Summer is the season of fun in the sun! The blessing about summer is that the overall pace of life has slowed down, the days are longer, and typically you have more time to squeeze in extra social gatherings, fun with family and friends, or maybe even that long-awaited vacation. Along with all that, summer can also be a blessed time to strengthen the relationships in your life and seek out the support you need in your faith life.
Practice ‘Friendship Friday’
If you’re looking for a practical way to build authentic community/friendships in your life, make Friday about friends. First, begin with making an effort to text, call, or pray for a friend and plan some time with those people God has placed in your life. Great friends are a key to fighting the epidemic of loneliness and an excellent way to grow a network of friendships that can serve as a support system for the rest of your life.
“Friendship Friday” is a practical way to begin to develop outstanding friendships through making friendship a renewed priority. The key to “Friendship Friday” is to ask the Lord to show you with whom he wants you to foster friendship and follow that up with a “Friendship Friday” gesture.
Host a patio party and prayer or a patio party with purpose
The most important thing to developing meaningful relationships is to spend time with other people! Consider setting a date to have people over to your house and allow it to be an opportunity to grow in faith. Hosting parties are a fantastic way to bring friends/prayer group/church community together revolving around fellowship and faith.
Meeting in homes, rather than restaurants, is usually much less expensive and more conducive to relaxing and sharing on topics like our Catholic faith. If you really want to keep it low-pressure and budget-friendly, consider hosting what I like to call a “Holy Spirit potluck,” which means you don’t plan out entrees, snacks, and desserts, rather you just say “bring something fun to share” and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to work out the details.
Every time we’ve done it, things just seem to work out fine … and in the off chance you end up with 12 desserts and no main course, hey, can’t we all use one more funny memory? Whatever the style of event, make sure to begin and end the evening with prayer and consider inviting your local priests, religious sisters, and deacons who often love to attend gatherings. Recently I have been invited to a faith sharing group on the back patio, a priest’s 15-year celebration party, and a summer kickoff party — all with friends of faith!
Join a faith-sharing book club
Attending a faith-sharing group can be a beautiful experience to cultivate friendships and grow in your faith. The Friendship Project: The Catholic Woman’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends (Ave Maria Press, 2017), a book I co-authored, is featured in Women in the New Evangelization summer book club. Check it out at TheFriendshipProjectBook.com. Book clubs/faith-sharing groups are lovely excuses to get together with others! When friends gather together around a good book, memories are made and lives are changed.
Sun, not screens (get outside and play)
As parents, it takes an effort to get this current generation of youth out the door and engaged in activities outside of screens. Let us not be slaves to our screens and instead use them as tools for success and be able to walk away when needed. This break from screens is essential not just to role model good behavior for our children but it is good for us adults, as well. With games such as Fortnight drawing kids in, we parents NEED to set healthy boundaries for our children and teach them to manage their time wisely. It is not that screens are bad but rather there are so many other things we can do to fill our time. Teach your child a new hobby, have them invite a friend over, and encourage them to play outside. Socializing outside of screens is an important way to beget stronger friendships.
Go on a family vacation
If you are planning on attending a family gathering, consider focusing on setting yourself up for success in seeing distant relatives. The more critical aspect about family gatherings is quality versus quantity: Nobody wants to see your toddler in a complete meltdown late in the evening or a child who is in desperate need of a nap, and you fail to step away to provide it for them.
Just because the family has gathered does not mean you are required to step in line with everyone else. One piece of solid advice I received years ago is always to leave 15 minutes before a major meltdown. Quality time makes for great memories and the desire to keep gathering. Plan faith-building activities like a family prayer, offer a Mass time where the family can gather in prayer, invite a priest to bless the home or family present, or even consider praying prayer intentions in a large group followed by the Our Father.
If you want to build more intimate and close relationships with others, focus on staying in touch throughout the year. Thanks to modern technology, we are just a click away from extended family and friends who live across the country. Consider using social media, texting, phone calls, and email to share updated pictures and achievements with others and always reach out to others when you need extra prayer support!
May this summer be an excellent time to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships all year round!