January is a time for resolutions and reevaluating the way we spent our time, finances, and energy last year. Most of us take a hard look at our calendars and decide what we need to continue in 2018 and what needs to come off our calendar. Unfortunately, those face-to-face interactions we need are the first things we cut out of our schedules.
Much has been written and studied on how the explosion of social media has impacted our mental and emotional health. This new online world of social media has certainly impacted how we do relationships and what they look like. Many of us have slowly shifted toward more friendships and interactions that take place online instead of face to face. While the internet has made our big world much smaller in some ways, it has also changed the way we experience relationships.
This phenomenon has had both positive and negative impacts. We can have friendships around the globe and communicate with them easily and often; however, the lack of face-to-face relationships also contributes to isolation and often hiding behind the computer screen. It is harder to hide when you are having a bad day from a friend sitting next to you than someone through a screen.
Working in a ministry role can be isolating in and of itself. Many church leaders share how difficult it is to have true, authentic friendships when serving others. It is a strange dynamic serving the same people you are expected to be transparent with and share vulnerably. Developing true friendship, both for encouragement and accountability, is vitally important. The Bible talks often about friendship and how God designed us for community.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
So how do we make creating connection through community a priority in 2018? It starts with our calendar. When we sit down this month to start filling the spaces in our week we have to intentionally choose connection over our calendar. We are in charge of what we fill our time with, so January is the time to plan for intentional connection. What does that look like realistically?
3 Ways to Choose Connection Over Your Calendar:
1) Pencil it in.
Find space and time to connect with people. That might mean attending the small group that you got too busy for over the summer, or stepping back into that exercise accountability group you enjoyed last spring. Or it could look like once a week setting aside a 2-hour window to specifically go to lunch with someone every Tuesday. Plan face-to-face time with your spouse, your children, and the people who make you a better person. Those are the relationships that are most important and will fill you up, not drain you. But the first step is to put it on your calendar so you will make it happen!
2) Try a new way of connecting.
January is also the time for trying new things. Maybe you really didn’t gel with your last small group. Try something different! Maybe you and your spouse could start a monthly supper club with friends. Or join that tennis group you always said you wanted to try. Or ask an older believer to meet with you twice a month for coffee to speak into your life. Find connections that work for you, but make sure they are things that involve looking people in the eye. Now is a great time to try something new!
3) Allow for margin.
Make this a priority. Don’t fill every other space in your calendar and then decide you are just too busy for connection. That is an excuse that leads to isolation and burnout. We are made for connection, and in order to lead well, we need to be doing the things we preach. We preach that we were designed for community and accountability. It doesn’t have to look the same for everyone, but it is up to you to make sure it happens in your own life. You get to choose now where that fits best for you this year and what you want it to look like. But it won’t happen if you don’t put it on your calendar.
This is the year to make your calendar work for you. Don’t let your calendar overwhelm you already. Make connection a priority this year by planning it in with intention. Pray over it, discuss it with your spouse, and let them know why and what you are doing so they can support you. Let your staff know what you are doing. Part of leading your team well is taking care of yourself and leading by example.
So pull that calendar out, and start looking for where you are going to schedule in connection!