When I moved to this city five years ago, I was newly engaged, diving into my fiance’s existing network of friends and church family in Hoboken. Seven hundred miles away, I left behind an amazing community of friends and a church I loved. As an extrovert, I have always enjoyed meeting new people and building new friendships, but starting from scratch was still hard.
As I started attending Hoboken Grace, I was encouraged to join a Dinner Group. I was wary. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in or find “my” kind of people — women who were not afraid to let their guards down and get real. I wanted a guarantee that I would make friends and build deep connections, but of course, you can not know that until you are willing to first risk trying.
Finally, a few months later, someone I thought I could be friends with personally invited me to join her group. I decided to give it a chance and committed to go every week. Some weeks I walked away encouraged and inspired in my faith. Other times I was disappointed by my own expectations of what the group should be.
The most profoundly impactful question someone asked as I tested the waters of Dinner Group was this: “What if it is not about you? What if you making a weekly commitment to show up to Dinner Group is more about how you can love others than what you get out of it?”
I have thought about Dinner Group differently ever since. Slowly but surely, I learned how to show up and ask meaningful questions. I learned how to pray for these women who were opening up and sharing their lives. We shared laughter and tears and life milestones together.
By the next fall, I was asked to lead my own group. I was nervous about leading, but I kept returning to this thought — it is not about me, it is about loving others. There was no guarantee that it would go well, but I trusted God with the group. I knew that whatever good came out of it was only His doing and not my own.
Now I have been leading a group for the last three years, and it is one of the most joyful and humbling roles in my life. The fact that I get to show up each week and offer a space for people to come as they are, whether they are celebrating or struggling, and wrestle through life’s questions together is a privilege. In such a fast-pasted, stressful city life, Dinner Group should be a respite. It offers us a safe place to slow down, consider where we are really headed, and leave refreshed and refueled to go back out into our everyday lives to impact others.
Whether you are on the fence about giving this Dinner Group thing a try or have been disappointed in the past, I would encourage you to try it. Dinner Group is not about your needs, your schedule, or your agenda. Instead, it is an opportunity to model, in a small way, what Christ did for us — to lay down our lives for our friends.
Erika is a Dinner Group Leader at Hoboken Grace and you can read more about faith, relationships, and life lessons on her blog Married in Mile Square City.