Some have said our 30s is the decade that friendships go to die. I understand the sentiment. In our 30s, the scorecard of success in life often doesn’t leave room for making and deepening relationships. Plenty of people end up lonely even though they could have never imagined it early in their lives. What happened? Their 30s happened! In fact, one meme jokingly said the greatest miracle Jesus ever pulled off was having a group of 12 close friends in his 30s. In a church teeming with people in their 30s, headed for their 30s, and just coming out of their 30s, I want to ask 2 questions: First, what makes our 30s such a challenging decade for friendship? Second, what can we do about it?
What makes this decade of life so hard on friendships?
There are probably countless answers. I want to provide 2 that I am most experienced in as both a pastor of this demographic and someone in this demographic. First, many 30-somethings have children who are starting to have “lives of their own.” Notice here that I didn’t say 30-somethings are just having children. While it is true demographically that people in their 30s are having children, they also have children whose ages are bringing on a flurry of new activities. Depending on what you read, the average age of a first-time mother is around 26 years old in the US. While bringing a new little bundle of joy into a family for the first time changes things, it actually doesn’t change things as much as when that child grows a little, starts school, plays soccer, has 2 siblings, and is invited to a birthday party every other weekend! The point I am making is this: people prepare well for the changes that come with a new baby, but are too often surprised by how much more energy and time children take up as they grow. As a pastor, I’ve seen this a lot. There is, for example, a family who had great relationships coming out of college, got married, and had a child or two. When their kids were young, they may have had the most significant community group experience of their lives with other couples who had young kids. But then, a decade later, that same family is disconnected from community and sliding into apathy toward the church. What happened? The parents traded their community for their kids’ activities. That trap fully develops in our 30s.
People prepare well for the changes that come with a new baby, but are too often surprised by how much more energy and time children take up as they grow.
Secondly, our 30s are the decade where career becomes king. In his book, The Wealthy Gardener, John Soforic breaks life down into 3 seasons; Spring, Summer, and Fall. Spring, he says, is for learning about prosperity, summer is for gaining prosperity, and fall is for living from the fruits of prosperity. I only bring this up because guess when the season changes from spring to summer? The day someone turns 30 (and then runs through 60). Dave Ramsey points out the same reality. Our greatest season for wealth accumulation begins in our 30s. In Retire Inspired, former Ramsey personality Chris Hogan says that our 30s are crucial to long-term financial prosperity. This is the decade we wake up to the realities of finance and set habits to accomplish our dreams. One CSNBC poll noted that in the US, the number 1 financial regret is not having saved enough for retirement. I think through the years, that message has gotten out to younger folks, and our 30s are the time when we decide not to have that regret in the future. Is there anything wrong with desiring a prosperous financial future for the right reasons? Absolutely not! But we must recognize that the love of money is a trap. The love of money can convince us that we don’t have time for friends because time is money. Many people decide in their 30s that money is more important than friendship. Sadly, they end up with a lot of the one and none of the other.
The love of money can convince us that we don’t have time for friends because time is money.
What can we do about it?
Well, I would say that whether we are heading into, currently in, or coming out of our 30s, we need to remember that God created us for community. That is true in every season of life. John 13:34 calls us to love one another. Romans 12:10 tells us to be devoted to one another. Jesus demonstrated a Godly life, in part, by radically committing to living in community. This was true with his disciples but also in Luke 7:34 where Jesus was called a friend of sinners. This was meant as a slur, but Jesus wore it like a badge. He was a friend even to sinners. Christian community and friendship are both essential in the Christian life. Some seasons make it easier than others. But essential means that it cannot be replaced or dropped no matter how difficult. So if you are heading into your 30s, form durable friendships knowing that a winter is coming and they will need to last. If you are in your 30s, fight to create the margin for deepening and forming Christian community even now. And if you are coming out of your 30s, and this area of your life got rocked pretty hard, decide today to begin again. As Luther said, “progress is always to begin again.”
– Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)