Let’s Be “Best Friends”

A recent survey conducted by the Gallup Organization indicated that the “best friend” factor is the essential tie that binds many people to their current congregation.  The study provided statistics to show that when someone attends the same church as their best friend, they:

  • Participate in worship much more regularly
  • Feel more connected to the congregation
  • Feel closer to God and display a more integrated faith

The good news is that your church is full of potential “best friends.”  They are everywhere, just waiting to find one another.  The bad news is that many people you encounter on Sundays have not yet found the friendships they need.

Another study indicates that, no matter what size church you attend, you really only get to know about 100 people.  I often joke that the good thing about a larger church is that you get to “pick” your 100.  Regardless of the size of your church, you have many positive choices.

Finding Your Best Friends

Maybe your actual best friend lives in another state or town – or goes to a different church.  You’ve yet to find a real soul mate at your current spiritual home.  What can you do?

Create a Win/Win Scenario – We’ve all heard the proverb, “Make new friends but keep the old.  One is silver and the other is gold.”  In the process of making new friends you don’t have to give up your cherished friendships with those who’ve been part of your life for many years.  Don’t let “either/or” thinking keep you from discovering the depth and joy of friendship with the wonderful people all around you.  Instead of bemoaning the fact that it’s just not the same as it used to be with that old friend or that other church, put some positive emotional energy into an effort to explore some new options.

Inquire to Acquire – Over the years of pastoral ministry I often heard newcomers wonder aloud why the “old-timers” didn’t reach out to others.  Soon they discovered that the person they pegged as an “old-timer” was actually newer to the church than they were.  It’s funny how we often assume that it’s someone else’s responsibility to reach out first.

I would encourage you to ask two questions every time you connect with someone else at your church:

  • How long have you been attending?
  • How can I serve you? (The one who has been around the longest – whether measured in weeks, years, or decades – should especially ask this.) 

Their answer to the first question will be helpful and even surprising.  The offer of the second question is essential to helping everyone feel “at home.”

To acquire friends, and help others do the same, we must ask questions, care about the answers, and engage in thoughtful action.  

Take the Initiative – So many people get discouraged because they do not have friends.  Yet, upon further investigation, I often discover that they are failing to abide by one of the most basic ideas of Scripture: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24 – NKJV).

It is the basic principle of sowing and reaping.  Show an interest in others and they will become interested in you.  Get involved in ministering to others; it will come back to you during a time of need.  Isolate yourself from others and you’ll find yourself often lonely.

Over the years I’ve met people who were leaving their current church because the people there just weren’t friendly.  In most cases, I believe they took their problem with them.  They were on a course of just hopping from one “unfriendly” church to the next, failing to take responsibility to make the first move in becoming a friend in order to find a friend.

Make Authentic Commitments – Being friendly is more than a hit-and-miss attempt to be outgoing.  It involves real commitment and action.  Don’t fall into the pattern of defining your interaction with the people in your congregation like “passing ships in the night.”  Get on the same ship – or at least get your ships sailing in the same direction at the same time.  That’s how friendships grow.  Become active in some volunteer area.  Sign up for a ministry commitment.  Find (or form) a small group.  Plan to sit together at church events.  Attend prayer gatherings together.  Commit to enjoy meals together.  Invite others into your home. 

Friendships seldom just happen.  They are the result of mutual commitment over a period of time.

Persist “Best friends” are not available at the drive-through window.  They don’t come in a convenient package, like “instant” rice.  They take time and persistence. 

You can quickly find many wonderful acquaintances at your church.  But that circle of close friends will be the fruit of deliberate and enduring service, care, and investment.  Of course, the fruit will be worth it.  Your experience in your congregation will become richer than you could ever imagine.

The “Small Group” On-Ramp

All of this leads me to one enthusiastic recommendation.  Get into a small group.  They are the best on-ramp to the freeway of friendship.  Your group can take on a variety of shapes and sizes.  Groups may occur within an area of ministry.  They can form outside the standard church structure.  They can focus on common interests, deep Bible study, prayer partnerships, or shared life stages.  Be creative.  Take initiative.  Enjoy the friendships.

I truly believe your best friend is waiting for you somewhere in a small group at your church.  As you find your best friend, and others do the same, your church will be transformed.  The ministry will multiply exponentially.  Outreach will increase spontaneously and supernaturally.  Your lives will all be richer.  Our Lord will be pleased and honored.

So, go find that best friend.  You can do it – and Strategic Renewal can help.  (Check out our two landmark small group study resources HERE!)

Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.