together working out the logistics of life lived together.

Richard: We have plenty to talk about. House meetings serve as a way to keep us from harboring hidden frustrations because it gives us a safe forum to air our concerns and also share our ideas. 

Katie: Business meetings are essential to good house functioning. It provides a space to talk about anything that needs addressing.  It’s also a safe place to talk about any issues we’re having with one another or even just ourselves. Business meetings provide a check-up time every week and I think they are one of the most crucial parts of healthy community living.

Ryan: It’s surprising how much needs to be talked about. You throw together five adults and a baby all with different opinions and perspectives on how to live well and you’re bound to have things that need to get talked about.

Amy: Our most heated conversation to date was about whether or not we should set the kitchen clock five minutes fast! It seems petty, but these are the kinds of things that say a lot about how everyone functions differently. And it’s the kind of stuff you have to address early on so it doesn’t become a divisive issue later. (If anyone’s curious, we compromised on that issue – our kitchen clock is now two minutes ahead.)

Ryan: House meetings ensure that our ideals remain communal priorities.


What is it like living in a “mixed” household as men and women living together, and as single people living with a young family?

Richard: It feels very natural and balanced to me. I have gotten used to mysterious oblong packages wrapped discreetly in the bathroom trash and the phrase “Diva Cup” does not even solicit the slightest grimace from me anymore. 

Katie: It’s wonderful. I think it provides a balance that isn’t always there in single-gender homes. It has also been wonderful living with a Nicole and Richard as a married couple, and now as a married couple with a baby. Seeing how Richard and Nicole interact has been a learning experience and has taught me another model of marriage and different patterns than I learned from watching my parents. Also, it’s been so wonderful having Micah enter in to our house. This has not only been a learning experience, but also such a joy to be able to hold a baby after work, to feed Micah and sing to him. It’s been a great gift to be a part of his life.

Nicole: Being both a wife and a new mom, I have found that these fine folk are an extension of the family. They support our marriage and participated in the birth of our son. It did, however, take an adjustment period for my husband and I to adapt the rhythm of our marriage to flow with the melody of the house…but now we are grooving…the same can be said about welcoming little Micah and learning how to be parents amongst our household.

Ryan: As a single person I have benefited greatly. Not having a partner committed to supporting me and walking with me through life, it has been so amazing to have many of these needs met by my housemates. I feel privileged as a single person to be so upheld by my community. I also have learned a lot about marriage and family as Nicole and Dicky have welcomed us into their life.


What has living in community taught you about relationships?

Richard: It has taught me that all relationships are unique and that not all relationships naturally grow from spending inordinate amounts of time in cohabitation. Also, it has showed me that all relationships require a certain amount of diligence from those participating in them. If you are going to grow together you must be willing to pay attention to how someone’s actions are affecting you and deal with that in an appropriate way, which could mean confrontation, forgiveness or both.

Nicole: They are best when lived genuinely through the act of truth telling.

Katie: They are wonderful and also really hard. I have received so much support, love and encouragement from the people in my house, it’s amazing. I have also realized that while I am always happy to receive that, when I’m tired or have other plans, I am often not willing to
give that same way. It continues to be a lesson in learning how to be less self-focused and how to love better.

Ryan: Healthy relationships take a lot of time, honesty and commitment.

Amy: Every relationship is a work in progress. Living in community with someone changes the way you relate to him or her, if you were friends before. It also requires you to constantly work through your own emotional gunk. When you have committed to a state of high emotional intimacy and vulnerability with others, you have to be prepared to put your heart on the table, “warts and all,” as they say.  This is my second year living in a community and I’ve realized that many of the housemates I’ve had, along with myself, have gone through major periods of self-examination, emotional sensitivity, that sort of thing during their time in a community. That has had to do with both the stages we were at in our lives and the emotional commitments that intentionality requires.  I think these experiences have been purifying for all of us, even though they have also been so, so difficult.


What has been one of the highlights of living in community? What has been one of the hardest things or darkest times?

Katie: The encouragement, love, and support I have received. Knowing that these people love and accept me as I am and are willing to journey along side me and help me. Whether in vocational discernment, reminding me that I am loved, helping with projects, or just listening, the love and support I have received continues to make me more and more who I am supposed to be. It’s been hard too because while I love this, I more readily receive than give this sometimes. This has been a hard and eye-opening lesson and I am still learning how to do this more fully.

Nicole: For me the highlight and the hardest thing are both intertwined…in committing to live with my friends in community I was deeply frightened that after a few weeks of living together they would be sick of me and realize that they actually did not like me.  However, what I have discovered is that after almost two years of living together the opposite has happened-I have been able to open up my life to these people and invite them into the good and the bad, and I am loved by them just as I am. This is a true gift.

Richard: The highlights for me have been getting to deeply know and accept some people that I would never have gotten to know if it was not for this experience. It is wonderful to have the support and encouragement of people who you love and who love you in this world as you are. The hardest thing for me is the way in which people’s personalities naturally grate against me, causing me to have to explore what it is within me that is disturbed by this person. This is not always an easy project, but rather a process of disarmament where I am given the choice to either nurse a grudge or let go. 

Ryan: As we have shared our different perspectives of and experiences with the Divine, I feel like I have grown in my love for God and my appreciation of God’s “bigness.” One of the hardest parts has been worrying about the possibility that down the road I may have to leave this community in order to fulfill other vocational callings.


What advice do you have for people thinking about living intentionally?

Nicole: Pray. 

Katie: Know that it’s a lot of work, and work to be honest and open.

Ryan: Strive for direct, open and honest communication, and don’t be afraid of a little conflict.

Amy: I think structure is key. If everyone agrees on a common vision at the beginning, and common rules to live by, those become lighthouses to guide them during the difficult times. From what I have learned talking to others who have lived in community, a lack of structure can lead to a major communication breakdown, and that can be the end of it all. In fact, I think it’s really important to know that everyone has a common vision before even agreeing to live together.  This summer I worked with a girl who was planning to live in a new community in the fall, but from what it sounded like she and the other person who was a driving force behind the household had majorly different ideas about its mission, who would live there, how it would function, everything. We all had to gently tell her, “You know, this thing sounds like it’s doomed.” She ended up deciding to back out in order to save her sanity. 

Richard: In the words of one community guru, “You think community just happens? No! Shit happens. Community takes work.”

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