(Community, connection, belonging).
What it is.
Whanaungatanga refers to a sense of family connection. It’s a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging.
Whanaungatanga is about connecting to whānau or family. This includes extended family and relationships at all levels. It also includes your work and classroom “family”.
A simple way to understand whanaungatanga is that it is about relationships and expectations.
Whanaungatanga describes the ‘glue’ that holds people together in any whānau relationships. In tough times, it’s the relationship-glue of whanaungatanga that causes the whānau to gather round, provide support, and put the needs of the group before the needs of individuals. See here for further discussion.
We know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Whanaungatanga knows that children are everyone’s responsibility, not just their biological parents. The stronger the relationships are between families, the stronger communities are. Having an understanding of who you are, the contribution you can make and your place of belonging within your community are essential for the overall health of the community.
What it isn’t.
It is not about making everyone fit into the same pattern, suppressing opinions, thoughts and ideas which don’t match our own, but rather, valuing the unique contribution each person makes to the whole. It is not about pushing others out because they are not part of our whanau, but about welcoming them in.
What makes this a Christian value?
We are called to be a community gathered around and finding our identity in Christ, not divided by societal barriers, prejudices or expectations.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.Gal 3:28-29
We constantly see Jesus going to people who were ‘on the edge’, those who were regarded as sinners and beyond God’s grace by the religious leaders and restoring them to their place of belonging within the community eg Luke 7:36-50 the woman who anointed Jesus, Luke 19:1-10 Zaccheus meets Jesus. Often Jesus used the very people derided by those who considered themselves to be holy as examples of godly behaviour eg Luke 10:29-37 the good Samaritan. Everyone has value, everyone belongs.
This a challenge for us! As humans we often want to define ourselves against ‘the other’, for us to be ‘in’ and them to be ‘out’. Our society also has a strong emphasis on the individual, on ‘following your heart’ and ‘not letting anything get in the way of your dreams’. It is important to be able to stand up and speak out against life-denying and unjust behaviour of others when we see it. It is also good to have dreams and ambitions for our lives. However, if our identity hinges on excluding those ‘not like us’ and if the pursuit of our dreams comes at the expense of a commitment to community, as messy and uncomfortable as that can be at times, then we have missed something vital in following the Way of Jesus.
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.Rom 12:4-5
Valuing the place each person has, their ability to achieve and the positive contribution they make to the vibrant and multi-faceted life of the school community is key.
As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’1 Cor 12: 20-21