Making friends on the outside

A pastor's wife need not be content with sitting on the fringes of the church's social circles. She can reach out and build relationships.

Selene Peck is a homemaker, mother of a 3-year-old, and a pastor's wife. She writes from Davenport, Iowa.

Do you feel a need for a close friend and yet feel hesitant about getting too close to your husband's parishioners? One creative way to solve this dilemma and to share your faith at the same time is to develop friendships with women in your community.

I have determined to find women outside of my church to befriend. Such friendships add vigor, strength, and meaning to my personal life. If you haven't already formed such friendships, let me give you some practical guidelines.

To get started

1. Become involved in a support group. About two years ago I placed an ad in the local newspaper inviting moms who stay at home to join my support group. The ad was free in the religion section, and the response was overwhelming. Nearly 30 moms frustrated, lonely, and now grateful called me. Our group has mellowed to a manageable number: 8 to 10 women meet in my home every other Wednesday morning. All but one of these women attend different churches than mine. We have done some exciting things together: potlucks, a Christmas party, a harvest party, gift exchanges, and presently small group Bible studies. And we've been through a lot, as well: rejoicing with one new mother, anticipating with another soon to deliver, and providing emotional support to one who has suffered repeated miscarriages. The faithful charter members really count on the group, and I wouldn't have the heart to discontinue it. Support groups not only provide support for others but strengthen you as well.

2. Be friendly. Another way to make outside friends is to be friendly! That sounds easy, doesn't it? The best place to start is with your neighbors. When we move to a new place, we like to take a loaf of bread to our neighbors. Last Christmas I baked cookies, pulled on my boots, and went door-to-door with cookie packets piled in my son's sled.

When I go shopping, I try to make eye contact and speak to salespersons. In a paritcular store I often go to I have gotten acquainted with a lady named Jenny who works there. I always stop to speak to her and have invited her to church meetings.

Try to find a beauty salon and hairstylist you are satisfied with and keep going to her/him. Usually there is enough time to strike up a conversation, and this is a good opportunity to share your faith. The last time I had my hair cut I was able to tell my stylist about being a vegetarian and my husband's recent doctoral studies.

Do you see the same checkers at the grocery store? Speak a kind word to them. Who knows, one might appear at your husband's next Revelation Seminar.

When we first moved to Davenport we visited a lot of shops and business areas to see what was available. In a wildlife art shop we met the young couple who owned the place. They were very friendly, and when they found out that my husband was a pastor, they showed inter est in our religious beliefs. We made it a point to go back at regular intervals. The result? We have become good friends and often visit one another's homes. Teresa is about my age and comes to church one or two times a month. She recently had her daughter dedicated on a Sabbath morning.

3. Conduct seminars or cooking schools. A short seminar or a cooking school provides an exciting opportunity for friendship and outreach. Many types of seminars are available from stress management to parenting. Recently I conducted the new Mark and Ernestine Finley Cooking School. One young woman, Sharon, was particularly interested in vegetarianism. I invited her home for a Friday night supper. Afterward she said, "I felt such warmth here: I'd really like to visit your church." She called me last week and is still planning to come.

4. Join food co-ops or classes. Find out if there is a food co-op in your area. This is a profitable way of meeting women who are trying to do as you are: manage a household and save money.

You can meet people with similar interests or concerns by enrolling in education or self-improvement courses. Check the catalogs of community colleges in your area. I'm planning to take a refresher course in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) soon, and I'd also like to take a children's writing class. Perhaps you'd wish to join an exercise class or an aerobics club. This should open up new opportunities for friendships.

Anyone can do it!

Now that I've given a few ideas, you probably are saying to yourself, "Well, that's easy for her to say; she's probably outgoing and naturally friendly." Wrong! I am naturally shy. I've had to force myself to be friendly, although it is be coming easier. Just making friends to have friends is the most valuable and lasting motive to start with. Don't try to make a friend to gain a convert. Should you gain a convert in the process of making friends, then just rejoice in the twofold reward.

Jo is one of my good friends, a member of my support group. She has suffered five miscarriages in 23 months. I sent her the book Steps to Christ with a short note highlighting the following quotation from the chapter "The Privilege of Prayer": "Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God" (p. 100). I also assured her that I would be praying for her daily. She telephoned me and told how excited she was to read the book and how glad she was that she had gotten to know me. She also said that the quote I copied had given her an entirely new perspective on God. I thank God for such an opportunity and pray I'll have many more.

Yes, making friends in your community will strengthen and encourage you, filling voids of loneliness you may have. As a pastor's wife it is easy to be on the fringes of your church's social circles. You may have friends, but perhaps not ones you can really talk with openly. We all need more than surface friendships. Making friends in the community is also a way to witness in lifestyle and word. Our Lord did it. Why shouldn't we?

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Selene Peck is a homemaker, mother of a 3-year-old, and a pastor's wife. She writes from Davenport, Iowa.

July 1992

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