To my 20 somethings and beyond: I feel like there's something that needs to be addressed that often isn't. Something that is addressed in our childhood, adolescence, college, and maybe later adulthood (can't say definitively because I'm not here yet), but not really touched on in the pivotal years when we graduate college, start a career, maybe get married, or really any other big step that indicates we're stepping out on our own. That "something" is what can often make or break us: causing us to feel isolated and alone, or something that is the basis of support, pushing us to our best.
Yes, I'm talking about how to make friends in adulthood.
It sounds cringeworthy (because honestly the process of making friends IS cringeworthy), but making friends in the season of stepping into adulthood or even when you've been a full fledged adult for awhile, is just as important, if not more, than making friends as a kid or college aged person.
We are constantly told in our early days through college age that community is important. That good community is a group of people that have similar interests and spend time with us, but also tell it like it is when we need to hear it most.
If you're a follower of Jesus, you've heard this spiel at least a hundred times. We're told in high school that we are the company we keep, that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33), and that what we do in these years sets us up for how we approach life and community later.
And when we get to college, we're told similarly to what we heard in high school: that we'll be faced with temptation to go left or right, likely knowing what is best for us, and that a good basis of faith, personal relationship with Jesus, and strong community, ultimately will guide us one way or the other.
Whether or not you consider yourself a believer, who we spend our time with and who we trust most DOES influence how we live our life. And notice I said influence, it is not the sole basis of what we do, as we are responsible for our decisions, but we all know the power of influence.
While we know how important captivating [good] community is in these pivotal seasons, I notice when people reach the age of 21 or 22 - likely when they fully step out on their own, the emphasis and focus on community drops drastically.
Think about it. If you're in this age group or beyond, did people invest and push as much as they did when you were younger on the importance of captivating community? Did the church pull you in as strongly as they did in high school or college? Maybe people think that because we are adults know we've got this community thing figured out or that we are responsible enough to seek people?
Well, if you feel any way that I have, you almost feel more lost than ever on how to make friends in adulthood.
If you're in your 20's or beyond, you now know that nobody really preps you for certain aspects of adulthood: how to file your taxes, how to buy a house or a car, what insurance is best, etc. We're sort of thrown into this new world and hope we're lucky enough to make it. Truly, it's survival of the fittest at times, and often, we feel more isolated than ever.
But certainly, with millions of other young adults out there, we're not truly alone, right? If you feel this way in adulthood, odds are many others do too, and it's hard to step out of this isolated feeling and ask for help or even just a friend.
Now more than ever have I felt the aching to be known and heard. And now more than ever have I felt it more difficult to captivate community. And it's not that people aren't out there who yearn for the same things as I do, but more that nobody really addresses the young adult crowd on this subject. And this isn't to blame the church, our older peers, employers, and beyond. But more to let people know that we too need community, and guidance on the weirdest times of our lives because we often feel as if we don't know what we're doing.
I know from my past the priceless value deep community brings: learning, growing, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. I know the difficulty and effort keeping and growing community requires: vulnerability, consistency, bravery, and willingness. I know that at times it's awkward, uncomfortable, and easier to stay isolated. I know the importance and necessity of community altogether.
If you're a young adult or beyond (because I would bet making and keeping community later in adulthood can still be difficult and requires the same tenacity), what do we do next?
First, I'd say let's remember what we were taught in our school days (young kid to college). Something that was stressed to us for the first 20 years of our life must be so valuable and still true.
Be willing to step out and be uncomfortable, but remember captivating community is worth it. Like I said earlier, I bet there are plenty of people around you who are your age and feel the same way. All it takes is one baby step to get the ball rolling.
Know that community takes time. Going to a small group or hanging out with people once doesn't automatically create community. It's a great stepping stone, but keep going! Consistency is key.
Find balance. There is wisdom is being vulnerable and honest - building a connection amongst deep thoughts and struggles, but there is balance between deep conversations and just having fun in a group. Do both.
Don't blame yourself and don't blame others. Extend grace when needed. We're all trying to figure this out. Challenge yourself and others in healthy ways to make steps toward community, but don't be too hard on yourself and others when tough times happen (it's inevitable).
To the church: Your young adult members and guests are yearning for a group of people who are trying to figure out this adult thing too. As high school and college ministry is so important, we know the young adult years are just as important. Our minds and thoughts are still being shaped, and we, along with every other age group, need community. Help the young adult community cultivate opportunities to find their people. Know their interests and their struggles.
I'll end with this: when I moved to Knoxville last March, I knew the importance of captivating community. What I didn't know is how isolated I would feel, and how difficult stepping into adulthood was - including making friends. I struggled for months to put myself out there and feel like attending young adult hangs was worth it, but over the last year I've been able to make a fantastic group of friends: young women my age going through the same thing and young married couples trying to figure out how to be married. I could not be more thankful for love and focus our young adult groups receive and I truly don't think I would be who I am now without them.