Humans are created with needs for belonging, acceptance and intimacy. And not only that, we need spiritual friends to help us in our commitment to follow Jesus. But how can we form spiritual friendships? What do spiritual friends do? What practices help us shape spiritual friendships?
Late last year, we launched a pilot class to explore what life-giving spiritual friendship means, and how it can be pursued online. To give you a taste of what these groups are like, Jane, Mary, and Mandy from one of the pilot groups shared their story.
As with any pilot program, none of the women really knew what to expect. Jane says, “We were not sure what it was all about, but some of our reasons for joining were loneliness, curiosity, feeling isolated by COVID and a desire for fellowship.”
Their spiritual friendship group met online every other week, working through Woodland’s discussion resources. Toward the end of the pilot, each group was given the option to continue in assigned groups, to develop their own group, or to opt out. These women had quickly grown in intimacy and vulnerability and decided to continue meeting weekly.
Jane says, “We like having three people. It seems to be the perfect balance. Our group consists of two middle-aged women (Mary and Jane) and one 23-year-old woman (Mandy). It may seem like a strange mix, but it works great.”
Mandy said she had been praying for a relationship with women who could provide wisdom and mentorship. Mary and Jane both agree that Mandy brings a lot of insight to the group, too.
One special memory was a short road-trip Jane took from Portland, OR to Olympia, WA to visit Mary. Mary, a chef by trade, made lunch and they met outside to keep things more COVID-safe.
Jane says, “It got kind of cold, but it was great being able to meet each other in person and build the relationship a little more. Hopefully, we can meet up many more times. Who knows, we might make a trip to Minnesota some day and meet with Mandy too!”
For Jane, Mary and Mandy, the Spiritual Friendship program has given them a new way of connecting. “We learned that intimate friendships do not necessarily have anything to do with marriage. We can develop the caring characteristics of a Christ-centered life through friendships even if you have never been married. We believe community is so important. Our advice is to not be afraid to be vulnerable with one another.”
We hope to offer more Spiritual Friendship groups in the future. Stay tuned!