How to Build Meaningful Relationships

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

We were created for relationship. Here are 5 practical ways to build meaningful relationships.

Building meaningful relationships is hard work. Relationships that flourish are not developed without significant intention and effort. Yet, the older I get, the more I realize life without meaningful relationships is pointless.

The Purpose of Relationships

We were designed and created for relationships – with other humans, and ultimately with God. John Piper succinctly reminds us that our entire purpose is “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Our enjoyment of God glorifies Him and draws others to know Him more.

As Christians, our relationships with others are a fundamental aspect of our relationship with Christ. All people were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Our relationship with God is reflected in our relationships with others. As we build meaningful relationships with each other, we grow in our understanding of God.

Godly relationships can serve to shape us into better image bearers of Christ (Proverbs 27:17).

Healthy relationships with each other serve to glorify God and increase His Kingdom (Romans 15:5-6; John 13:34-35), fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 18:16-20).

Strong relationships protect us, support us, encourage us, and strengthen us through the storms and battles of life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,Galatians 6:2).

Bottom line: We are all called to work at building meaningful relationships. It’s part of who we are.

But this is all so much easier said than done.

5 Practical Ways to Build Meaningful Relationships

How do we actually accomplish this lifelong task of developing relationships that impact lives, influence who we are, keep us accountable, draw others (and ourselves) deeper into relationship with Christ?

It’s a huge topic with so many possible answers. I want to share with you just a few practical ways my mom has taught me about meaningful relationship-building. As I thought about her inspiring example, I was convicted and challenged to become more intentional in how I build meaningful relationships.

1. Building Relationships By Making Memories

Mom will do almost anything to make a lasting memory. Our family enjoys reminiscing every time we’re together because we’ve spent decades creating memories, largely thanks to the intention, perseverance, creativity, and generosity of Mom.

Many of our memories come from spontaneous moments of hilarity mixed with personality quirks and unexpected circumstances. (Or simple silliness like trying on the ugliest bathing suit we can find in the store, or wearing false teeth to greet each other at the door!) But a lot of our memories come out of Mom’s tireless efforts to orchestrate them.

This often comes in the form of starting and maintaining traditions like:

  • our annual whole-family Easter scavenger hunt,
  • birthday sleepovers and “Girl’s Day Out”, or
  • “Snowman Tea Parties” in winter.

Even the act of reminiscing has been instrumental in building relationships. Reminding each other of what we’ve experienced together strengthens our bonds and reinforces connection.

Am I Building Relationships By Making Memories?

  • What are some ways I can create some memories with a friend or my family this week?
  • How can I create a meaningful celebration with some loved ones this year?
  • In what ways can I remember meaningful moments with others?

2. Building Relationships Through Encouragement & Generosity

Making someone’s day is at the top of Mom’s priority list. She successfully accomplishes this daily in various ways:

  • Sending a note of encouragement to someone who needs it
  • Sending a note of encouragement to someone who might not need it (just because she’s thinking of them)
  • Helping a mother who’s attempting to juggle 3 kids and a cart full of groceries (even though she’s a total stranger)
  • Using humor to make a tired service person smile
  • Sharing a loaf of homemade bread with a neighbor
  • Paying for the coffee of the person in line behind her at the coffee shop
  • Calling someone just to say “hi!”
  • Surprising a loved one (and their co-workers) by dropping off a coffee break at their workplace
  • Acknowledging admirable qualities or actions of others through simple praise and appreciation

The list goes on.

Am I Building Relationships Through Encouragement & Generosity?

  • Who could use a word of encouragement from me today?
  • What are some creative ways I can give someone a delightful surprise this week?
  • How can I make someone smile today?
  • How can I show __________ that I truly care about them this week?
  • Do I express appreciation to others for who they are and what they do?

3. Building Relationships Through Biblical Hospitality

Hospitality is something we’re all called to as followers of Christ. It’s an area Mom excels in with an emphasis on relationship-building.

As a child, I knew our home was always open to any of my friends. Mom understood that knowing me involved knowing my friends. Hosting my social life was the most practical way to do that. But beyond opening the door and providing food, Mom interacted with my friends, got to know know them through exceptional listening skills and grace, and they loved her for it.

Mom’s gift of hospitality goes far beyond providing plenty of tasty food, an inviting atmosphere and an always-open-door. She has a way of expressing to others that they’re important to her without speaking a word. She does this in the comfort of her own home, but she carries this with her wherever she goes.

Part of hospitality is showing others they’re welcome, invited, important. One of the ways Mom does that well is through genuine interest in them. She participates in conversations and activities to learn more about what other people enjoy, like attending a competition she knows little about to express interest in the passion of her grandson. In this way, she communicates, “I value you!”

Am I Building Relationships Through Hospitality?

4. Building Relationships Through Availability & Sacrifice

Mom exemplifies God’s love for me through availability. I have never doubted that she’ll be there if (and when) I need her. She’s willing to stop what she’s doing and give me her full attention.

During my teen years, Mom gave up countless hours of sleep to listen to me pour out my heart into the wee hours of the morning. She never complained about the late time. Not once. Her priority was to be available to me no matter what.

Even when she was exhausted after a day full of work, ministry, and serving others… even when she was hosting a guest in her home… even when she had a to-do list as long as my leg… she dropped everything to drive to my house to give me a hug and pray with me on one of my darkest days.

This is sacrificial love. Mom has laid down her life for me so many times. God has used her to hold up my arms when they hung down (Exodus 17:12-13). She has fed, clothed, and taxied my family when I couldn’t. She has encouraged and ministered to me unceasingly. And that has come at a cost.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Am I Building Relationships Through Availability & Sacrifice?

  • Have I made myself available to the people God has given me to minister to?
  • Am I willing to serve them, to love them, even when it’s inconvenient for me?
  • Am I willing to give up my own agenda for the sake of building relationship?
  • How can I serve someone today?

5. Building Relationships Through Faithfulness in Prayer

Part of the self-sacrifice Mom demonstrates is in her faithfulness to pray for others. When she says she’ll pray for you, she will! Her intercession goes beyond presenting requests before the Lord, though. She often follows up with those she’s been praying for, asking how things are going, and expressing continual care.

Perseverance in prayer is a powerful means to lasting relationships. It’s difficult not to care about those we pray for. Prayer is an investment. As we pray for others, we’re “laying up treasure in heaven”. Matthew 6:20 says that, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

How Am I Doing in Prayer?

  • Do I pray for others?
  • Am I investing in relationships by laying up heavenly treasure, giving of my time and energy to intercede for them?
  • When I commit to praying for others, do I actually follow through?
  • What steps can I take to improve my perseverance in prayer, even if it takes a long time for God’s answer to become evident?

You Can Build Meaningful Relationships

Maybe you’re reading about my mom and you’re battling envy, bitterness, or hopelessness. Listen. I know I’ve been given an invaluable treasure in my mom. The relationship I have with her is a rare jewel I do not take for granted.

Please don’t be distracted from the message of this post.

We’re sometimes tempted to focus on the disappointment we’ve experienced in our relationships. This leads to despondency, causing us to decrease our pursuit of meaningful fellowship, ultimately resulting in even deeper loneliness.

Friend, I know the discouragement, and so does Mom. We’ve both been in the place of longing for someone else to initiate, to reach out to me, to be carried for a while. We understand the weariness of one-sided relationships, the disillusionment of lost friendships and betrayal, the despair of working and waiting after ages of fruitless endeavor.

The fact is that you can’t build meaningful relationships if you give up. Don’t allow the enemy of your soul to stop you from living out the call God has on your own life. You were created for relationship. And when God calls us to do something, He equips us with whatever we need to obey (2 Peter 1:3, Philippians 4:19). By His Spirit, you can build meaningful relationships!

Father, the fact that You desire relationship with us is astounding! Thank You for giving us the opportunity to know You personally.

We know that we were created in Your image, yet because of our sinful nature, so often we don’t act like you. People are hard to love. It’s impossible to love others well without the empowering of Your Spirit. Give us Your vision for our relationships and enable us to follow Your example of loving unconditionally, sacrificially, and completely.

As we take practical steps to build meaningful relationships, “let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)”. May You be glorified in us as we learn to enjoy You more. Amen!

What steps are you going to take this week to work at building meaningful relationships?

19 Responses

  1. These are amazing tips, Jana! I especially like #2 and #5. I’ve been a marriage prayer group for more than five years and it has really bonded me to those friends like nothing else. I’ll be pinning and tweeting, my friend! You knocked this one out of the park!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comment, Beth. Yes, there is nothing that binds us together like prayer. What a gift you have in that group of friends! Thanks for sharing the post, too!

  2. I’m learning that inviting people into my home and working alongside others are the two best ways for me to build relationships with others. Thanks for encouragement to press on!

    1. Yes! Serving alongside others is a fantastic way to build relationships! I’ve often had people tell me they’re not making friends at their church. My first question is, “Are you serving in some way?” The answer is almost always “no”. Thanks for these two tips, Michele! They’re good ones!

  3. What a worthwhile read! In our busy, screen obsessed culture, meaningful relationships are hard to come by. Visiting you today from the tea and word wed link up.

  4. This is a GREAT post! Pinned & Tweeted. Relationships are so important, but it’s work to build them— work that is worth the outcome! I find it necessary to build relationships for accountability and it’s also a great way to share the Good News of the Gospel. It’s a good idea to build relationships with people who are not just like us as well. Thanks for sharing and thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. Patsy, that’s an excellent point and a worthwhile challenge – to build relationships with people who are not the same as us. Thanks for sharing!

  5. What amazing tips on building meaningful relationships! Building real relationships is difficult nowadays with everyone being online! I wish we could go back to when we all spent time together and really forged those true friendships!! Thank you for a great post!

    1. We re-blaze that trail, Diane. Our kids have intentionally fostered real-life connections with their peers. It’s unusual for their age group. Sadly, many their age genuinely don’t know how to connect with people face-to-face. But as a result of their commitment, our kids have fewer friends, yet more meaningful relationships. In this case, I think “less is more”. It’s hard work to go against the flow, though.

  6. This is so spot on. It’s easy for us to expect to get what we give in relationships. While we cannot continue to just power through on me sided relationships with blinders, we do have to be willing to open ourselves up with love, prayer, and serving. Love this.

    1. It’s about the condition of our hearts, isn’t it? It’s about the willingness to serve and love even when it’s hard. Even in my strongest relationships, there are seasons when I’m more needy and my friend is pouring into me without getting much in return. Other times, our roles are reversed. Sometimes the seasons are longer than others. But it’s the sacrificial love and commitment that sustains us through the hard times and binds us together.

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