Today’s singles are far lonelier, I think, than singles of decades past. It’s a theory for which I have no real proof outside of my own observation, but given the nature of western culture and the habits of my millennial (and younger) peers, I think it’s fairly valid. Singles are lonelier, and there’s a very obvious reason why:
Today’s Christian singles lack real community.
I saw it happen in the bustling college city where I lived and worked for five years. I saw it happen on the little streets of my bayside Michigan town where I grew up. I’ve read it in emails from single women all over the world: they are lonely, and they think a relationship with a man will fix the problem. So they read the articles and buy the books and wait and wait and wait… while the loneliness carries on.
Last week I shared how loneliness is a human problem, not a singleness problem – and that marriage won’t fix it. Marriage can be intensely isolating at times. That’s why our lonely singles should not be asking, “How do I find a romantic relationship?” but another question entirely – one that will have a far more holistic effect on their lives.
The number one question singles should be asking is: “Am I surrounded by and connected to a thriving community of people?”
Why community? How could this #authentic word have anything to do with solving loneliness?
Because God created us communal people. “It is not good for the man to be alone” said much about marriage and the companionship therein, but it also said much about the nature of humanity in general. We are made to commune with one another; to discuss, think, talk, move, help, and create with one another.
For young people in the church, social media has usurped much of the role true community used to serve. We no longer sit on our porches, get to know neighbors, or spend a lot of time volunteering. We move in the same familiar circles, afraid to step out and put down roots. We cling to old friends and are threatened by new ones, judging others by our own insecurities and wondering – with each passing day – why the loneliness gets worse.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can live out community and relationship on a thriving, fulfilling level before we ever meet a guy. But it requires getting out of our comfort zones and into the community that’s right in front of us – right under our feet.
I have lived in four different states over the years – four different cities, each distinctly different in culture, priority, and pace. There were things I didn’t like about each of them – and things I now miss with all my heart. I first left my Michigan hometown to get away from the snow and slow-paced environment. My new city had a mall and a Target – a major step up in my 21-year-old eyes – but was constantly fluctuating as college students graduated and left. If you weren’t on campus or hanging out with coworkers, it was hard to make lasting friendships. I found myself missing the familiarity and closeness of my small town. I had taken community for granted, and I missed it when I was gone.
At first, I dealt with this by refusing to connect with my new community. I didn’t want to invest because I didn’t plan to stay. But in my journey to contentment, I learned God wants us to invest wherever we are – no matter how long we’re there. His Will starts where our feet are planted.
You too can form community in your city – whether it’s enormous and urban or a one-stoplight map dot. Here are some things you can do:
- Join a club or group, or start one. If you like to run or bike, there are ALWAYS other runners and bikers ready to join up for weekly excursions!
- Take a class. Have you always wanted to learn pottery? This is your time! Join a writing group or club to tune your craft.
- Sign up to receive email updates from your local Chamber of Commerce or department of tourism. You’ll stay apprised of new events, businesses, and markets – all of which connect you to the city while also providing great outings with friends.
- Volunteer. Every city has a need; you simply have to look for it. Whatever your skill set, start looking for local organizations where you can offer your talents for the good of others.
The first thing I recommend to gals moving into a new city, or looking to connect where they are – find a Bible believing, preaching church, and get involved! If you have always grown up in the same church and find that it is no longer meeting your spiritual needs, it may be time to explore other options in your area. This will be trial and error. Over the years, Josh and I have attended Baptist, Presbyterian, charismatic, Pentecostal, and nondenominational churches. We allowed ourselves to be pulled outside our comfort zones by the preaching and worship styles of these different denominations – and this has been pivotal both to our marriage and to my ministry!
Once you find a church that fits your stage of life and spiritual need, begin serving. Give of yourself to the body of Christ. Everyone is busy; you will only get busier than you are now as a single woman! So make time to serve in your church in whatever capacity you can. Churches are always looking for more people to serve, and if there isn’t a great spot for you, you can even develop one based on needs you see!
A few more ideas for getting connected to church community:
- Don’t segregate yourself into a singles or college age group. These are awesome, and you should definitely be involved. But also get to know the older and younger members of your congregation – that’s what community is about.
- Get to know the church leadership. If possible, get to know the pastoral staff and their wives. Learn what their hearts are for the church and its people.
- Find a mentor or accountability partner. Christian community serves to draw us nearer to God so we can disciple others! We need both in our lives.
- Invite others to join you at your church. This can lead to great conversations and deeper relationships!
- Remember that the church is flawed. It’s easy to judge fellow believers harshly, but there is a place for a loving rebuke and place for grace – know the difference.
- If your church doesn’t have a midweek bible study or small group, start one! Stay connected throughout the week.
Finally, your friend group is a central piece to your sense of community. If you don’t have a thriving group of friends – especially of believers – you’re going to feel much lonelier than you should. Making friends is not easy! In many ways it’s like dating – where you wonder if the other person likes you, if they want to hang out, if they’re ready to go to the next level, etc. The best way to deal with the uncertainty is to just dive in! Stop worrying about what people think of you, release the need to be liked by everyone, and enjoy the relationships God develops!
Where do you find friends if you’re starting from scratch? Many of these will begin in the above mentioned groups, classes, and church events. This is where you meet people and learn to connect through conversation. If you’re not good at small talk and going deeper, start researching this- it’s a skill necessary to being an adult, and even to being a Christian. Part of loving others is learning how to release insecurity and talk to them without fear.
A few ways you can expand your friend group:
- After getting to know someone over a few days/dates, turn the conversation to deeper topics. Ask questions about spiritual life, church, childhood, and family – just be discerning as you discuss these things so you can decide which to ask more about and which your new friend isn’t comfortable discussing.
- Invite friends-of-friends to events you host. Host small parties to make Pinterest crafts, plan meals, or study for school. Find local events and attend together.
- When invited out by another person, say “yes” to one event for every one you decline. Even if you are an introvert! Believe it or not, extroverts get tired of going out, too. I often have to force myself to say “yes”, but I’m always glad I did so!
- Have people to dinner, even if it’s just 3-4 and you all bring something.
Community takes effort. It won’t happen on its own. Look at your life and ask this pivotal question: “Am I connected to a thriving community? Where could I improve?”
As you develop relationships and deepen your ties to the area in which you live, you’ll find a much greater sense of contentment in this season. Take it from someone who’s been there: this is time not meant to be wasted.
Want to read more on this topic? Chapter three of Fruitful: A Year Long Guide to an Abundant Single Season will delve more into this topic! Sign up below to be first in line for the launch September 1st, 2017!