I was 22 when I moved to Colorado from my home state of Washington. Fresh out of college, I easily found friends in my same stage of life through church and work. But a decade later, I began to notice that making friends and finding connections wasn’t as easy as it used to be. In fact, it required real effort as a still-single adult to cultivate meaningful community in my 30s. And, to be honest, sometimes the effort didn’t seem worth it.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to Christian music artist Mandisa. Known for being an “American Idol” season five finalist and Grammy award-winning singer, Mandisa is also a 44-year-old single woman with a passion for community. “During this pandemic, I’ve seen even more the importance of relationships,” she said during our visit. “We need each other. God does beautiful things in the context of community. The enemy wants to divide us and isolate us — but that’s where he gets a foothold.”
As I chatted with Mandisa, she opened up about her own need for community and how she cultivates relationships. Here’s what she had to say:
Don’t be a “Lone Ranger” Christian.
“Something I hear from people a lot is, ‘I have Jesus, and He’s all I need.’ And I say, ‘No, that’s dangerous thinking.’ God created us for community. We are the body of Christ, and that includes everyone. I’m an introvert, so staying home and binge-watching TV can be a real temptation (especially during a pandemic), but I’ve learned that’s not healthy for me. I end up feeling isolated and getting discouraged. As someone whose default is to isolate, community is not something that will just happen naturally for me; it’s something I have to pursue. And I’ve had to make choices (such as where I live and how I spend my time) to cultivate those relationships and make them a priority.”
Pray and ask God for a friend.
“God is all about relationships. I think He loves it when we come to Him with our emotional and social needs, not just our physical ones. Many people pray for God to provide a spouse — I do, too — but what about praying for Him to provide friends who can encourage us in our lives right now? Community is so important to Him, and He wants us to partner with Him in praying for and building those meaningful relationships with others.”
Make the first move.
“As you’re praying, the Lord may prompt you to say something to somebody, which can feel uncomfortable. But asking someone to have coffee or go out for dinner can also be really rewarding. Little kids are great at making friends. Why? Because they don’t overthink it. They’re not afraid to just go up to someone and say, ’Hi, will you be my friend?’ I love it when someone does this for me, but I also want to be the one to make the first move sometimes.”
Be open to friends who are different from you.
“Throughout my life I’ve been drawn into friendships with a variety of people. Anytime I look at pictures of me with the people I hang out with, I see men, women, singles, married folks, old, young, and every age in between. God has blessed me with a diverse group of friends — mentors from my church, singers I’ve been on tour with, fellow artists and influencers, stay-at-home moms, the woman who trains my puppy. You learn so much and become a richer person by surrounding yourself with people who aren’t like you. As I’ve walked through hard things in my life, I’ve sometimes been surprised by the people God has used in my life. Through the years, He’s worked powerfully through some unlikely but sweet friends.”
As I talked with Mandisa, I was reminded of a story from my own life. Five years ago, I moved to a new town and had to begin the process of making friends all over again. I joined a Bible study at my church, which was composed of women of all ages and stages of life. One week a woman in her early 30s attended our study with her mom. I found out she had grown up in this town but had traveled around as a nurse for the past decade. One night, during prayer request time, she asked us to pray that she would find friends and community. From across the room, I blurted, “I’ll be your friend!”
Even though the gesture was a bit awkward (and unlike me, actually), it began a sweet friendship that is going strong to this day. If you’re longing for community, ask God for good friends, then look for opportunities to reach out and make the first move. As Mandisa reminded me, community is beautiful, and it’s worth the effort.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.