Our family spent most of the last year in search of community at the church we were attending.
As we began to share our difficulties in finding community, we heard from many others were struggling as well. The three other couples in our small group acknowledged they have (or still do) struggle to find community.
Before you assume this is not a problem at your church, I strongly encourage you to ask a wide variety of people if they’ve had any struggles finding community at your events. Just listen. Don’t argue or debate. You may be surprised at what you find.
No matter how your ministry scores on the scale of building community, all of us can do a better job of making certain the women at our events and activities are making lasting (Lord willing) connections with one another.
Community takes time, but there are some things we can do to help build community among women more quickly.
1. Pray for Community
I placed this in the number one spot intentionally. Before we do anything, we should ask God to move on the hearts of our women to build a stronger community. Pray for a greater concern for one another, sweet times of sharing, the breaking apart of cliques, and new friendships to form.
Icebreaker questions and games provide quick points of connection based on similar interests and experiences. You’ll find all kinds of icebreakers here.
3. Discussion groups
We need to provide women with the opportunity to process and share what the speaker has discussed. Check out these ideas on how to divide women into groups.
4. Regular gatherings
Weekly Bible studies, weekly women’s ministry meetings, monthly service projects, quarterly meals, and other options provide consistent opportunities for women to connect with other another.
5. Assigned seating
Mix up the room for the discussion portion of your event. Assign women to a smaller group to discuss their weekly Bible study questions. Women rarely sit with those they do not know. Sometimes you’ve got to gently encourage (yes, force) them to interact with women outside of their circle.
Focused time away from home will bond your women. The shared experiences of a retreat – the speaker, the small group discussions, the meals, the late night games, etc. will link your women.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
7. Open doors
Save room at the table for one more. Never close a group or activity unless absolutely necessary (for example, your retreat location is at capacity and won’t allow you to add one more even if a bed is shared). When we force women to wait to join a small group, class, or a Bible study we’re saying “you’re not welcome” and “there’s no room for you’re here”. Do we really think God can’t use the last two weeks of the Bible study to impact a woman’s life?
8. Welcome guests
Are guests welcome and invited to every event and activity you offer? If not, why? Material should always be presented in a way that includes those who are unfamiliar with church lingo and abbreviations. Provide words for every song you sing. Never assume prior knowledge of a Biblical book, character, or concept.
9. Share prayer requests
Now we’re building community not fear – so hear me out on this one. The most non-threatening way I know of to share prayer requests and build community is to have women write 2 to -3 personal prayer requests on a note card and have them trade with a person at their table/in their group (for example, everyone pass their card to the right) at the end of the event. Model for them how to share without oversharing (read this post). I beg you, please, please don’t have everyone hold hands and stand in a circle.
10. Name tags
Yes, I know this sounds so basic, but I can’t tell you how many times name tags are forgotten or leaders think they are no longer needed. Being able to call someone by name builds connection and community. You can read why I think name tags are important here.
I always write this on my agenda because it’s so easy to forget! Make introductions more memorable (and increase points of connection) by asking everyone to share their answer to a quick (not deep) icebreaker question. I share 31 great icebreaker questions for introductions here.
12. Circles not rows
Depending upon your space restraints and numbers, I realize you may need to have your women sit in rows to listen to your speaker. Get them out of those rows and into circles (with or without tables) soon after so they can have a great discussion. We’re more likely to connect with someone we can look in the eye. Looking at the back of people’s heads does very little to build community!
Prayerfully ask the Lord which (or how many) of these 12 ideas you need to implement at your next event to jump start the community building among the women at your events.
Your efforts will be greatly rewarded as you see women forming new friendships, comforting one another, and encouraging one another.
You may also want to read:
How can we keep cliques from harming our ministry?
What the New Girl Needs
Bible Study Review: We Saved You a Seat
9 Secrets for Making Your Guests Feel Welcome
How to Divide Women into Groups
Tips and Tools for Small Group Facilitators
Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Retreat
Gathering Prayer Requests
One year ago: Is God calling your ministry to shine a light on sex trafficking?
Two years ago: Things “I Love” Bingo Game
Three years ago: How to Build a Women’s Ministry Team
Four years ago: Not-so Newlywed Game Show Script