Last week I posted about the importance of friendships and how difficult it was for me (and apparently many others) to build deep friendships as adults.
And while it’s comforting to know that we aren’t alone in the quest for those kinds of friendships, it doesn’t really resolve this issue that so many of us feel like we lack non-superficial relationships in church. I don’t hold the magic formula to making friends in church but here are five things that I have learned in my journey of looking for deeper and more meaningful connections that have brought me to the friendships I have now.
1. Actively participate in church programs/events that are geared towards making connections.
Most churches have some sort of small group ministry or connecting ministry (like women’s or men’s connection groups) and they are often the best starting points to make friendships in church. When I first started attending my church, I only knew Brian (who was just my boyfriend at the time) and one other person. I really wanted to make friends that were not just Brian’s friends, and so I requested to be in a small group apart from Brian and I’m so glad I did. It was in this group I met people who wanted to grow in their relationship with God and grow in their relationship with others. It was here that I first started to feel connected to people at my church outside of my connection to Brian and where I started to scope out potential new friends. It’s in these kinds of opportunities that you can discover the treasure in people and go deeper.
2. Find a need in your church and serve.
Most of my strong friendships have been built with the people I served with, even before I became a pastor. In fact, in all of my church experiences, I never felt like I really belonged to any church family until I started to serve in that church. There’s something that bonds you to others when you are working towards the same goal for no other purpose than because you desire to serve and help. And on top of this, the time spent together serving (whether it’s the training meetings or helping set up a church event or praying together) provides memories that are great building blocks to friendship.
3. Be intentional but with realistic expectations.
When I first moved to Vancouver it was really difficult to break into circles of friendships that had been established for years. And honestly, it was unrealistic of me to expect to be welcomed into a group of life-time friendships and think that everyone in this circle was going to want to be my friend and spend time getting to know the awesomeness that is me (hahaha!) It will actually set you up to get hurt again and again as the “group” plans things without you, not to intentionally exclude you, but because some of them may feel more comfortable to keep their circle as it is.
Instead, find individuals that you’d like to build friendships with and be intentional about it. Invite them over for dinner or coffee or play-dates with your kids. Text them once in a while and see how they’re doing. Some people will respond very gratefully to these invitations for connection and others will only be lukewarm. Focus on those who seem to be more open to getting to know you but don’t disregard those who are not initially jumping at the chance to get to know you. People are busy and many people don’t place making new friends as a high priority – sometimes they just need an invitation or two. Also don’t expect initiation from these potential friends in return, at least not initially. I’ve talked with many people who’ve stopped trying to make or build friendships because they initiated a few times and it was not reciprocated. I know it’s hard and hurtful at times, but if I had stopped trying in my friendships because of a lack of initiation on the other person’s part, I might not have the friends I have today.
4. Be the friend you want others to be.
Be that someone who is looking for people to serve, love and care for and be willing to inconvenience yourself for the other. Even if it means interrupting your own plans or having to step out of your comfort zones. Yes, sometimes it is easier and takes less energy to just be at home with your family and not really have to think of others outside of your own circle. But one thing I’ve learned about building friendships is that they are worth the trouble, time and energy and they take work.
5. Lastly, pray and be patient.
If you can honestly say you’re doing all the above and still haven’t built any strong friendships in your church, I encourage you to make it your prayer until God answers it. And I promise you, He will, it just might not be right away. Any relationship that is worth having, takes time and effort to build and grow and God desires for you to have deep connections with others, even more than you do. Trust in His will for you, even it takes years.
Adult friendships are hard, but I truly believe that God desires us to not only have a deep abiding friendship with Him but with His people as well. I pray that this post will encourage you to keep looking for and building godly friendships. If you have any comments or questions about how to make friends in church, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.