Where Logic Meets Love

Frugality, Friendship, and Faith

Sunday, August 28, 2011

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Frugality, Friendship, and Faith | Faith Permeating Life

Earlier this month I did a post on why it's OK that I haven't made friends since college.

'Becca asked in comments whether I'd found our church to be a source of friends. The answer is no, and I gave three main reasons:
  • Our church demographics aren't really prime for two 20-somethings to make friends. There's a ton of old people (i.e., 70 years and up) and the rest are primarily families with children who attend the church school.
  • We attend Saturday evening Mass since Mike works on Sundays, so there's no coffee hour or anything afterward, although I don't think there's one after the Sunday morning Masses either.
  • Our particular interests don't lend themselves to meeting people our age: I joined the prayer shawl ministry, where I knit with usually 2 or 3 old women, and Mike volunteered for a while with the teen club, where it was him, a bunch of high schoolers, and the same old woman who runs the prayer shawl ministry.
(I just found out at church last night that there is a choir at one of the Sunday Masses, so I might join that. Then I'd either have to go to church twice each weekend or go without Mike. Hm...)

Don't get me wrong -- we love our church. Our head priest is awesome and has absolutely fantastic homilies that are both extremely accessible and incredibly challenging. And we are friendly with the women who sit in front of us every week. We're very happy there, but it hasn't been a great place to make friends.

This week I realized another reason for this lack of church socializing. Everything costs money.

When we first joined the church I found out they occasionally held evening dances, which I was interested in because Mike and I used to go to dances in college and we were in ballroom dancing club together. But then I found out that tickets for a couple were somewhere around $50 to $100.

I soon discovered that every single event held by our church was essentially a fundraiser. Want to go to the Catholic women's brunch? $10 a ticket. The grade school is putting on a play? $15 a ticket. Want to play in the church 3-on-3 tournament? $40 a team.

Two weeks ago in the bulletin there was an invitation to join the church bowling league, a "fun social league" that meets once a month. I called the number in the bulletin to get more information, and the woman didn't want to tell me anything about cost over the phone and said the league secretary would send us a packet.

Not only did we receive a page full of tiny, single-spaced rules and regulations, but we found out it would cost far more each month to be in the league than if Mike and I just went out bowling by ourselves once a month. Plus we would have to pay extra if we ever couldn't make it and needed a sub. It wasn't worth it to us.

I certainly don't begrudge our parish needing to make money, especially as our priest just told us last night that monthly offerings have gone down steadily to the point that the church may not be able to pay its bills this month. Seriously, I get that. And Mike and I could build these events into our monthly budget if we wanted to -- although they're usually not put in the bulletin until the week of. (The parish secretary is notorious for putting things in the bulletin late, sometimes after they've already happened.)

I just wish there were some social opportunities for us to meet other members of our parish without having to pay for it. This is particularly true because, given the demographics of our church, even if we did pay and went to a church event, there might not be anyone within 10 years of us there.

That's not to say they have to be -- both Mike and I have friends in their 50s and 60s -- but it would be nice to make a connection with someone our age from our church, if there is anyone.

What I want to know is this:
  • How does this compare to your church, if you attend one? Are there a lot of social events you can attend for free, or does everything have a cost?
  • What would you do in our situation? Budget to go to a church event, or just accept that it's an unlikely place to make friends and save your money?
  • Do you think it's possible to be fully involved in your church and not have friends there? Or is that a necessary part of being a member of the church community?
Please share your thoughts in comments!


  1. A thought: can you organise something that people don't have to pay to attend? I bet you're not the only one in your church thinking about this. Maybe you could organise something simple like a coffee morning - just put up a couple of posters on the noticeboard & ask them to mention it in the notices?

    I think though, that if that's not an option, then you should think about budgeting for some of the events. If that's practical. I don't think your closest group of friends have to be at your church but I think it's a great place to meet like-minded people. You could try one or two events, and if it works out that there are no potential-friends there, then I wouldn't keep forcing it. Not the bowling though. The prices sound ridiculous. If you want to go bowling with church people, organise an unofficial game where whoever wants to play just turns up and pays then. No fees!

  2. @Just me
    A thought: can you organise something that people don't have to pay to attend?
    I definitely thought about that, especially after reading 'Becca's recent post on a board game night they held at their church. I would love to do something like that, but it would require me starting from scratch--figuring out who to talk to, whether there's any sort of process for hosting an event like that, where I could even hold it (the school? Our church building doesn't have a big gathering space). I am absolutely horrible at stuff like that. A few times at work I've had to plan things where I was given no clear directions of the steps to take, and it puts me into a blind panic. So theoretically--yes, but it's not the best option. :(

  3. How does this compare to your church, if you attend one? Are there a lot of social events you can attend for free, or does everything have a cost?

    -- My church offers a lot of free things, but like you, there is no one in my age bracket except for the youth pastor. Being involved in ministry, I usually am the planner to make things happen for our teen group. There are few things in the church that we charge for... Or the event itself will be free and then a small charge for lunch to be served.

    What would you do in our situation? Budget to go to a church event, or just accept that it's an unlikely place to make friends and save your money?

    -- If I have the finances to attend a costly event, I'll go. But like I said, usually everything is free at the church. The things that are charged are the things that I go to to support our youth group. (Football games, basketball games, plays and musicals, etc...)

    Do you think it's possible to be fully involved in your church and not have friends there? Or is that a necessary part of being a member of the church community?

    --I do believe you can be involved fully without friends, but I think it makes it uncomfortable. At least in my experience. I could just work the youth group as a volunteer and head up the children's ministry without really making friends, or at least having conversation, it would feel awkward, I think. For our own church community, it's sort of necessary to at least be pleasant.

    like you, the majority of my church is all people 50+. There are few families in the church and even fewer young adults (20-30 age range). I make friends at work, and I reach out to my friends from college to ensure I have those relationships. It's not always the best, but it works for me and my life.

  4. @britta
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad I'm not crazy to think that other churches host free events!

    I haven't found it uncomfortable not to have friends at church, as the people who sit near us every week are familiar faces and are friendly enough. But there's definitely no one that I specifically look forward to seeing every week. That may change if I join the choir, but again, that would mean either going to church twice every weekend or going without Mike, since he works Sundays.

    It sounds like we should probably set aside some money just to attend an event or two and see how it goes. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. On the last question, I would definitely say that you don't have to be part of the community to be fully involved. As I see it, people participate in, practice, believe in religion because it satisfies a need in their life or their psyche. Some people are there because they need a community, but others are there to fill different needs, such as intellectual stimulation, spiritual enrichment, connecting to the Divine, or seeing and relating to the beauty of ritual. In some of those cases, community and other needs are actually mutually exclusive. Someone might go to church to escape the world and just be with God. Some people experience God in other people, but not everyone feels the same way, and feeling obligated to be part of the community gets in the way of that person's spiritual needs being met.

    It's a wonderful thing that you can bring whatever you have to a religious service, and take whatever you need from it without being required to be something you're not.

  6. @Macha
    That is a very good point! And that's a big reason why it hasn't concerned me too terribly that I haven't made friends at church--I'm getting a lot from our church regardless.

    On the other hand, since Mike and I don't really have any friends in the area and church is the one thing we do together on a regular basis, it does seem like a good place for us to make friends. But I agree that, at least for me, it's not necessary for me to make friends in order to feel like I belong at my church.

  7. Now that I think about it, it can be quite costly. We got to church Sunday evening, and usually there are snacks after which is good to stand around and chat. Though generally people want to go out to dinner after that which can be expensive. Thankfully our service has a lot of people around our age. I think it would be hard for me to attend if I didn't really have people to relate to (not that that's the reason to go, obviously).

    But more than just having people to hang out with, I do think it's important that people do have close friends so you have people to talk with if you're struggling with something - or someone to follow up with you if you haven't been attending for a while. I do commend you though for sticking it out and still going without that!

  8. @Lozzz123
    I do think it's important that people do have close friends so you have people to talk with if you're struggling with something - or someone to follow up with you if you haven't been attending for a while.
    I wonder if it's a Catholic thing, but I've never seen those kind of relationships within any of the Catholic churches I've been to; my friends who are other denominations seem to be much more connected with their friends from church. I don't think I've ever been part of a church where someone would get in touch with you if you stopped coming to Mass. More like, if you were in a ministry or small group and stopped coming to that, someone would follow up with you. Huh.

    Now I'm curious--other Catholics and non-Catholics want to weigh in on the types of relationships you've formed at church?

  9. St. Clement's has wine & cheese after their Sunday evening mass once a month.

  10. You should have more faith in yourself for organising your own event - I'm sure you could fine some people to help you out - it is a church afterall.
    I haven't attended church for a few years now, but I also remember the lack of social scene. It was only coffee mornings (which were free, and people made donations) but it wasn't exactly the most eclectic bunch of people to mix with...
    I wish I had more suggestions for you, but good good luck!

  11. @phampants
    Very cool. Unfortunately I'm guessing that if our church can't afford a coffee hour, wine and cheese would be out of the question for us! (And I probably wouldn't go anyway, since I don't drink and that can make people uncomfortable.)

    @Sophie @ threetimesf
    It's not really a question of faith in myself. I'm sure I have the ability to plan and execute some kind of social event, as I've done it before. It's that the thought of doing so causes me such anxiety that it's not something I think it's worth putting myself through. Event planning is not one of my strengths, to be sure, and having no idea where to start or what steps to follow literally makes me panic. So... that's not the best option.

  12. Sigh. I have a lot to say, but I need a real keyboard to get it all out!

  13. @Rabbit
    Your comment is welcome whenever you have time to write it! :)

  14. Hahaha, I posted that comment from the iPad which is WONDERFUL for reading blogs, not so much for WRITING comments! At least not for me.

    Anyway, we are in the same boat at church. First, our church doesn't have many parishioners, so the pool of potential friends is tiny. Then, there aren't many young people--and the other 2 or 3 couples all have kids. Not that kids are an issue for US, but I know they are busier and can't just grab coffee after liturgy or come for dinner or whatever.

    Also, distance. We travel 35 minutes for church. Most of the other parishioners live far away as well. I'm sure we live an hour from other parishioners, so that can be tough to get together, even on a Sunday, after liturgy.

    There's NOTHING going on at church. Besides liturgy, I mean. No meetings, no groups, nothing. The parish I grew up in didn't have THAT much stuff going on, but more so than this church. It's just because of numbers and lack of interest. I'm in the choir. The next youngest person is old enough to be my mom. DH is an altar server...with a 7 year old.

    It's hard enough to find like-minded (or similar-minded) people* for friendships to begin with, but even harder when you KNOW that others have had success with finding friends through faith. I always noticed that a lot of Catholics who don't live in the Northeast have these amazing parishes with so much going on. My priest recently told me that it's something that just happened out there, and back here, in the East, it's not common. I wonder why...

    *when I say like-minded or similar-minded people, I don't mean that everyone has to be a clone of everyone else. More like, things in comment, similar belief systems, etc. I can't see us being friends with a couple who were swingers, LOL. Or atheists. That sort of thing :)

  15. @Rabbit
    Yeah, you win... your church social situation is a lot worse than mine. I definitely know what you mean about how frustrating it is when other people make friends through their church. I mean, my aunt/uncle/cousins' social circle is almost entirely from their church. I actually don't know if I would like having that many "like-minded" people as my social group--but a few more would be nice!

  16. Well, I don't like being a winner in that case, but whoa, that was a long comment. And um, I meant "things in COMMON" not COMMENT, haha!

  17. @Rabbit
    Haha, I didn't even notice :) And I love long comments!


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