In a time where we are the most connected by devices and social media platforms, overwhelmingly people are feeling more alone. Current studies are correlating that the higher the person’s social media usage, the more prone they are to feeling isolated.
1. We feel excluded or rejected. We are now very much aware to what we have not been invited to, or excluded from. In the past, before social media, you literally may never know that you were not invited to a lunch date, or girls night out. Now, not only does it stare us in the face… but we see it repeatedly as photos and videos are shared by all those who were present.
2. We feel inadequate. As we are able to see in to the lives of others… their homes, cars, vacations, etc. we begin to feel that we are not good enough. We may hesitate to invite someone into our home because we don’t feel our home is as nice as their home. We may not invite someone to a coffee date because they are always at Starbucks and we can only afford Dunkin. In addition to feeling inadequate, we may create false personas in order to virtually “keep up with the Jones”. We will pull ourselves away in order to protect that persona.
3. We experience jealousy. Jealousy and inadequacy are very different things. Inadequacy is how we feel about ourselves, and jealousy is how we feel about others. Jealousy builds up bitter feelings towards others, and will cause us to push people away.
4. We fear missing out. If we disconnect from social media, we fear that we may miss what others are sharing and doing in their lives. We can get so wrapped up in keeping tabs on others that we actually disconnect from opportunities in our real life.
* Note that none of the four point above even begin to address actual addiction.
* There is an evidenced cycle that loneliness will drive people online, yet will only make them feel more alone and disconnected, and can actually cause them to dive even further into social media to connect.
Of 2000 people who were polled, that used social media regularly, 72% reported feeling alone. Of the 72%, one third reported feeling this way at least once a week.
With these numbers we must expect that this will have an impact on the church. We have women who are walking through our doors every Sunday, who feel alone. Women sitting at our brunch tables, who feel disconnected. Women who live in our neighborhoods who are deeply looking for real community.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Bible has the answer to what research is showing us, that real life … face to face connection is necessary for community. In Act 2 when is speaks of the early church, it is noted that they added to their number daily. Not because they met occasionally but because community was part of their daily life. They grew because they were present with one another.
Research is indicating that digital community is not the same as real community.
Experts suggest having a social media cleanse, where you break the habit of social media dependence. Whether you cut it out completely, cut back the number of hours, or cut back from the “groups” that are keeping you from real life relationships, something has to give in order to allow you to embrace community in the form of personal relationship with people you see face to face.
What does this mean to our church and ministries?
1. We must acknowledge that our women in our church and communities are overwhelmingly feeling alone. Even when they live in a house full of people, are volunteers in the church, work in larger offices… they FEEL alone.
2. We must do a better job of making sure that all of our women feel included and welcome. This means making sure we have done our best effort to invite not just our friends and family members, but our neighbors and co-workers. That we are extending invitations to strangers and visitors. Practically this means not giving up on traditional methods of announcing events (personal invitations, handing out flyers in the church lobby, etc.). We can’t rely on digital/social media announcements and registration alone. (Read Luke 14:12-14)
3. How we present our ministry will matter, to battle the feeling of inadequacy. If all our social media shows the perfectly polished church ladies, we may put a wall between ourselves some of the women we want to reach. We need to have a willingness to show the raw and rough edges too.
We’ve said before that you can’t please all the people all of the time, but we can please some of the people some of the time. This means having a Women’s Ministry program that has a diverse offering that meets the different women in our church. One way to ensure this is to have a Women’s Ministry Team that has the same diversity as the church. When you are thinking of the various women you serve, and accommodating to their situations… that is hospitality. They will feel cared for because you considered them.
Additionally, hospitality is making sure that all women feel wanted at our events. Often we take for granted that our guests will know where everything is or how we do things in our space. We must always plan and prep with the guest in mind. Having clear signage and volunteers to help direct people on where they need to be. Keeping guests in mind also means to always plan for new members/guests that may start attending just before you event. If your space holds 50, and it’s an event where you are selling tickets, sell only up to 40 or 45. This buffer allows you the flexibility to accommodate new members instead of having to tell them that the event is full and they need to wait to the next one.
As leaders, we model hospitality by being aware. We watch the for the table that just has 1 person sitting at it. Volunteers keep an eye out for the person who walks in alone or seem lost. We take the time to meet people individually and connect them to others as we go. Be willing to give up your seat, your meal, your book, your ticket, etc. if it means you can invite one more to the table to be apart of the community of women in your church.
Surely, on a ministry level we are creating warm and inviting spaces. Our teams put a lot of work into the details. Make sure that the details don’t take more attention and time than your guests. Don’t forget to also extend hospitality on more personal levels. If you are texting back and forth, just chatting away… invite her for coffee to continue the conversation. If you and another women in the church send jokes and funny videos back and forth, recognizing you have a similar sense of humor invite her to a funny movie or to see a comedian.
Stop the face book stalking, and go back to face to face talking.
For more thoughts on hospitality, check out this document we gave to the attendees at the meeting. Print off copies for yourself, your team, or your hospitality coordinator.
We also had a great drawing prize, and two lucky winners took a copy of Kristin Schell’s book The Turquoise Table home. (Congrats Trina and Nicole)