FIRST-PERSON: Family connections

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)--Most of us live life in a crowd. From shopping malls to grocery stores to movie theaters to bowling alleys, we are surrounded. Even in our homes and churches, we often find ourselves as one among many.

So why do many of us feel lonely?

Because proximity does not equate to intimacy.

Many of us operate in a sphere of acquaintance. We can probably name 10 people who like us, but few can name even two people who really know us. Even within our families and marriages, we often live as little more than roommates. What we lack is a true connection.

The problem is that connection can't be caught "on the fly." Connection happens only after an investment has been made -- an investment of time, attention and personal vulnerability. For most of us, this doesn't come easily. We need help.

After more than 25 years of working in a ministry that encourages families, I've learned a few things about connecting. And while there is no magic formula, there are some simple principles that can help facilitate true connection.

Principle 1: Plan time together. Whether it is a nightly (or even weekly) family dinner, a regular evening walk or a Saturday afternoon game session, it is important to actually schedule regular time for connecting with those we care about.

Principle 2: Maximize time together. It may be convenient to use our time in the car to catch up on phone calls or our dinnertime to catch up on the evening news, but we could be missing an opportunity to connect with family members. Instead, use the time to discuss what's happening in our lives, what we've got planned for the future and how we're all doing in general.

Principle 3: Ask good questions and listen to the answers. If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? If you knew you'd be alone in an airport for eight hours, what one book would you want to have? If someone made a movie of your life, who would you like to play you? Sometimes questions -- even seemingly silly ones -- can provide great insight into how a person thinks and feels.

Principle 4: Look for games, books and other resources that can help you engage in meaningful conversations. You're not Superman or Wonder Woman, and you don't have to have all the answers. There are a lot of good, biblically based resources that can help kick-start connections in your family. We at FamilyLife, for example, have launched a new publishing category, "Connecting Resources," to help.

Isn't it time to begin connecting with those who matter most?


Dennis Rainey is president and co-founder of FamilyLife, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ; host of the nationally syndicated "FamilyLife Today" radio program; and author of "Staying Close" and numerous other books. For added information about FamilyLife's Connecting resources, visit www.familylife.com.

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