Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

5 Authentic Ways to Build Your Family of Friends

  • Maria Cheshire Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 30, 2019
5 Authentic Ways to Build Your Family of Friends

Friendships can feel circumstantial. In college, you become friends with people who live on your hall freshmen year. If you are a parent, you might socialize with other parents at school functions because your children are in the same class, or schedule play dates with the neighborhood kids because they live nearby. It is challenging to stay in touch when a friend moves or a co-worker changes jobs. Undoubtedly proximity and life stage make some relationships more convenient than others.

It is important, however, to find and nurture relationships of depth, carefully selecting your own “tribe” of women who you can really lean on, relationships where you want to invest your time. These people will understand you, support you, and inspire you to be your best self. They can be found in a variety of places and may share your age and stage or not. Beauty and wisdom abounds in diverse tribe of women, each bringing their own perspective but also sharing common values.

So how do you assemble this tribe? Here are five practical steps to get you started:

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1. Share your faith in the workplace

1. Share your faith in the workplace

Being open about your faith creates opportunities for other Christians to connect with you. It usually comes up organically in conversation. Maybe you share how delicious the potluck was after church, or that you’re volunteering for Vacation Bible School next week. Without specifically evangelizing or passing out business cards, your co-workers can learn that you are active in the church.This provides a green light for other Christians to share their faith with you, asking for prayers when their child is sick or initiating a conversation where you can delve in deeper about your faith journeys and home congregations.

I have experienced this many times in my career as a public school teacher. Once I discover that a co-worker is Christian, the relationship inevitably deepens. A new level of understanding and openness suddenly exists. We share our faith stories, which are never identical, and learn from each other’s experiences, struggles and triumphs. These are the first people I come to when I want to discuss things that really matter to me. They become my support system at work, the people I trust the most.

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2. Go on a retreat

2. Go on a retreat

Another way to find women you connect with on a deeper level is to attend a retreat. This may be a church retreat, with women from your congregation, or a retreat related to a hobby, such as writing, running, knitting, etc. Everyone at the retreat will have something in common, which creates a ready foundation for you to build upon.

Spending an extended period of time with a group of people inevitably strengthens bonds more than a passing conversation after church. A weekend away allows time to disconnect from your typical patterns and distractions, creating space for new connections to form or old relationships to grow.

Attending an organized retreat may seem intimidating, but it is worth the risk.

My church organizes an annual Women’s Retreat. We rent a house for the weekend that is only an hour from home, but in the land of no cell phone reception. This is unsettling at first, but ultimately a blessing. The weekend consists of a mixture of scheduled events (bible study, group projects, and small group discussions), but also builds plenty of free time for fellowship and relaxing.

We take long walks up hilly gravel roads past horses, then gather around a crackling campfire at night. With no TV or social media, knitting projects and coloring books emerge. It is a respite from the world but also a bonding experience, like summer camp for adults. I leave feeling spiritually renewed and with a firm sense of community.

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3. Follow trusted recommendations

3. Follow trusted recommendations

In order to expand your tribe with intention, you should listen closely to recommendations from women you already respect and admire. A college friend of mine recommended a podcast last spring, called The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. My friend is a thoughtful and kind Christian woman I admire, so I immediately looked up the podcast and added it to my queue.

Unsurprisingly, I love the podcast! In each episode, Emily shares a short reflection and prayer related to decision making. Listening each week has been soulful and restorative for me.

And what do you know? Emily has her own recommendations of authentic, inspirational Christian women to read, listen to and follow on social media. Each woman brings their own talents and perspective to the conversation, yet share similar values. Suddenly I have an online community of women I relate to, offering practical advice and positive affirmations.I have not met these women in person, but their voices resonate with me. 

As well, consider which Christian authors or content creators you would recommend to a friend. What is meaningful to you is likely to have an impact on your friends as well. Meet up and discuss the latest episode of a shared podcast—What made you pause and think? What surprised or excited you? If you recommend a spiritual book to a friend, or they recommended one to you, follow up with them to chat about it over coffee. The content of the book will provide a conduit for meaningful conversation and the shared experience of reading the book will deepen the bonds between you.

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4. Get physical

4. Get physical

Exercise has a way of breaking down barriers. Somehow words flow easier on a run and long hiking trails create space for forgotten stories to emerge. You can learn a lot about a person over the course of an hour’s hike. Consider creating a church exercise group, walking group or co-ed team. People will come as much for the fellowship as for the workout!

Some churches also take on fundraising challenges like a CROP Hunger Walk or a charity Bowl-a-Thon. Events like these combine fellowship and activity with a worthy cause. All these activities provide opportunities to meet new people or strengthen current church friendships. It is unlikely that a friendship will grow only within church walls—so get out there and do something!

5. Serve others

5. Serve others

Find service opportunities in the community about topics that excite you. Volunteering at an animal shelter or fostering puppies will connect you with other dog lovers. If you enjoy working with children, consider leading a children’s Sunday School class or being a youth group advisor. You will meet other adults from your church or beyond who are active in children’s and youth ministries. 

For years I volunteered as a summer camp counselor at our regional outdoor ministries center. Year after year, I met amazing adults from other churches who shared the same passion of experiencing God and community in nature. We led silly songs and serious prayers around campfires, guided campers through a local cave, and taught environmental stewardship through composting and gardening.

I do not see my fellow campers and counselors often, but I still consider them a part of my tribe. When I am in the camping environment, I feel connected to God and myself.

The people who surround us matter. Nurture relationships that are life-giving and avoid those that feel life-draining.

1 Corinthians 15:33 reminds us, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'." Seek the best kind of company—people who inspire you to be your best self, who encourage you to leap when the time is right and rest when it isn’t. Assemble a tribe of women who share your values and have your best interests at heart. When you find those relationships, be ready to hold them tight.

Maria Cheshire is a third grade teacher in Northern Virginia. She enjoys running, traveling, and playing with her dog Lilly. You can find teaching resources created by Maria here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Va-Sol-Superstars

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