Your Friendly Church
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 who attend church weekly have not yet found the friendships they need. Perhaps that is your story today.
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, the potential for great friendships remains.
Finding Your Best Friends
Maybe your best friend lives in another state or town – or goes to a different church. Yet, you feel comfortable at your present church and call it your 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 within your current congregation. 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 my years of pastoral ministry I would often hear newer attendees ponder why the “old-timers” didn’t reach out to them. Soon they discover that a person they pegged as an “old-timer” was actually newer to the church than they were. It’s funny how we often assume that someone else is more responsible to reach out first.
I would encourage you to ask two questions every time you connect with someone at church:
1. How long have you been attending?
2. How can I serve you? (The one who has been around the longest – whether measured in weeks, years, or decades – should especially ask this.)
The answers to the first question will be helpful and even surprising. The offer of the second question is a huge step in helping everyone feel “at home” at your church. 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
One of the most basic ideas of Scripture says: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24 – NKJV). It is the essential idea 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 lonely and wallowing in self-pity.
Over the years I’ve met people who were leaving their current church because the people 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.
Look in the Mirror
Accordingly, the inability to make friends can be rooted in something deep inside your own heart. Insecurities keep you focusing on the obligations others have to meet your needs. Unresolved past hurts make you hesitant to commit to new friendships because you are unwilling to be vulnerable. Selfishness eventually motivates a person to make every conversation and situation about “self” rather than about others.
It’s been said that the critic who begins with himself will soon be too busy to take on outside contracts. Self-evaluation and even honest input from a counselor or pastor will help you fix the problems of the church by beginning on your own doorstep. Asking the Holy Spirit to reveal your own brokenness and heal your dysfunction is a powerful step toward stronger friendships.
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 of your church 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 outside the church context. Invite others into your home.
Friendships seldom just happen. They are the result of mutual commitment over a period of time. “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 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.
A Waiting Friend
Chances are, your best friend is waiting for you somewhere in a church service, a ministry team, or a small group at your church. As you find your best friend, and others do the same, your church can be transformed. Our lives will all be richer. Our Lord will be pleased and honored.
Copyright © 2014 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.