People may be drawn to a church for social reasons, or even for its good works, but the core of a church is sustained by believers, not socializers or volunteer social workers. Friendships develop around shared loves, and in church, friendship with God overflows into friendship with man. In contrast, church as a charitable social club is rarely sustainable, for there is no longer any unifying shared love.
Much the same holds true for social clubs. Board game night is sustained by people who enjoy board games in themselves. It will not be kept up by people for whom it is the social equivalent of going to the gym, nor by the people who only come for the free pizza.
Those of us concerned about community can expect no real help from our decadent leadership class. The technocratic tweaks Kristof endorses will do little or nothing to remedy the epidemic of loneliness in Western societies. These little projects are the governmental equivalent of a perky college RA trying to prod a dorm into camaraderie. Indeed, subsidized game clubs and “friendly benches” have more than a whiff of student government about them.