One of the positive aspects of the digital revolution in general and with social media in particular is its capacity to create and maintain relationships, especially allowing us to keep contact with others over vast distances. Younger generations are the most connected in history. But quantity of connection does not necessarily equal quality of connection.[1] Whilst having the potential for unlimited connection, many young adults find themselves isolated and lonely. Many in this age group are hungry for deep relationship with others but are struggling to find it.

We are created for relationship. Jesus said the defining feature of His followers would be the way they loved one another. As Christ-centred communities, helping people connect and belong to a family should be core business to us.

This conversation is about our living room. It is about how we facilitate life-giving connections between those in our churches. Most homes have a space where friends and family sit, laugh, relax, forge friendship and learn to be comfortable in one another’s presence. Considering these spaces and asking how these relationships are formed is important. Alpha course founder Nicky Gumbel says, People will come to church for many reasons, but they will stay for only one – friendship.”

As a church we give a lot of thought and energy to our Sunday gathering(s), and these are important. But whilst these meetings are great for bringing together the whole church family for celebration and common teaching, they are not best placed to help people form meaningful friendships. Churches that integrate, disciple and connect people well give thought and investment to creating spaces for authentic relationship to thrive. Living rooms are the spaces in our homes where we sit and talk, relax and feel comfortable in the presence of others. Disciples are made in circles as well as rows.

Smaller spaces can provide a significant place for two types of relationship to thrive: first, an opportunity for young adults to connect with other young adults; second, a chance for them to engage and enter meaningful friendship with older generations. Both are important. We cannot force people to become friends, but we can create the right environments, structures and culture where connection is encouraged and opportunity is given for people to create strong relational bonds.

[1] A study conducted pre- and post- social media found that our number of close friends was falling. See Matthew E. Brashears, Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin. Social Isolation in America,’ American Sociological Review: Vol. 71 (June 2006): 353 – 375.