Written by Meaghan Wall, Pastoral Leader of the Stonebriar Community Church GIFT Ministry, which ministers to families and children with special needs.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. A college friend and I were meeting up with a few other girls from our sorority for our yearly night out. As we drove we were catching up on everything going on in our lives. I was feeling a little lost because I hadn’t been able to connect with any moms in our area. I was really missing the friendships I had in college. It was at that moment, I received the worst piece of advice I’d ever received.
“You aren’t meant to have friendships like you’ve had in the past. You’re a wife and mom now. Your husband should be your best friend and you shouldn’t have other friends pulling you away from your family.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and he is one of my best friends, but I don’t think it’s healthy to limit friendships to only those who live with you. When you have kids, I think it’s even more important for you to have friendships beyond your immediate family. This is what builds community.
It took a while for me to learn what community looks like. It’s not something that comes naturally to an introvert married to an introvert. Luckily God has placed some pretty incredible extroverts in our lives who have shown us the value of stepping outside our comfort zone. I’ll never forget the time we were asked over for dinner on a weeknight. You read that right, a WEEKNIGHT. What families have social actives on weeknights? My initial reaction was to say no because we wanted to make sure our kids kept on schedule but we said yes instead. I learned that everything doesn’t have to be a big deal. We went over, ate a very causal dinner on paper plates, and then went home. It wasn’t a huge production, it was sharing a meal with a friend.
Gradually, this has become the norm in our lives. We don’t put pressure on everything we do with friends, it is generally done last minute, but we’re intentional about hanging out.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about building community around your family…
- Community doesn’t take the place of your family, it adds to your family. People might think our friends are taking the place of our family. They don’t. We still need our family. Family provides heritage and history friends cannot. Friends make our family even bigger. My kids now have a Gran & Bocco and LeLe & Papa in addition to their “own” grandparents. When my parents come to visit, they want to see all the friends. They consider our friends’ kids their bonus grandchildren. They take them to do things when they’re in town, they send them cards, and they pray for them just like they do my kids.
- When things get tough, you need community even more. You’re going to experience tough times in your life. By building community when things are good, you’ve established relationships that won’t be freaked out when things are hard. They know you and know your baseline so when you get a piece of bad news, have sewage flooding into your house, or your husband cannot get out of bed because of chronic pain, your friends know how to help. They know when to call and tell you dinner is on your porch. They know your schedule well enough to tell you they’re picking up your kids and taking them for the afternoon. They also know when to push you to get out. I’m not going to lie. Having a group of friends doesn’t mean that I don’t try to hide in my house and keep all my mess to myself. The beauty is they know this about me and will come and offer to do things even when I don’t know what I need.
- You have to be intentional. Building community takes work. You have to put yourself out there and invite people into your space. You can’t wait until you have everything in order…it will never happen. Find those people you connect with, invite them over, and then invite them over again. When you’re heading to the park, send out a text. Live by the motto, “It never hurts to ask.” Our “Friemily Vacations” started out by a casual, “Hey we’re going on a cruise in December, y’all wanna come?” Now it’s tradition.
I don’t know what I’d do without the community we have around our family. The past few weeks have put that to the test as my dad has been in ICU in Albuquerque. My community has spilled over and is blessing my parents over 600 miles away by sending their thoughts and prayers via texts, Facebook messages, and even gifts. So if you don’t think community matters, think again. It matters to more people than you could imagine.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14
Meaghan has served as the pastoral leader of special needs at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, since 2006. She has a passion for families affected by special needs and enjoys helping churches across the country catch the vision of special needs ministry. She has a degree in social work from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in Christian leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary. Meaghan has an amazing husband, Michael, and two incredibly cute little boys, Jackson and Grayson, who are the loves of her life. Meaghan is best described by a sign in her office that reads: Jesus, Dr. Pepper, and Texas Tech.