A few months ago, I had a conversation with an acquaintance I had not seen in a couple of years. As we caught up on our lives, I asked him if he was still meeting regularly with a group of close friends who’d been together for years. He told me that, unfortunately, they had stopped meeting. When I asked why, he replied, “When the pandemic hit, we stopped getting together, but when it seemed OK to gather again, we didn’t have the same kind of interest and, in time, we just gave up trying.”
Those five words “we just gave up trying” pretty much sum up what seems to me to be a common attitude about community and relationships these days. So many people (most) that I’ve questioned on this topic reflect a similar shoulder-shrugging bewilderment from their own lives. Some of them miss community and some don’t seem to care. It makes me wonder if the “hunkering down” we embraced during COVID-19 has become the new norm.
It appears that this pulling back of connection is affecting institutions as well. Church attendance declined during the pandemic but even now that the “coast seems to be clear”, in many places, it has not rebounded. A friend of mine, who is a church consultant, told me of a recent meeting of pastors he chaired in which a surprising number of the ministers made it clear they were eliminating small groups as a part of their strategy because “they just don’t work anymore.”
What is going on? How did we get here? What have we lost through this isolating? What’s the cost? What should employers and managers be concerned about? Should we seek to renew social connections and rebuild community? And, if so, how do we do that?
Those are some of the questions I’m going to try to address over the next few weeks through my newsletter and blog. But I want to begin with some crowdsourcing to hear what you are experiencing. Would you be willing to offer me some perspective? I’m all ears!
Are you experiencing a loss of community over the last few years?
Have you pulled back from institutional gatherings?
Are you spending more time at home and less time out with friends?
Do you agree that many of us have “just stopped trying” to connect with others?
Why do you think this is happening?
Would you allow me to quote you with any of your answers?
I’d very much appreciate your feedback! If you’re reading this on my blog, please comment below. If via newsletter, hit reply and share with me your insights.
In the weeks ahead I will address the reasons that lie behind our loss of community. I’ll then focus on the comprehensive impact of the loss of relationships. Finally, I’ll take a stab at some solutions.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, my small group was meeting on Wednesday mornings at Grace. For the next several months, we continued to meet over Zoom, but in all honestly, there is something lost when you meet over the computer vs. in-person. We still have a group of 4-5 who continue to meet. As for me, I’m stuck between not wanting to go out in public, and missing that personal interaction. I’m not necessarily fearful of COVID-19 or human interaction. I have just gotten used to staying home, and not sure if I want to change that. I am stuck in a rut, and honestly, not sure I want to come out of it. I am about 50/50 on attending church in-person vs. online. I enjoy both, but again, there is something that gets lost when you try to worship online or listen to a message without having the benefit of others around you that are receiving the same message.
Thank you, Rick, for the honesty and insights. So many share your ambivalence, including me! I’m hoping to continue the dialogue so we can maybe consider some solutions! Hope to see you sometime soon!
Dave, at my small country church we are sort of our own small group. We connect by our monthly dinner fund raiser for local outreach ministries such as, The Christian Center, adoption support groups, etc. Then we meet approximately every other month for a meal at a restaurant. We still have Sunday School and there is good connection there. Being small I guess we realize our interdependency. Seems we all see each other regularly in and out of the church setting. Doubt that this is very helpful to the discussion, just thought I would share. John
Thanks John, I think the idea of seeing each other regularly in and out of the church setting is a key. Having more than one touch point with others sustains relationships.