WORKING ON CAPITOL HILL: Your August Recess Resolution – Finding Community on the Hill

By Bret Bernhardt

You’ve just returned from a week or two out of the office. During that time you’ve been on a vacation, participating in a codel, or working in the state or district.

Bret Bernhardt, former chief of staff for senators Don Nickles and Jim DeMint.

Now you’re back in DC in your normal work routine with your familiar surroundings, including your staff colleagues and the people you hang with outside of your job.

For some, it may be a happy and fulfilling return. For others, it might be a reminder that the break from the routine was a needed respite from life in Washington. If it’s the latter, that merits evaluating whether or not you have a healthy community around you in which to live and thrive.

What Does Real Community Look Like?

Finding a community where we belong is something we all need; it’s not just a phenomenon on Capitol Hill. However, this need is accentuated on the Hill because of the frenetic activity, which is unavoidable and easily becomes all-consuming.

This activity can be mistaken for community, but more often than not, it’s is a veneer that’s part of our search of true community and belonging. It’s important to understand what real community looks like. As believers in Christ, we look to the scriptures for the answer.

It’s hard to pick one place in the Bible to find what genuine community looks like because the Bible is essentially a continuous story of community, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. The Bible describes a loving God whose heart is to create and nurture community for His creation.

“Finding a community where we belong is something we all need; it’s not just a phenomenon on Capitol Hill. However, this need is accentuated on the Hill because of the frenetic activity, which is unavoidable and easily becomes all-consuming.”

Beginning with creation, God sought to have man and woman exist in harmony with Him and each other. This story is played out throughout the Scriptures and culminates in a completed community, the new Heaven and Earth where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away,” according to Revelation 21:4.

As we consider this description of community, someone with even a vague understanding of the Bible knows there is anything but such perfect communal harmony as the story flows from Genesis to Revelation. In fact, it is filled with stories antithetical to community, plus it also describes the dynamic tension between man and God in the creation of a healthy community.

Given God’s idea of community, how can we imagine any community we belong to even remotely resembling His ideals in the scriptures? And they are indeed ideals, His for us. It’s how He started the story and the way He will finish it. But, in the meantime we’re left with the imperfect application of these principles.

Three Character Traits of Community

What are the characteristics of these principles that God intended to be attributes of His community? First, there is relationship with Him. Second, there is relationship with each other. And finally there is a relationship with a bigger audience, a larger community you might say, the world itself.

To find the community you are looking for on the Hill requires thinking through these three aspects of healthy relationships.

In my years on the Hill in various capacities, I found those staff with staying power had a strong community around them. I’ve described this before in an earlier post as the vibrancy of their faith, family, and friends, their communities.

The quality of your community will only be as strong as your understanding of who God is in your life. And a big part of this understanding comes in your obedience to Him.

Obedience to God is the starting point for conquering our self-will and replacing it with His perfect will. He understands this is vital to developing our relationships with the rest of His creation.

This will carry through in your relationships with others. Because, often times relationships with others require sacrifice, subordinating our wishes and desires to others’ needs. This is the key to healthy community. This is the foundation for your relationships with others and the larger community around you.

“The quality of your community will only be as strong as your understanding of who God is in your life.”

Simply put, having friends or a close-knit community requires first being a friend. Think of those people you like being with the most. Often, they are thinking more about you when you are with them than they are of themselves. Now, how can you emulate that? Once you do, you’ll have community and friends in abundance.

How do you go about this, especially if you’re new to the Hill or have tried with little success to be part of a community of friends? The answer lies in taking the steps to engage with others in a meaningful way. Finding this community takes effort and time.

In my next post here on HillFaith, we’ll explore specific ways you can find and develop substantial relationships that will be your support and help in good as well as difficult times.

Bret Bernhardt served on the Hill as chief of staff to senators Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is now a member of the board of directors of Faith & Law and the Conservative Partnership Institute.

Looking for a Hill Job?

Check out this five-part HillFaith series by Bret Bernhardt. He has a wealth of experience, insider insight, how-tos and obscure terms (know what a “golden reference” is on the Hill?), plus lots of helpful links.

The Best Resources for Finding a Job On the Hill

Where Your Best Job Lead is on Capitol Hill May Surprise You

Getting in the Door on Capitol Hill

Here’s Nine Valuable Tips for Interviewing Well on Capitol Hill

Working on Capitol Hill is the World’s Best Job (Or at Least My Best Ever)


Author: Mark Tapscott

Follower of Christ, devoted husband of Claudia, doting father and grandfather, conservative lover of liberty, journalist and First Amendment fanatic, former Hill and Reagan aide, vintage Formula Ford racer, Okie by birth/Texan by blood/proud of both, resident of Maryland. Go here: