community

5 Ways To Grow In Christian Community

I have personally never moved before. I’ve lived at the same quaint house my whole life, across the road from a cornfield, and looking out the same windows covered by green shutters. I’ve memorized every nook and cranny on my country road, and could probably drive to my hometown blind-folded. Even when I went to college, I simply moved 15 minutes away into a dorm room on a campus where I have grown up my whole life. And even as a I looked towards graduation, I never really thought I would be moving. I thought I would be getting an apartment in Pittsburgh, preferably with one of my college friends, and be able to see my mom pretty often. Actually, until I was contacted mid-spring by a company in Lancaster, PA, I was solely looking for job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Though my uncle lived in Lancaster,  I definitely thought a four and half hour drive from home wasn’t for me. Oh, how God has a great sense of humor.

As I am writing this post today, I have currently been living in Lancaster for about a month working at my new job. I am four communityand a half hours from home and living in a place where I have to MapQuest how to get to a gas station. And though I love this  new city and this new season of life, there are definitely hardships that go along with moving somewhere new. So, I am hoping that if you are someone who has just relocated after college, moving or starting a new college or high school this September, or someone who has just  moved back home for the first time in years, you can relate to this post. Because no matter where we are, we all crave community. And, if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you are craving Christian community.

The definition of community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. It’s easy to find community when you are in college or high school. Frankly, you walk into college and everyone is just as thirsty for friendship as you are. You can virtually make friends over night. When I was in college, I literally had to decide who I could properly invest in, because there were so many great people around me and on my freshman hall. What a contrast I have now, where I moved to a big city and can attend a young adult group and no one so much as looks at me.

Maybe you, like me, are wondering why the heck it’s so hard to just make some decent friends in a new area? I’m sure you’re likable, attractive, and have plenty of offer; so why don’t you have any fish biting? Or maybe you’re so introverted that the thought of going out to meet new random people makes you want to throw up? Either way, whether you are still in college, not in college, or just graduating high school, we can all agree that we need a community to properly function as Christians.community

I know that I am not alone in the way I am feeling, actually, all my college friends are currently struggling with finding new friends and trying to find a new group in the new cities or old cities they find themselves in. I guess we’ve all just watched Friends too many times and are wondering where we can find a great co-ed group of people to just go to a new movie with on the weekends. Fear not, God wants us to live in a community.

“Live in harmony with one another.”- Romans 12:6

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”- Proverbs 27:9

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”- Hebrews 10:24

He wants us to live in community so that we can bear each other’s burdens, encourage one another, and build each other up in the Spirit of Christ. We need people to speak God’s truth to us when we are broken, are alone, or are lost. So how do we get this community? How can we as a church be better at showing community to our new young and single members?

1.Put Yourself Out There

I am a person who is 98% extroverted. I’m not kidding, every time I take my personality test it just keeps climbing up. I love to be around people, get energy from being around people, and hate to be alone. But even I get anxiety from facing the dreaded Christian young adults group. I hate walking into a social setting with hundreds of people and not even knowing a soul. Now, I am the first person to complain about having to run into people from high school, but by moving somewhere completely new, I sometimes wish I could see a familiar face. But I know what you’re going through. You bring your Bible and a notebook because you want to seem extra “Christan.” You try to go up to a group of girls because you don’t want to look like you’re thirsting for a “spiritual leader” to be your husband, And you might try not to sound too fake in your conversations and only use the words: “faithful” and “blessed” every couple of sentences.  But you need to keep this up. community

I love the quote by CS Lewis, ““In friendship…we think, we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of an another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

God brought you the people you were supposed to meet in college, in high school, through clubs, and church camps. He will bring you community where you are now too. But, you have to do your part. You can’t just pray for God to give you your dream job, but never apply to any. Likewise, you can’t cry about not having a community, but not actively seek it out. If you don’t live in a big area, travel to a bigger church that has a young adult group. Sign up for Bible studies, volunteer somewhere, try a new hobby, sign up for a gym, go to a places that will force you to interact with other people. And when you go to those places, actually go out of your way to talk to people. Join in on others people’s conversations. Make the effort to people and I promise they will reciprocate.

2. Don’t Forget About Past Community 

Luckily, we all have friends. Whether you’re the person who has a booming social community, or the person who has a small circle of friends, no one is alone. Don’t forget about reaching out to those people even if you live in different places. Keep up with those college friends and high school friends who helped shaped you to be the person you are today. Set up a time to talk to groups of friends or one friend, once a week or month. Do a Bible study with your friends over Skype. Share prayer requests, concerns, dreams, and desires with these solid relationships you already have. Let these sweet friendships you already have refresh your soul while you’re looking for a community in a new area.

3. Reach Out To Others community

If you are someone reading this who already has a solid group of friends or feel like you have a grip on your community, look out for those people who don’t. It’s so easy in Christian circles especially, to get cliquey. To be on fire for God and want to help other people, but not realize how easy it is to reach out to those around you. You don’t have to serve at a youth group, on a mission trip, or at a nonprofit to reach out to the broken. All you have to do is look at your church service on a Sunday morning or the person sitting by themselves at your young adult group. Reach out to those people, and include them in your group. You can never have too many Godly and intentional relationships. We have all been in a position where we have prayed to God to bring us, friends. We have all felt awkward in Christian circles like we probably aren’t cool enough, probably can’t do calligraphy with Bible verses, and might not lift our hands enough in worship. We have all felt like a fish out of water. So don’t ignore those people, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you right to them.

4. Be Real

Don’t put on the “Christian” act. I mean obviously, don’t self-disclose your whole life story and struggles to people you’ve just met, but don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not to get authentic Christian relationships. When I have shared with friends about my personal struggles with Christ or the times I have felt spiritually dry, I have never felt judged.  I normally am met with “me too.” This is a great way to open up some real Christian dialogue. So, if you are someone who is more reserved, don’t worry that you won’t be enough. As a wildly outgoing person, I adore quiet and wise people. Most of my best friends are talkative introverts who listen to me blather on. And if you are worried you are too much, don’t be. God will bring you the friends who can handle all your crazy. And at the end of the day, it’s exhausting to be someone you’re not. So be yourself, and let God bring you the people He wants.

5. Be Intentional community

Hopefully, with the tips above you’ll start making some friends, so be intentional with these new friendships. Once you have the foundation, you have to constantly be watering it so that it can grow. Especially new friendships. Out of sight can really be out of mind…forever. So don’t be afraid to initiate hanging out with someone you like and have recently met. To ask them to get coffee, or go out to lunch, or even to just sit with them at church. Have you ever been annoyed when someone has reached out to you in this way? Then don’t assume that other people will be annoyed when you ask. If you ask someone about themselves, take an interest in their lives, and intentionally try to see them, your friendship is going to flourish.

I hope that today you aren’t too discouraged about not having that perfect group of friends. I hope that you aren’t feeling all alone in a big city with almost too much to do but  no one to do it with. I hope that you realize that God will bring you a new community of Christian friends and that He wants to grow you through this time of being alone. To refine you by growing your patience. He loves you so much, even when you go to a young adult group and no one talks to you. He loves you even when you spend that Saturday with Netflix again. He loves you even when your best friend from college is thousands of miles away. He loves you, He has plans for you, and He has friends for you. So put yourself out there, put on some makeup, and go out in public today. Take the plunge and I guarantee it will be worth it.

 

8 Steps For A Successful Semester

1.Be willing to put your best foot forward academically, socially, spiritually.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not men.”- Colossians 3:23.

God has always given us His best so we need to do the same with our daily actions throughout the semester. This could be not skipping class to sleep in, setting aside a time of devotion every day, or including someone on your hall that isn’t your favorite. No one likes eating leftovers and God sure doesn’t like getting ours either.

2.Dedicate time to being a better friend

“ Two are better than one, because they have good return for their work; if one falls down , his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

This semester I want to be the type of friend that always puts people first, that always encourages, and is quick to listen. One of the best ways we can show Christ’s love is through our friendships. Sometimes in the busyness that comes with a college semester I fail to put my friends first like I should. I want to work on not taking the people that God has blessed me in my life with for granted. Be the friend that holds the tissue when the boy says no and the friend that screams when she gets the internship she wanted. It’s time to stop using pictures on Instagram to express our love for friendships and start living out our friendships by our actions.

3.Start thinking about what you can do for God not what He can do for you

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart.”

I think this verse is often taken way out of context. Yes, God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to start desiring what He desires to give us rather than just what we want. When we go about our daily activities this semester, we need to be asking ourselves what we are doing today that is glorifying to God. We need to work on not being afraid to say “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” and truly understanding the weight of those words. God has granted each of with gifts and callings that only we can fulfill. Don’t let the class where the teacher asks the impossible, trying to do every club on campus, or Netflix get in the way of that.

4.Seek time alone with God/ make his relationship a priority

“ But Jesus would often withdraw to lonely places and pray.”- Luke 5:16

It can be so crazy in our busy lives to find time to just sit and be still before God. But we need to accept that throwing up a quick prayer before we eat or have a test is not going to help us have an authentic relationship with Christ. We need to be actively seeking Him in our times of devotion so that we can have a relationship that grows. Now, I know how hard it is to set aside time when you want to hang with your friends, nap, or feel like you have so much homework you might explode. But setting aside time with God can help us to put Him first in our lives where He belongs. Growing in Him can be one of the ways we start to grow up ourselves.

5.Forgive those who have wronged you in the past and move forward

“ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

Forgiveness is not a word anyone likes to hear, especially when it involves a situation where they have been wronged. It’s not a secret that my earthly father has not exactly played a big role in my life. It is really hard for me sometimes to call him and love him when I know that he has never put me first. But even though it can be a daily struggle for me to forgive him, it is still harder for me to continue to hold a grudge and keep it bottled up inside. I am not saying you need to let that person back into your life that has hurt you in the past, but by not forgiving them how can you expect God to turn around and forgive you? So this semester let go and forgive the girls that were mean to you in the past or the boy that broke your heart. You might just point someone to Christ by your actions.

6.Enjoy your time of singleness

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”- Ecclesiastes 3:11

It can be really hard when you are in college to look around and be happy for the people that are in relationships when you are not. It can start to feel like your biological clock is ticking when you just turned 19 or 20. Let me tell you a little secret, God wants you to be single for a reason. He wants you to be in a relationship for a reason. If you are not in a relationship, it might be because God isn’t done with you yet, or it could be because the boy He has planned for you isn’t ready yet. God’s timing is always impeccable. Even if the guy you thought would be your prince charming isn’t. This semester instead of stressing about never getting married or feeling like you wear a perpetual “Friendzone Me” T-shirt, take some time to truly enjoy it. Go out with your girlfriends, invest in the guy friends you have and make as many as you can, buy a new outfit to make yourself feel beautiful just because, and have that extra scoop of ice cream. Use this time to fall so in love with God that you no longer need a boy to know your worth.

7.Gossip less

“ A gossip betrays a confidence but a trustworthy person can keep a secret.”- Proverbs 11:18

“ Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only things that are good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”- Ephesians 4:29

Watching what I say is easily one the things that I struggle with the most. We can remember every single thing that a mean girl said to us in high school, the time a boy called us ugly or fat, or when our “best friend” told someone she thought we were annoying. Yet we forget to recognize that we so easily have done the same things to others. We need to be the type of friends that when we get frustrated with each other our first instinct isn’t to run to another friend and complain. We need to be the type of friends that can keep secrets. I know how much fun it can be to be the person who has the scoop at a sleepover, but it shows so much more maturity to keep the promise you kept. We were put on this earth to lift each other up and be encouraging, not to complain, ridicule, swear, and to hurt. Don’t say something in your haste and anger that you can’t ever take back.

8.Don’t stress

“ If God is within her she will not fail.”- Psalm 46:5

“ This is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, hardships, insults, persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.”- 1 Corinthians 12:10

The hard part about being a Christian is that we are going to face trials. We are going to face semesters where our class loads seem insurmountable, we face problems back home, and we feel abandoned by God. In these stressful times, we need to remember to rely on God before we rely on ourselves. He alone promises to make our burdens light, if we turn to Him. No matter how many times you stress cry over a test, eat dinner alone, or feel like you can’t do it anymore, God has never left your side. You are not a failure for admitting you need help. So this semester try to truly let go and Let God. He holds our whole world in His hands, He will not let us fall without picking us back up.