June 1, 2015

Alone Again, Naturally

When local TV reporters ask an apprehended criminal's neighbor what he is like, they get this response, "I don't really know him. He keeps himself to himself." Unfortunately, the neighbors of a law-abiding church member in my area might say exactly the same thing.

We don't talk to our geographical neighbors and are barely acquainted with our fellow believers. Sure, a few Christians are so welcoming that they could use revolving doors on their houses. But, in general, I think we are neglecting community. And, it is hurting us.

Researchers say that without connections, we decrease our life span. They point to the increased use of impersonal technology for interaction, longer job commutes and the tendency to move away from hometowns as causes for our social isolation.  As I talk to people in my church, I sense that Christians are not immune to these circumstances.

On his website, Robert Putnam, who wrote Bowling Alone, documents social trends from the last 25 years. His research shows that there has been a 58% drop in attending club meetings, a 43% drop in family dinners and a 35% drop in having friends over.

It seems to me that the church reflects the culture in this regard. If so, it is disturbing that there is a decline in participation where the church should excel. The Bible values attending worship services and church meetings (Hebrews 10:25), teaching our family to love God as we go about our daily routines (Deuteronomy 6:7) and meeting the fellowship and relationship needs of other Christians (III John 5, 6). Instead, we do what is natural for us by neglecting to spend time together for spiritual benefit.

Motivated by reports of what loneliness does to our physical and mental health and, perhaps, recognizing something God has written on the heart, groups of secular women are seeking to reestablish these lost connections. An April 2015 Real Simple article, "Let's Get Together and Feel all Right," tells of one woman who opens her home every Friday for a shared meal. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, the concept went viral around the world and she started FridayNightMeatballs.com with the slogan, "Building Community, one dinner at a time."  

As Christian women, we have more resources and motivation for reconnection than those who start a non-sectarian sorority or supper club. The need for fellowship, hospitality and sharing one another's burdens comes from God. So, He gives believers the power to do what He calls us to do. In addition, the Holy Spirit prompts us to celebrate our common bond with those who are in Christ.

In my own church, the leaders are thinking about how they can help us fight our natural tendencies to keep ourselves to ourselves in order to know one another better. The overall goal is increased love among believers. Then, hopefully, our neighbors will respond, when asked what they know about us, "I see how they love one another."

We want to hear what your church is doing to promote community. Please tell us below.


  1. In our church, I am so thankful for the women who faithfully use their phones to call or text members who are missing in action. They aren't part of a program or a committee, but their genuine love and willingness to give a few minutes from their busy days lets weary and struggling people know they are missed and are welcome back anytime.

  2. And, as the pastor's wife, I'm glad it's not left up to me. I think a call from a pastor's wife might be (wrongly) perceived as "you've been naughty; teacher's calling" while a call from another church member just seems like love.

  3. I love the community at our church. I'm sure there are people who still feel left out, sadly, but I do know that the leadership is regularly working on ways to help bring people together. During the summer we have a standing park play date for any women and children who are able to come. Our men just started a quarterly meeting for purposefully encouraging each other in their roles of godly leadership.
    I think one struggle for our church has been making sure to include the women who work and don't have the free time during the week. We have several nurses who have some more flexibility in their schedule, but of course there are several women who work a regular 8-5 job and aren't as able to come to things during the week. That's when the modern communication comes in really handy, but I think more face time would be helpful!

    1. CristyLynn, i am glad to hear about your church's community. I work outside the home and understand what you are saying about those in the 9-5 world. There are evening studies and meetings that I can attend, but they don't attract women with younger children. So, there tends to be a segregation of ages

  4. Women's Bible studies have (for the most part) not helped me feel connected in our church. They tend to run 6-8 weeks only and most focus on the Bible study, with no prayer time or community-building time. This past year our church has formed Journey Groups, consisting of one older woman and 2-3 younger women. We use High Quest quiet time guides and meet weekly for an hour to discuss what we learned and pray. For the first time since coming to our 800 person church, I feel consistently connected. It's not perfect, but it's met a lacking need of community (at least for those who have joined a Journey Group).

    I think one guiding principle is: the more avenues you have to meet the need, the better you'll meet it. For instance, at one church I attended, instead of having 7 PM Wednesday prayer meeting, the church had multiple prayer meetings throughout the week, at different times of the day/week. Rather than having 10 people attend a single prayer meeting, they ended up with many more people attending over the course of each week.

    I'm eager to read others' comments!

    1. Hi, J Thanks for commenting. Here are a few examples from my church: A woman in my church, who loves babies, started a fellowship group that meets at the church (one morning a week, I think) for young moms. She is a wise woman with older children, and I am sure she brings biblical teaching to the women by example. The moms love the group.
      We host a lunchtime Chili Cookoff on the first fall Sunday that the university students are back in school. Church members make chili and compete for prizes like hottest ♨️ chili and most unusual (You can only imagine!). We get to feed and welcome students and have fun in the process. Although this event has grown quite large, it does bring all ages together. It exudes a happenin' spirit.

  5. I like the idea of drawing unbelievers in and making the Gospel attractive as unbelievers see loving, Christian community. I saw an interview with a pastor awhile ago that basically said that when their church aimed at community for communities sake--it didn't seem to happen. But when they aimed for mission-they got community as a by-product. By aiming for mission I mean a group of Christians having a team mindset in reaching their community/neighborhood/people group for Christ. Since a major reason we are left to live life in this world is to preach the Gospel to all nations (including our own neighborhoods) I think that is a double bonus. Think about the times you've been on a team with a goal of accomplishing something- or those who have fought an enemy in battle. Those are the relationships that last and people never forget.

  6. Kristen, thanks for mentioning another aspect of this subject that I was not able to cover in one blog posting. I think we have two types of neighbors: those non-Christians who live or work in our "neighborhood" and Christians who are part of our faith community. It is important to spend time with both groups in order to show forth Christ's love.


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