Finding real community through soul-deep relationships can be hard! When you know you need friendships, where do you start? Check out these three places!
3 Places to Find Community When You are Desperate
If you are anything like I was, you are really tired of existing without real, deep community. And you struggle with what to do about it because your days feel both totally full and vitally empty. You are working through real struggles in isolation and the weight of that reality hangs over your heart like a cloud much of the time.
A few years ago when the realization that I was seriously lacking in personal community came crashing down on me (thank you post-natal hormones!) the biggest struggle I had was determining where to start. I wanted to form a community of people who could have soul-deep friendship with me. People who could encourage me and whom I could encourage that were close enough for spur of the moment coffee dates and babysitting help. I had great friends who were scattered throughout the world but I needed real, intimate friendships close to home. I think we all do.
My days were spent nursing my infant daughter, reading, and searching social media for a connection it could not provide. Even though I understood my need for real connection, I had no idea how to form those relationships. It has taken me years of reading and personal experience to come to this conclusion. It won’t feel like rocket science when I say it but I PROMISE it is intensely practical for you today. Here it is:
God is sovereign.
Yep. Everything I am about to say flows from a belief in the sovereignty of God. What does that mean? God is in control of all things and that means He places people and situations right in front of you for a reason. The neighborhood you live in, the people you work with, and the people you go to church with are no accident. Like it or not, these people have a connection to you because God desires that in your life today. That doesn’t mean that you will always have to have these people in your life but for today, God has designed your life to have these connections. Do not misunderstand me, there are situations and relationships that are not safe and you need to get out of. That is not what I am talking about here.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The same God who has commanded us to “love one another”, “bear one another’s burdens”, and “forgive one another” has put the very people He wants us to practice this with around us. #HospitableHomemaker #Christianity #Community #Relationships #Welcome” quote=”The same God who has commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34-35), “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and “forgive one another” (Ephesians 4:32) has put the very people He wants us to practice this with around us.”]
The same God who has commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34-35), “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and “forgive one another” (Ephesians 4:32) has put the very people He wants us to practice this with around us. It is no accident. Because of this, whether it is comfortable or not, we have the opportunity to grow in our community today. Here is how that fleshes out…
Because God is sovereign, He has provided many people I need and people who need me in close proximity. I can either embrace that reality and start living like it or I can fight against it and maintain my discouragement.
I believe the best way to start building community when you don’t have one is to start close. This is where I think you should look:
Your church is vitally important to your spiritual growth. It doesn’t matter if it is at an inconvenient time or you don’t particularly like the people or anything else you can think of. It is vitally important and irreplaceable for your Christian life. Sermons on the internet and Christian music in the car will never replace it. Volunteering with friends when time permits will never replace it. Christian books or meeting with Christian friends to “do life” will never replace it. Do not buy this lie. The New Testament never talks about a Christian apart from a local church. Don’t think you can start that now.
That being said, your local church (assuming it is a Biblical church – if not, look for one here) is probably the best place to start looking for community. The people you find there will likely come from a different background, be different ages, and have different interests than you but that is not a bad thing. Christian community doesn’t develop only around shared interest but around the gospel and your friendships have the opportunity to be far richer than ones that only center on your current stage of life or interest.
Look to your church to start building community.
But, I know most churches are not full of people seeking community so how can you practically start this when no one around you seems to care? Here are a few ideas:
Just have someone over. Make a meal in the crockpot before you go to church and plan to find someone who is free for lunch. This is one of my favorite ways to welcome. I have been very blessed when others have done this for me and I always enjoy doing it with others. If Sundays after church are hard for you, invite someone over during the week. Too afraid to cook? Go out to dinner or to coffee together. You may get turned down by a few people but chances are, you will find many people who are just as desperately looking for community but don’t know how to start.
For more quick ideas on planning a gathering that everyone will love, check out my free download – 15 Gatherings You Can Plan in 15 Minutes
If just walking up to random people at church and inviting them over to your house sounds absolutely crazy to you, volunteer for something at the church. Join a committee or team for something you are interested in. Maybe you can serve in the church nursery and that can give you the chance to meet the others who serve there without the awkwardness of first encounters. Maybe you can volunteer for a music team or food pantry or cleaning crew. There are usually a lot of ways that churches can use volunteers so be proactive in this. It will likely help you find people you can start to form relationships with.
This is literally the easiest thing to do but if you really are intimidated by reaching out to others at your church or maybe you are just new to the church and volunteering isn’t really an option, just stay later or go to a coffee hour if they offer it. Hang around after church and look for people to engage with. The longer you stay, the less people there will be and those who remain are usually those who are pretty happy to chat.
Your local church is an excellent place to start the search for real soul-deep community in your life. It has proved to be a tremendous blessing to me in my pursuit of this and it honestly helps me in the other areas. When I have real friendships within my local church I have people who can pray for me as I pursue neighbors and coworkers and if those people reject me, I can still be encouraged because I have people in my church community who are still there.
God placed you in your neighborhood. You may not be living in your dream home (I know I’m not) but God still gave you this place for this time. God, in His sovereignty, orchestrated your life and the lives of your neighbors so that today you live close by. You may feel like all of the people around you are annoying or indifferent or too young or too old or any other human qualification we put on such things. BUT God placed you and them there for today and He has perfect knowledge. Do not miss the opportunity you have to reach out. It is way too easy to get comfortable with seclusion when what you really need is relationships.
You have an opportunity to show Christ to your neighnors but neighborhood ministry is not just about how you can reach out to others. Neighborhood ministry is about living real life like Jesus. In real life you have needs. Developing relationships with neighbors means you know who needs a meal when someone is sick and you know who needs dog watching for vacation but it also means that you have people you can turn to in those times for your own family. No one wants to feel like your project. Offer to help with a project around someone’s house but also be thankful when someone offers to help you. Opening the door to your life is a very genuine start to evangelism and then no one has to feel like a project.
If you want some VERY practical encouragement, check out this post my friend Angela at Everyday Welcome shared with us.
And for more discussion on the sovereignty of God in placing you in your neighborhood, check out this post.
Other than this blog and babysitting my niece and nephew in high school, I have never really loved any of my jobs. Some were better than others but none of them were things I was particularly passionate about. But honestly, my enjoyment of my task at work or even my natural friendships with people I work with are not the priority when it comes to creating a community with coworkers. This again comes down to the sovereignty of God. You may not have your dream job but you don’t have to in order to form real relationships and pursue people with the love of Christ. You can love your coworkers well and seek community beyond mere hellos exchanged in the hall no matter your opinion of the place you work. So how do we do this?
This is key to forming community in any venue. People need to know they are not projects for you and that you genuinely want real relationships with them. In order to accomplish this, you need to really listen to what people have to say. Don’t come with canned answers or half effort because people can smell that a mile away. If you want genuine community to form with your coworkers, you need to listen to them.
This is one I have never been particularly good at but I recently watched a friend of mine develop excellent workplace relationships because he was not afraid to invite. His coworkers became guests in his home and people he sought opportunities to support. Though his job was nothing special, the people there were to him and you could tell. This meant many meals spent together after work in his home and theirs. It meant babysitting their children, volunteering alongside them, and yes, inviting them to church. They formed real relationships that didn’t end when 5pm rolled around. Because of this, many of those relationships continued even after jobs and situations changed. This is an excellent way to showcase a difference in your life and build real trust. Invite your coworkers into your life.
Earlier I said you should listen and I do firmly believe that but you should listen to your coworkers’ hearts. You should hear their stories of joy and sadness, victory and defeat. You should walk alongside them through your listening ear in their circumstances BUT you should not listen to gossip. It is incredibly easy for workplace relationships to center almost entirely around gossip. There are a million problems with this including:
- It is sinful (Ephesians 4:29). God desires that your speech always build others up. If you are spending your working hours gossiping about others you are destroying the opportunities you do have.
- It destroys real relationship. First of all, how can anyone trust you if you are constantly listening to gossip? They never know if next you will turn on them. Also, you are building your relationship on something entirely temporary. If one person leaves the job, will you maintain a relationship? If your relationship is based on gossip, there is a pretty good chance the relationship will fade (with several hurt people in its wake) when the shared space no longer exists.
- It hurts everyone involved. When we participate in gossip, we hurt the person we are talking about, we hurt our testimonies, and we hurt the person speaking because they learn nothing about how to relate in a positive way.
I wish that I had been more intentional in my years in the regular workforce about building real and lasting community. The same God Who provided for your needs through this job is also providing in the same way for your coworkers. You have common ground – seek it out! Look for ways to build intentional, real relationships!
God Meeting Your Need for Community Close to Home
All those years ago as I sulked about my situation and the struggle I was feeling without any real community, I didn’t know God was already at work to change my situation. For a year we lived in an apartment and I thought about how I should reach out to my neighbors without actually making any effort. Then I started to pray that God would meet my need for friends. I got out of my car outside my house and ended up meeting one of my dearest friends on the sidewalk. She was a neighbor who moved in about the same time I did. If I had just obeyed the prompting in my heart to reach out, I would have had that friend an entire year earlier and life probably would have looked much different than it did. Read more of that story here.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The same God Who placed in you a desire and a need for real, soul-deep friendships also placed you in specific circumstances with specific people. He knows what you need and He is in the business of providing for His people. #HospitableHomemaker #Community” quote=”The same God Who placed in you both a desire and a need for real, soul-deep friendships also placed you in specific circumstances with specific people. He knows what you need and He is in the business of providing for His people. “]
The same God Who placed in you both a desire and a need for real, soul-deep friendships also placed you in specific circumstances with specific people. He knows what you need and He is in the business of providing for His people. Seek His face, ask for His direction, and move forward in faith believing that God will meet with you as you genuinely seek to love people well for His glory. What joy it is to live in genuine community and have friends who are allies in this life close enough to have coffee!
What about you? How are you doing with community? Do you have real, soul-deep friends? Are you actively seeking those relationships? How? Have you ever struggled with not having these relationships? Are you struggling now? Let me know in the comments below!