your single friends need you (probably more than you need them)

A few years ago I was sitting with my housemate and we both got a text message from a married friend. She was letting us know that she’d had some medical issues arise. There’d been some preliminary testing that was either worrisome or inconclusive enough to warrant further investigations. So she was going to have more tests done and was asking for us to be prayerful.

My friend and I both thought to respond in the same way and I sent a message back including “I hope you have some friends journeying this with you”. We later discovered that this was considered to be a strange kind of response. There she was informing us as her friends and inviting us to be part of the process – why were we questioning whether she was including her friends? Ultimately as a married person the need to contact friends was triggered far later in the process than it might have been for a Single person. A Single person who is experiencing negative health symptoms would probably contact a friend straight away. A Single person would seek the opinion of a friend or family member to know if they should go and get that checked out. A Single person might let a friend know that they’re going to a doctors appointment and perhaps even invite them to come along. So by the time further testing was required a Single person may have included their friend/s a lot more in the process. The reality is that for the married friend she had been processing all that with her husband up until that point.

Single people can have different expectations and requirements of friendship.

For a Single person, their friends are the entirety of their network of advice giving, problem-solving and listening. For those who are married and in a family environment a friend serves a different purpose. If circles of trust were to be drawn a spouse might find themselves at the very core and then friends at varying stages of distance in the widening concentric circles. For a Single person without a spouse at that core, often friends are drawn into a place of higher trust, of higher reliance; of higher connectedness.

What this creates is a potential power and need imbalance in friendships. Where the Single person requires more of you than you require of them. Where your name would be listed closer to their inner circle than their name would to yours. A friend of mine recently recounted a revelation she’d had of this when her Single friend asked her to come around to look at her new flooring. She thought it was an odd request until she connected with the fact that she would have had numerous interactions with her husband over new flooring and not felt the need to tell others – whereas her Single friend might not have had any engagement about her floors with anyone else. Perhaps a trivial example, but a helpful illustration of the different experiences.

This plays itself out in many ways, including socially. Where a planned social gathering might be additional to your weekly social calendars and fuller household, it can be the entirety of a Single person’s social connectedness. Where a cancelled dinner or a lack of invitation might result in you having a more quiet night at home, for a Single that could equate to being completely alone.

My friend Nancy and I talked about this recently as we sat across from one another at dinner. I made the observation that I needed that interaction more than she did. She’s married and is also a mum and as we talked some more she reflected, “I don’t think I had ever really considered how much my relational tank is filled incidentally and how that shapes how many friends I need, what I need from them, and the time and space I have to give them.”

What that means is that a Single person needs to maintain a lot of relationships to ensure their input and output are sufficient to experience the human connection we are built for. Even for me, as a highly extroverted and socially and relationally competent person, that can be EXHAUSTING! There’s a lot to balance to ensure that there are enough of those once a week, once every fortnight, monthly catch up types of relationships to spread across the day to day of life in order to keep the relational tank at a healthy level. That need makes us vulnerable. There’s great risk attached to this reality that we probably need you more than you need us.

Singles, identify and own this reality. You need others. It’s risky. It’s exhausting. It takes intentionality and purpose but you can create the kinds of relationships that will allow you to give and receive the love, belonging, serving, fulfilment, purpose and joy that you need.

And for you non-Singles, maybe you could do a self-audit like my champion friend Nancy, to recognise the level of relational filling you operate out of before leaving your house or making any extra effort. It might increase your sensitivity to the needs of the Singles in your world and grow your understanding of the neediness they experience and the risk they take to stay relationally engaged.

can I introduce you to my friend? 



A while back friends of mine invited me to dinner to introduce me to a Single male friend of theirs. I was more than happy to attend. I think there should be more of it!
Friends who host such introductions  …

  • provide socially dynamic, safe and helpful ways to make initial explorations of potential for further interaction
  • give contextual understanding of the other person through the work/family/sport/church environment they know them from
  • become an immediate overlap of the worlds of 2 otherwise strangers
  • provide something of a “reference” for character and any sense of perceived compatibility 

Singles – I know some will be uncomfortable with this idea but I encourage you to consider it as a natural function of community. It doesn’t need to be forced or uncomfortable. Have the conversation with people you trust and be open to the potential connections that could ensue. 

Friends of Singles – don’t do this by surprise or stealth. Honesty about your intentions is good. Or at the very least, an honest conversation with all involved to ensure they are open to the idea and trust your knowledge of and care for them. When you’re dealing with adults understand that the outcome is not your responsibility. If, as two adults, your introduced friends choose not to go any further with the connection or after some time things go askew – it’s on them not you. If, for all you are able to know, they are both well-adjusted, independent and house-trained individuals then you make the introduction and allow them to make the next wise choice. 

In teen and young adult stages of life there is a much more natural social community. As adulthood creeps in (real jobs or career focus, marriage, children etc) large group interactions or events where ‘new’ people are likely to be introduced become less frequent. It requires greater intentionality to continue to maintain social networks and particularly to consider those Singles who might still benefit from such environments. 

Can I introduce you to my friend?

Think of it this way – you know and like me and you know and like him – this is a significantly positive start! 

Go on. Why not give it a go? Ask the questions. 

why people at church don’t talk to you


A friend and I have been known to run an experiment. When attending a different church, she leaves me alone in the foyer (to go to the bathroom or something) and we see if anyone will talk to me. It’s damaging to my pride, self-esteem and sense of confidence in my personal hygiene to report that – more often than not – when she returns, I’m standing where she left me feeling forlorn and having had no interactions with others.

As someone who leads in a church and desires that our environments be welcoming and inclusive for all – I run this experiment not just as a test of the church I’m visiting but to remember for myself what it feels like. To experience that awkwardness of trying to posture myself to look open to conversations or interactions without making a fool of myself. And as bad as it feels, I remember that my experiment is only partly accurate because I’m a visitor. Others coming into churches come because they are looking to find Jesus! Some come because they are desperately seeking a place of connection and belonging – of home. While I’m only there for one night. So much more is at stake for them.

Whilst I have received feedback from people who have felt a little ignored or adrift in our church, it’s more likely that those who feel this most poignantly haven’t stayed around to tell anyone – they’ve just left. You may relate to this experience in your own church environment. You look around and others are deeply engrossed in conversations and excited interactions and you wonder why you’re not included.

 

The reason people at church might not talk to you is because they are exactly like you!

They are uncomfortable talking to strangers. As an outgoing, verbal, extrovert I am uncomfortable talking to strangers! Most people are! People don’t talk to you because, just like you, they are unsettled about talking to people they don’t know. How awkward will this be? What if we have nothing in common? What if I inadvertently offend or upset them with what I say? What if they don’t want to talk to me!? EVERYONE is processing these same questions.

They are comforted by their own friends. There’s safety and security in the knowledge of their connection to their group of friends. And in fact, they may well be worried that if they don’t speak to these people no one else will speak to them and so they don’t leave the circle for fear of feeling that isolation. We are all creatures of comfort and security. Stepping away from the known and into the unknown requires a bravery that we don’t always manage to summon.

Someone once said to me “I never realised how cliquey people were until all my friends were away one week and no one spoke to me.” She didn’t even realise the irony of what she was saying. She only noticed that everyone else stuck to their friends when the friends that she stuck to weren’t around.

They wrongly assess their social position. Frequently, the socially insecure assume that everyone else is socially confident. The quiet and shy ones assume that the noisy ones are more bold and self-assured (when, often, it is just the same feelings manifesting in different coping strategies). Those unfamiliar in an environment assume that everyone else is quite familiar. Those who are more connected don’t trust their social connections enough to leave them temporarily to reach out to others.

Ultimately, the human condition is such, that we are all looking for a degree of connectedness and are all at the mercy of one another to find that place of belonging and welcome. New. Old. Loud. Quiet. No one is exempt from contributing to the social dynamic of a community.

*** A common cry. ***

“What if I go up to someone and say – Are you new here? – and they say – No, I’ve been coming for 3 years.

OR what if you start your conversation a different way!?! (Genius, I know!)

“How are you today?” (Revolutionary, but effective.) “Are those your kids? Have you had a busy week? What’s ahead for you this week? How will you be spending your afternoon? Have you done the winter pruning of your fruit trees yet?” (Read – there are lots of other ways to start a question that don’t need you to guess how long they’ve attended your church!)

Or just a simple, “I don’t think I’ve met you before, I’m Kim!” might be enough.

The reason people in MY church don’t talk to you is because people like ME (and you) need to get better at it. We can do this!

 

Barrabool Hills Baptist Church – Aug 30 2015

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It was great to be at Moolap and Barrabool Hills Baptist Church on Sunday across all three of their services.

Seated in one of the services was a lady who had recently lost her husband … and when I say recently, I mean super recently … 4 days earlier! She was there with a girlfriend who had come to stay with her – clearly still in that numb state of shock and disbelief that can often accompany grief and loss. But they were both blown away by the sovereignty of God to have her sit under a message about the importance of community and family for the Single person. Her girlfriend was challenged to understand the new needs and challenges that were ahead of this newly widowed lady. They bought a copy of the book for them both to look at in the weeks and months to come.

What do you say to someone who is processing such grief and loss? She was so convinced of God’s timing and provision of this message (& the book) and we were able to agree and affirm that God clearly had her number. While everything else ahead of her is uncertain right now – she can be sure that God is right there with her in it.

You can listen to the message HERE

Making Links

One Easter my brother was having a chat with his young son around Communion. They talked about the bread and the juice and he was most pleased to hear my nephew able to recount that they represented Jesus’ body and His blood.

“And what are they to remind us of?” he asked.

“That Jesus died.”

“That’s right! (*insert proud parent moment … potentially Christian-Father-of-the-Year worthy*) … And why did He die?”

Pause … serious thinking face …

“Because He ate too many Easter eggs?”

Hmmmm … so close!! 🙂

Easter presents a similar dilemma to Christmas – where the commercial version of the celebration has moved so far from the original event that making the links, particularly for young minds, can be a challenge. “Jesus died on the cross to forgive us from our sins … and … so we can have Humpty Dumpty themed chocolates and a camping trip with our cousins.” You can see how that might be problematic.

The events of the ‘Easter’ weekend are what Christianity is all about! The fact that the God of the universe became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ, lived on earth, died a torturous death on the cross (for OUR sin) and then rose to life again is THE story!! Everything we know of God, everything we experience of relationship with Him and the security of our future in Him was made possible by the true “Easter story”.

As with Christmas, the commercialisation of the event comes with some great perks. There’s lots of chocolate! There are hot cross buns! There’s a long weekend! But the obvious caution is that we can lose something significant if we don’t counter that message with the message of Jesus.

There are lots of ways to get intentional about communicating the REAL Easter message to our young people. I’m sure many of you have some super creative ways to do that or some simple but tried and tested methods and traditions. It matters less HOW you do that and more that you just do! Prioritise church (Friday AND/or Sunday) and take the opportunity to invite friends and family along, read the Biblical account of the Easter weekend (there are lots of kid/family-friendly versions available), take time to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ death and to celebrate His resurrection.