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Cultivate Connections

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At Woodland, our hope for Cultivate Classes is that they become a place for nurturing friendships. Chris, Sarah and Mark are part of a group that formed deep friendships after meeting at a 2022 Cultivate Class.

Chris and his wife, Carol, are longtime podrishioners who felt disconnected from other believers in their hometown in Alabama, so they signed up for a Cultivate Class hoping for fellowship. Chris says, “The people who live around us love Jesus and are good friends, but there was—and still is—stuff they just don’t get or accept about where we’re going. This group was quite a contrast.”

Sarah was a relatively new attendee interested in developing spiritual friendships, and Mark, also new to Woodland, was looking for a way to connect with people outside Sunday mornings. Both joined a Cultivate course with hopes of meeting those goals.

After the class itself ended, a small group decided to continue meeting on their own for weekly connection. Sarah explains, “The smaller group that ended up meeting felt more intimate than a really large class and it was more comfortable for me to open up as an introvert, opening up as we discussed the weekly topics. In the end, we all sort of clicked in an organic way that hadn’t happened to me before and it felt natural.”

The group emerged organically and somewhat unexpectedly. Mark explains, “We are an eclectic group with a little bit of everything. You wouldn’t put us at the same lunch table if you looked at us, and that’s what makes it fun. That stood out to me: how really different the disciples were. Jesus is the king at putting weird groups together!”

The group varies in age from 30s-60s and includes couples and singles, all with different backgrounds. Sarah says, “It’s been so wonderful to have a mix of people to grow together with over the long term! I was used to being part of a group of all younger singles in a church with a median age closer to the late 20s, so moving to Woodland and now being in a group with so much more diversity has been refreshing. It’s encouraging to see the way God is working in many different situations.”

Of course, long distance has its challenges, but they make it work. Mark says that authenticity is the key to long distance, while Sarah adds that consistency and patience are what maintain their friendships.

Mark says, “It sounds weird, because we’re on Zoom an hour a week, but these are some of my really good friends now. Just connecting with them each week is something I look forward to. Even when it’s a night I can’t be there for the whole time, I’ll log in for 5-10 minutes at the beginning just to say ‘hi,’ and then take that energy through the rest of the week. The connection feeds me.”

Chris sums it up, “It’s just very encouraging to fellowship with people on the same journey as us.”

If you are interested in fellowshipping with people who are on a similar journey, give a Gathering Group or Cultivate Class a try— you might be surprised how deep a Zoom group can go!

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