3. Be Intentional.
Even though women tend to be very good at developing friendships, don’t assume you will find the right type of community without some effort. Any time I move into a new ministry, I identify a few people who might become part of my closer circle. I initiate conversations, coffee, and lunch dates to get to know them. This often feels like throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it will stick. Sometimes there is no connection or chemistry. Sometimes a person ends up being a friend but not a close support person. But once in a while a deep, mutually supportive relationship will emerge.
I am also very picky with my husband about choosing our own small group at church. In the past, we joined whatever group had an opening, or we issued a blanket invitation for anyone who wanted to join a group we were starting. In both cases, we ended up in groups that were probably supportive for the other members, but not for us. As a result, we now take some time to get to know people casually, then ask a few to join us in intentional community. We also give an off-ramp in the form of a regular interval when group members, ourselves included, can reevaluate and either re-up or leave the group.
4. Be Patient.
It takes some time to discern who is safe and supportive without a hidden agenda for your ministry or for their own emotional needs. Let relationships emerge, rather than forcing them too quickly. For example, I have been at my current church for five years. The women who are now my closest friends and support community (and part of my small group) did not become so until I had been here for nearly two years. I enjoyed the process of building these friendships, but I would not have immediately considered them to be part of my inner circle. During those early months, I relied more heavily on my support network outside of my current ministry.
If you’ve been burned in relationships or ministry before (and really, who hasn’t), it can be tempting to give up or to go it alone. Resist that temptation and continue to invest and nurture intentional relationships, trusting that the right people will emerge in the right time.