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May 16, 2018

Loneliness is a real thing. A recent study on loneliness surveyed over 20,000 Americans. The results? 
  • One out of four people rarely feels or never feels understood by others, nearly a quarter of Americans. 
  • Two out of five Americans indicate they feel as though they don't have any meaningful relationships and that they feel isolated.  
  • Only half of Americans feel like they have any significant interactions with others. 
It's interesting that this increase in loneliness occurs at a time in our history when church attendance is declining and at the lowest rate experienced in years.  While there may not be a one to one correspondence between lower church attendance and loneliness, I believe it does speak to the fact that, that we need places to have and experience community. 
Church ought to be the best place to experience community, but so often we struggle with developing meaningful relationships.
We like to blame social media for the decline in meaningful relationships and believe that somehow social media has made us, well, less social. However, the one factor that determined whether or not people felt lonely was whether they had meaningful, face to face relationships in real life.  Social media can either enhance those relationships or in an unhealthy way, can replace those contacts. 
So how do we start getting a more connected with one another? By taking stock of how we are investing our time and resources. The fact is, sometimes we're so busy that we don't have time for relationships. 
After Amy and I moved into our house, it took nearly a year and a half for us to connect with some of our neighbors. Once we invited them for lunch, we found that our kids were in the same grade, at the same school and we had an amazing time together. 
Then, we found out that they were moving in two months. Sadly, we had allowed busyness and the pace of life to get in the way of being relationally connected. 
For many of us, the summer months are a time of year with a lighter schedule and with not as much going on. I would encourage you to take the opportunity do a bit of an audit of your calendar. Look at how you are spending your time and think what adjustments do you need to make as you plan your fall schedules. 
  • If you are a full-time student, think about building your class schedule to make sure you have time for relationship and community with others. 
  • If you are a parent, think about how much time are you investing in your kids' extracurricular activities? Do you need to scale back and make space for real, life-giving community with others? 
  • How about work? Are there adjustments you need to make to your work schedule to achieve a better work-life balance?
  • And, if you're retired, you may want to look toward the fall and consider how to spend more time with your grown children or even with your grandkids? 
Building community takes an investment of time. We must decide to invest time with people if we want to build relationships. When we do that, we'll see community springing up in these dedicated spaces.
Decide now to make room for relationships in the other 167 hours when you're not in church.