The longer I’m in ministry, the more often I hear it; Christian women are lonely and craving relationships.
It seems like such a simple problem to correct, if you want some friends then just make some, right?
But the truth is that most of us modern women struggle to build relationships. Especially in the church, where women sometimes hang on to past hurts from previous communities. Add in our society-wide migration to online-only connection, and you’ve got a recipe for loneliness among women in your church.
Maybe you are lonely yourself, and craving community. Maybe you have lots of friends, but are looking for ways to get others plugged in to the family life of your church. Make a pact with me not to waste your summer, and instead use it to pursue others and strengthen the bonds of sisterhood in the local church.
Make this summer the summer that you and other women in your church intentionally promote community.
Here are ten practical ways to develop community and friendship with other women in your church.
1. Turn your summer hobbies into opportunities for connecting. My friend Naomi has this sprawling garden filled with vegetables, fruit and flowers; and she uses it to bless and connect with other women in our congregation. Between teaching others how to grow food and sharing her harvest, she’s turned a typically solitary activity into an opportunity to foster better relationships with other women.
Maybe you have some other summer hobby that you can use to draw others in. Whatever you like to to do during the dog days, bring along a friend to teach and encourage.
2. Re-think solo family vacations. Growing up, summer vacations were family-only events. But now, I believe that family-only vacations are a bit of a wasted opportunity. Could you imagine how excited you would be if you were the new girl at church, and somebody invited you along on a camping weekend, amusement park visit or trip to the beach?
3. Take the drudgery out of someone’s summer chores. Garage sales, yard work, dog walking, school supply shopping etc; these summer activities are way less sucky with some help. If another woman needs assistance with summer responsibilities, offer to help out. A friend who will help you move from one apartment to another in the middle of August is pretty much a friend forever.
4. Invite other women to study with you. My friend Alison had the brilliant idea to do a Bible study online over the summer. Uh, hello. how smart is that? No need to work meetings around vacations or trips home from college; all women in your congregation can participate from their computer or phone. You could start an online discussion on a book or sermon series together too. Of course, studying in-person is excellent too!
5. Volunteer for church and community service together. Many churches and local charities host things like VBS and fundraisers in the warmer summer months. Make a point to sign up and meet people who are passionate about the same things you are. Even better; specifically invite a friend to serve alongside you. The more, the merrier.
6. Designate one day a week to be your day to pursue community. Be disciplined. Pick a day once a week where you will devote yourself to reaching out to different women, and stick with it. Most of us have the best of intentions for calling ladies, or inviting others over. Then the summer just slips away from us too quickly, and we realize that we haven’t made the most of our summer free time. Mark it on your calendar, set an alarm; whatever you have to do to make community time a priority.
7. Summer play dates aren’t just for moms. Seriously. Invite the women with grown kids or no kids to your kiddie-pool “play dates” too. Some women without kids won’t be into it, and that’s okay. But a lot of women just wanna hang out with other women, even if they have to put up with some screaming from kids to do it. Consider having Saturday or evening play dates sometimes, so the working moms can hang as well.
Most of us don’t intend to make our social circles exclusive, but it happens anyway. Work to eliminate those divisions among the women in your church, and make your social activities more inclusive. Those efforts benefit the entire church community over the long-term.
8. Be spontaneous. At least once a month in the summer, I make a last-minute run to the supermarket or drive-thru for frozen desserts. But before I go, I randomly shoot a text to a woman in the church that I think might be home. “I’m getting a milkshake, you want in on this or what?”
I’ve literally never had a woman turn me down for a free treat and a short visit unless they just weren’t home (although sometimes they ask me for something a little less fattening). You never know what kind of day somebody has had, and that cherry limeade you brought to their house on a whim might have just made their day.
9. Regularly pray for another woman in church this summer, and let her know she’s being prayed for. I’m not sure this requires explanation, but it’s the most powerful idea on the list and yet it requires so little of your time. Our pastor recently encouraged our congregation to pray over our entire membership list. Consider making a list of all the women in your church, and praying over that list this summer. Let the women know that others are petitioning the Lord on their behalf.
10. That woman in your church who seemed standoffish before? This summer, try again. We are all human. You might have been perplexed when another woman seemed uninterested in your last invite. Many women have been betrayed, disappointed or ignored by previous church families, and it may take them a while to warm up to you. Or maybe they really were interested, but you caught them on a bad day.
Make this summer the summer you get a little braver, and try again. It’s better to put yourself out there and get turned down than to have a lonely sister in your congregation who feels like she has no friends.