First Third Conversations

A Time to Connect

friendsA blog post by Terri Elton

Image Credit: Friends by Rodrigo Suarez on Flickr

Each year as I turn the calendar from November to December my mind creates a list of people I’d love to connect with during the holidays. Some of the connections are givens, like time with my brother and sister-in-law from California. Other connections are not guaranteed, like meeting with my college roommate. The “not guaranteed” connections require intentional effort to happen, and somehow the holiday season gives me the extra push I need to actually set-up these connections.

This year has been no exception. My list includes connecting with several friends who live in the area, a family who used to go to our church, and a family new to the area. Once the list’s made, I look at the family calendar and try to find dates. It is at this point I’m a bit discouraged. By the middle of the month, I’ve made some invites, but my energy has waned. And if this year pans out like others, I’ll enter January a bit disappointed, having actually only connected with one person.

My disappointment comes not from my lack of effort, but from being frustrated with my calendar. Balancing my schedule is something I struggle with all year long. By balance I mean allowing for a certain amount of “free” time in the midst of my “scheduled” time. “Scheduled” time is everything from meetings at work to volunteering at church to family birthday dinners. It’s the time recorded in my planner that serves as the baseline for my week.

“Free” time is what’s not recorded in my planner, is more flexible, and is usually what’s left. Sometime “free” time includes a movie, other times it’s going to the high school basketball game or visiting a friend who is passing through town or running a 5K race. While this balancing act is hard most months, the month of December comes with particular challenges.

This year I’m not giving up on inviting friends over for dinner or meeting for coffee. But I’m also trying something else. Instead of letting the calendar run my holiday connections, I’m going to weave more relational connections into the givens on my calendar. Going to choir practice? Make at least one meaningful relational connection while there. Going to an event? Invite someone to go with or make a connection with some while there. (There are plenty of people to have a meaningful conversation with at a high school basketball game, for example.)

Church leaders and families alike long for relational connections, and the holidays are a great time for being intentional about making them. In the days ahead, why not try to look for them in the midst of your everyday activities?

Terri EltonAuthor Bio:
Terri is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change. She also serves as Director of the Center for First Third Ministry and hopes to help ministry leaders create environments that cultivate a faith that matters. Growing up in southern California, Terri discovered her love for the city, cultural diversity and the beach. You can usually find Terri running or biking the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul, or wherever she happens to be. When not moving, she's watching a movie with her husband or traveling with her two young adult daughters.

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