Ministering: finding friendship and connection outside of your comfort zone

Four young women, arms around each other, looking out to sea, rear view
Forming a new friendship or fulfilling your ministering assignment can seem overwhelming—sometimes impossible—but our Heavenly Father will guide us along the path, even if it's outside of our comfort zone.
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I want to make new friends, but I don’t know how,” or “I’m not friendly enough to build a relationship with my ministering sister (or brother).” In a world where it’s becoming increasingly easy to avoid interaction, many of us may struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, or we may even feel inadequate when tasked with building a new friendship.

Brooke Romney is a Latter-day Saint writer and blogger who has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about what it means for us to connect with each other in meaningful ways. “Unfortunately, connection isn't easy,” Brooke said in an episode of the All In podcast. “And we have to remember that the point of us being here is not just to do what's easy. It's not just to do what works for us, or what doesn't make our life a little harder. It's to connect and be there for the people who need us the most.”

In this episode of the All In podcast, Brooke shares how sometimes the people who need us most aren’t always in our immediate path. Her advice for people who are yearning for friendship and genuine connection is to “keep looking” and to allow Heavenly Father to steer us, even if that means stepping outside of our comfort zone.

Listen to the interview with Brooke Romney in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here

This excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Morgan Jones: Brooke, earlier [in the podcast] you said, “You know, I’ve been the new person in an area.” And you have been. That’s the whole reason you started your first blog, right? In Michigan.

Brooke Romney: I was new. Yeah. We’ve moved about 13 times, and we’ve been married almost 20 years. And so sometimes you go somewhere, and you are loved immediately, and people bring you in, and it's so easy. And you think “Oh, this is where I belong. This feels so good.” And then other times, it doesn’t go that way. And there is real effort and real work that is often not reciprocated. And that’s one of the things that people [have] said to me so often was like, “I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying so hard.” Sometimes people say “I don’t have friends,” but they’ve never invited someone to dinner, they’ve never asked someone to go on a walk, they’ve never started a playgroup, they’ve never asked somebody if they want to go to dinner, you know. And those are all things that we have to realize, you know, we’re not special enough to never have to do any work to make a friend. So we do have to put the effort into it. But there are times when we’ve put a ton of effort into it and friendships just don’t come. And that’s when I love what you said, open your circle, you know, look elsewhere.

I think, especially as members of the Church, often we assume that our ward must be our friendship base, you know. And sometimes we’re lucky enough to have that. And sometimes we need to go further. And I think maybe you need to look, you know, maybe you join a group, or volunteer somewhere, or find people at a soccer game. It’s not so much that those people don’t want you, but I think the Lord has a different path, and He might need you somewhere else. And if you’re super comfortable, and if everything works within your two-block radius, you may never extend yourself further. And that’s maybe where you need to be. And this is hard for me sometimes when I feel overwhelmed or like I just need a friend, but sometimes someone might need you. And I think the Lord has a path and a plan for us. And maybe He’s ready for you to make friends with the older woman in your ward. Or maybe there’s someone that’s lonely, that doesn’t maybe seem all that fun, but maybe needs a friend. And that’s where you need to go. And so just really being in tune, especially when you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock with friendship, being in tune to where the Lord has a friend in store for you. Because I know He does. I know his intent was never for us to walk any of these paths alone. And so keep looking.

Morgan Jones: Yeah, I think that’s something, Brooke, that has been a little bit tough for people in regard to ministering. I think that it requires so much more thought and effort. And obviously, like what you were just talking about, it’s nice because the Lord is telling us (I’ve always loved this about visiting teaching), it’s one of the only times that God tells you who He wants you to be friends with, you know, like mission companions and visiting teaching. But I think that ministering is trickier because it requires more work.

Brooke Romney: It does.

Morgan Jones: And so I think that it’s interesting because it does require kind of sitting in a space where it’s like, “What do I say next?” and relying on the spirit. How is ministering kind of changing the way that we’re connecting as sisters in the Church?

Brooke Romney: Well, I love thinking of it as a higher law. Like Heavenly Father said, “You’re ready. You’re ready to do more. You’re ready to feel more. You’re ready to be more.” And I also think He knew how badly we were going to need connection. Not a once a month visit, but someone in person who cares about us and cares about our family and cares about what’s going on, because it was so easy to visit once a month and leave a message and say, “Hey, let me know if you need anything,” and walk away. Right?

Morgan Jones: Check!

Brooke Romney: Yeah, done. 100% visiting teacher. But it is a little bit more uncomfortable for all of us to say, “Okay, how does this person need me? How does this person want to be loved? What do her kids need right now?” And making it a lot broader is difficult. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. I think relationships can be built with ministering if we do it right. And I’m not saying it’s easy, because there are some times when I’m like, “Oh, I’m crummy at this.” But sometimes I say, “That was amazing. I was there for her exactly when she needed to meet to be because I was listening to the Spirit. And that meant something to her.” I think if we [need to] just keep trying and keep being in tune. You’ve got to know your people, though, you have to know [them]. It goes back to What is being a friend? You have to know what’s going on in their lives. And you have to show up. And you’ve got to feel and you’ve got to do all those things that we talked about, you’ve got to celebrate with them. And then you’ve got to love them the way they want to be loved. You know, I’ve got one friend who isn’t super into the Church stuff. And so we’ve been able to connect on all kinds of different levels. And it’s one of my favorite relationships that I have that I wouldn’t even have an opportunity to have had I not been assigned, you know, that many years ago to her. But it has nothing to do with the gospel, it has everything to do with just loving each other, loving each other’s families.

Morgan Jones: Yeah, I think that that’s so true. And so much of it again, it goes back to just sitting in the spaces that sometimes may be completely out of your comfort zone.

Brooke Romney: Well and we have to be uncomfortable to grow. Right? If all I ever had to do was take somebody a meal, that wouldn’t be hard for me at all. But you know, asking someone, “Are you okay? How are you dealing with what’s going on? I'm feeling really bad about this, are you okay?” That’s uncomfortable. You know, I don’t always want to do that. But when I do, the way people open up, the way we can relate to each other is just really incredible. But those relationships don’t come from me dropping dinner off, they can start from me dropping dinner off, but they don't continue, they don't deepen unless we’re willing to go somewhere that is a little uncomfortable for us. And I’m just 100% sure that it’s where we need to be.

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