March 6, 2017

Five Outside-the-box Ideas to Build Stronger Friendships.

So many of our relationships take place at a distance.

Today we socialize by text message, social media apps, and games. It’s unusual to have actual, real-life time to interact with our friends. And as adults, it can often be difficult to build new friendships. If all the interaction we get is online, what happens if we want to hang out in person?

Many of my friends live out of state or too far away to get together often. Even with local friends, our schedules can make it difficult to find time to get together. It’s important to have strong social support, and while online support is great, I miss the sense of community that we can only get from actually spending time together offline.

When I was a little girl, my family had a group of family friends that all attended the same church. This group of friends began to have regular get-togethers that they called The Sandwich Club. Each family would bring food to contribute—sandwiches, appetizers, desserts, chips, and drinks. The adults would sit together and talk or play card games or board games. Meanwhile, the children would go into other rooms of the house and eat, play games, and spend time together. It’s where I learned to play sardines (similar to hide-and-seek), and it’s also where I established a sense of community.

There’s nothing quite like a regular habit to simply spend time together with the people you care about.

I’ve been thinking lately of creative ways that we can build stronger relationships in our lives. Sure, going out to eat or having a few drinks with friends works. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we want to do something a little different, here are seven activities we might want to give a try to help rebuild a sense of strong community:

1. Amish Friendship Bread

This is one that I’ve been dying to try! I was once given Amish Friendship Bread as a housewarming gift, and it was delicious! All it takes is creating a starter and then you can share that starter with others pretty much indefinitely. It starts as a bag of mushy, yeasty bread starter, but the bread it makes 10 days later is glorious! And it can be shared with a simple note and recipe. Of course, it does take time, but it’s also a way of sharing a project with someone else and then enjoying the results. When each batch finishes, it’s the perfect excuse to have a friend over for a cup of coffee and a slice of the most divine bread. Of course, this isn’t gluten-free, and it’s quite sugary. But it’s a wonderful treat if it’s within your dietary allowances.

2. A Progressive Dinner Party

This is another great way to spend time with friends and family. A progressive dinner party takes planning, but this type of dinner party takes the burden of preparing a full dinner off of one family. Each family is responsible for only one portion of the meal. You can even vary these nights by choosing different themes. You’ll want to schedule about four hours for each evening. You need four host homes with each home assigned a course (appetizers, soup and salad, entrees, and dessert). The party starts with the appetizer host, served in the first home. Then the entire party moves to the next host home for soup and salad, and continues on!

3. Game Night

Think outside the electronic variety: board games, trivia, card games (including poker), Pictionary or charades. There are so many games to choose from! Plus, playing games is an excellent way to get to know people and to have a great time doing it.

4. Movie Night

This may not sound like a great way to build stronger relationships, but this is an event I have successfully hosted in the past. I invite a group of friends and everyone brings movies to contribute. We choose which movies to watch at random, and often I find myself watching a movie I’ve never seen before. It’s how I discovered “Say Anything,” now one of my favorites. It’s a great time for fun, shared films and—of course—delicious foods with an assortment of appetizers.

5. Planned Game Meet-Ups

I first got this idea when I was invited to participate in an International Pillow Fight. I went with a friend to Atlanta and hit other adults with pillows for a great time. It occurred to me that organizing these types of events could be a fun way of spending time with our friends. We could organize meet-ups at local parks to have a water balloon fight or meet to battle it out with Nerf guns. If you’ve ever seen a video of adults participating in a real life version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, you know the possibilities for fun gatherings is truly endless. Even a group scavenger hunt is a great way to do this.

You can customize your gatherings for friends, families, couples, singles, adults-only or however you choose. What’s important is not the composition of the groups but the opportunity for getting together to have fun and build a sense of community. Granted, these ideas require a sense of humor, fun, and adventure—but it’s much more interesting than just meeting for dinner or hosting a traditional potluck!

We’re losing touch with one another. Sure, we all have busy lives, but isn’t the quality of those lives as important as how full they are with routine and responsibility? Don’t we all need a break to simply enjoy one another’s company?

If building a stronger sense of community is really important to us, we’ll make the time for it, and we’ll find others who also have this desire for connection and community. These people exist—I hear the longing for connection all the time, and I know that it’s just a matter of someone taking the first step and making the suggestion. So, here’s your starter list.

I hope it is of benefit!

Author: Crystal Jackson 

Image: alisdair/Flickr 

Editor: Molly Murphy

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