Is Church Helping You Make Real Friends?

A parishioner once told me that she didn’t need to make friends in church.  She already had friends.  There was her church life (worship, Bible study, meetings) and there was her friend life (job, dinner parties, margaritas.)

That was 30 years ago and I wonder if the same is true today.  We have divided lives and what happens on Sunday doesn’t necessarily impact what happens the rest of the week.

This article: Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore is not about church.  And yet it teaches us about 21st Century Church World.

In a nutshell:

  • Digital access makes it possible for us to work all the time.  A friend mentioned to me yesterday that he got a Committee on Ministry call while on vacation in Idaho recently.
  • Most people do not work a 9 to 5 schedule Monday – Friday.
  • 80% of those working for hourly wages have a fluctuating schedule which means they cannot count on having the last Friday of the month off to meet a friend. “Forty percent of hourly employees get no more than seven days’ notice about their upcoming schedules; 28 percent get three days or fewer.”
  • In a gig economy with multiple jobs, it’s hard to schedule down time.
  • Those with salaries are often expected to be available particularly long hours – and weekends.

All this translates into less time with both families and friends.  Some of us lsee the people we live with, but just barely.  Judith Shulevitz writes

I’m nostalgic for that atmosphere of repose—the extended family dinners, the spontaneous outings, the neighborly visits. 

There is less time it seems for “shared hours” between people who want to be together. And while some people want to be with their spiritual communities to the point of making it an intentional event in their lives, more people increasingly do not have the need to have an intentional spiritual community – much less hang out with them on a weekly basis.

The ramifications for Church are obvious:  fewer people are free to gather for Sunday services, fewer people want to gather for Sunday services, and Sunday services that perpetuate the busy-ness are missing the point of Sabbath.

And so how about we who lead congregations ask ourselves two questions:

  1. What about our system stresses an already stressed out people?  Do we make it easy to participate?  Do we shame people into volunteering or participating in activities?
  2. Are we authentic with each other?  I will indeed divide my relationships into “friend groups” and “church groups” if I cannot tell the truth about my own imperfections.  (Yes, I drink a little.  Yes, I see a therapist.  No, my children are not going to win Nobel Prizes.)

Just two questions.

Deep relationships are what God intends for us for the purpose of community-making and support.  If you had a crisis, who would you call after 911?  Maybe it depends on the crisis.  But I hope that whomever we call also commits to praying with and for us.  And bringing us soup.

Image of M2M worshiping community in Charlotte.  Interesting idea: There’s a church in Florida that offers an occasional Wine Study and Bible Tasting.

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