Tree trunk spiral with green leaf by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

Nurture your online community with regular ritual

“A ritual is any practice that marks a time or event as special or important. The actions are imbued with meaning. They connect the present with things in the past and our hope for the future. . . . Meaning creates a feeling of stability in the midst of change. Rituals are a tool to bring meaning into our lives.”
~ Charles Vogl, The Art of Community: Seven Principles of Belonging

Rituals can help us feel more grounded, and give us an opportunity to connect with one another and with ourselves. During these extremely topsy-turvy times, we need rituals more than ever!

When I say ritual, I don’t mean big, formal rituals like weddings and funerals, but the more everyday kind, or what Oxford defines as a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone. Creating regular yearly, monthly, weekly, or even daily rituals for your online community can foster true connection.

tracking wonder questFor example, Tracking Wonder, a company I work with as a contractor, holds an online event each December called Quest. For 3-4 weeks, the company’s founder, Jeffrey Davis, provides prompts to help participants reflect on their intentions for the year ahead. “Questers” have the opportunity to join a Facebook group where they can share their experience.

During the rest of the year, every week on “Howl-Out Friday,” Questers are encouraged to share with the group something they want to celebrate on their Quest (e.g. a new habit, publication, offer, client, insight, collaboration, workshop, etc.). It’s a beautiful, supportive community where people are making great strides towards their goals. These regular weekly and annual opportunities to participate in group reflection and celebration rituals are part of what has created such strong connections.

vegan mofoVeganMofo (the Vegan Month of Food) is another example of a community participating in yearly and monthly rituals. Since 2007, VeganMoFo has brought people who are passionate about cooking and eating vegan food together by encouraging them to post every weekday during VeganMoFo month about vegan food. Participants use the hashtag #veganmofo and the hashtag for the year (e.g. #vgnmf17) to help find each other. A blogroll is also created on veganmofo.com with links to participants’ blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram feeds, Twitter feeds, and Facebook accounts to make it easier to connect.

To keep the momentum going, folks can participate in monthly MiniMofos. A MiniMofo theme is posted at the beginning of the month on the Vegan Mofo blog. For example, the January 2018 theme was Creating Warmth. At the end of the month, a round-up of what folks shared that month is posted.

art everyday monthLeah Piken Kolidas has also created a lovely community with her Art Every Day Month each November. Started in 2004, participants are encouraged to make something each day (e.g. paint, draw, knit, sew, cook, decorate, write, take a photo, make ceramics, craft jewelry) and share it on their blog and/or Instagram using the annual hashtag (e.g. #aedm2017), or in the Art Every Day Month Facebook group. The comments on Leah’s announcement of the 2017 Art Every Day Month show what this annual event and its community mean to people:

  • “Looking forward to the challenge and to seeing what the Creative Everyday ‘Family’ has been up to”
  • “This is an anchor in my life”
  • “Looking forward to connecting with other creatives this month!”
  • “The first time I participated was about 7 years ago! And this year… drum rolls…. my 9 yo daughter will be in too!!!!”

Similar to VeganMofo’s MiniMofo, Leah posts a monthly theme and check-in post for folks who want to commit to creating every day throughout the year.

april loveA final example in this genre is Susannah Conway’s, April Love. Susannah provides daily photo prompts for the month. Participants are encouraged to share their photos on Instagram with the hashtag for that year (e.g. #AprilLove2018), or in the April Love Facebook group. They can also share a link to their blog on the April Love landing page as another way to connect with each other and to “find new blogs to read and enjoy.”

Similar to Art Every Day Month, the annual nature of this event provides a touchstone for the community. One Facebook commenter wrote, “I started April Love for the first time in 2015 and it’s one of my favorite things to do during the year! I slow down and see things in an all new light!!!”

The relatively new development of video tools like Facebook Live in groups and multi-person Zoom calls can create opportunities for people to gather regularly in a real-time, interactive way online. While searching for examples of you, I found these:

Are you inspired to create a regular ritual for your community? Try these four questions to help you begin to imagine what kind of experience could nurture your online community:

  • What type of ritual(s) would benefit your community? In The Art of Community: Seven Principles of Belonging, Charles Vogl talks about three kinds of rituals: rites of passage (“the community acknowledges someone is passing from one status to another”), community display rituals (“a community where everyone participates individually and invisibly will lack a deeper cohesion”), and play rituals (“communities must have an opportunity to play together”).
  • What need would the ritual fulfill for them? Examples: self-knowledge, motivation, skills, emotional comfort, exposure to new ideas, a new habit, fun, celebration, a sense of belonging.
  • What frequency would be best for the ritual? Yearly, monthly, weekly, daily?
  • What online tool(s) and format would work best for the ritual? Consider where your community spends the most time online, their tech-comfort level, and how much time they have to devote to the ritual.

If you want to bounce around some of your ideas, share them in the comments below.

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Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

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