Being a member of only one community is called being in a cult.
In order to build a healthy sense of connection and belonging, you should design your community experience in a way that respects your members' time, space and personal choices.
That means they should feel like they belong in more than just your community.
Think about your own connections with others...
Maybe you have a group of friends from college, and a different group of friends from high school. There is your group of coworkers, even if you only see them at work. Maybe on your free time you've joined a recreational sports league and made a group of friends there, maybe it was at a regular trivia night, or the regulars at a local cafe.
Each of us is the center of a really complicated venn diagram of all the groups and communities we've been a part of. That's something that healthy communities embrace and celebrate.
When a group forces a member to choose them over other communities, they are denying a parts of the member's identity.
This can be done explicitly like in actual cults. Members of conspiracy theory groups like QAnon are attached to the world they created together and have shut out others from it.
You can also do this implicitly by requiring all of your members' time, attention and investment in order to feel like they belong. This type of group doesn't build true belonging and in fact can make members more lonely.
Your community is best when it assumes its members are the center of their own intricate web of communities.
A healthy community's role is to let each individual show up as they are while growing together in a specific area of interest.
Here are some ideas on what to consider in how you design your community.
Be very specific about:
- The why of the community
- Shared goals
- Shared values
- The rules for participating
Be accepting of:
- Each members' diverse personal why
- People of all different backgrounds and demographics
- The different ways people behave and interact (whether that be because of their unique interests, preferences, neurodivergence or schedule)
The only difference between a cult and a community is that a community respects its members individuality and encourages them to show up as themselves. This makes communities harder to lead than cults, but that's no reason to build a cult.